Conservatory Council Restarted After a Decade, Student Officers Announced

Kristopher Fraser , Staff Writer

The Conservatory announced the results of the election for the newly revived Council of Students on Friday morning. Just over 41 percent of Conservatory and Musical Studies students voted to elect double-degree junior Hannah Santisi president; Jeanette Chen vice president; double-degree senior Rebecca Achtenberg treasurer; and Conservatory junior Katie Skayhan secretary.

Following the events of March 4, 2013, Conservatory students and faculty members created the Conservatory Working Group, an organization that seeks to address issues of hiring and diversity in the Conservatory. Next year, the working group will assimilate into the Conservatory Council of Students, a body that has been dormant for the past decade. The group aims to bridge the gap between student and administrative goals and improve communication between the two bodies.

“[The purpose of the group is to] facilitate effective communication between students and the administration, with the hope that the organization will be able to empower students and retain students in marginalized communities as well as improve diversity in Conservatory culture,” Conservatory senior Michelle Ellison said in an email to the Review. “[The group will] also be a support system for students whose voices are silenced behind their musical capabilities.”

The Council will also serve as an outlet for students to voice their concerns. Current issues expressed by Conservatory students include the poor quality of practice rooms and a lack of diversity.

“Friends express to me how they’ve sometimes felt that their concerns go unheard. It is important to me that we address these concerns to create the most ideal space to learn and to grow through our art and fully utilize our resources,” said Chen, who was elected vice president, in her candidate statement.

Additionally, the Council plans to address the divide between Conservatory students and administration.

“The divide is masked in staff and faculty prioritizing the musical advantages from the talents of [their] students over the other aspects that inform our identities,” Ellison said. “Other interests outside the Conservatory suddenly become ‘othered’ or ‘less than’ because those ideals are not glorified in the Conservatory. Also, [it stems from] the idea that Western European classical music is the ‘end-all, be-all’ and that it is the main thing we as Oberlin Conservatory students should study or qualify as legitimate or professional music. Also, the discrimina- tory language and actions applied to students and the music or topics that address matters of people of color, LGBTQIA folks, or those with disabilities.”

Olivia Boen, Conservatory Council of Students candidate and Conservatory sophomore also believes such issues are a priority.

“I’m also a supporter of the social justice issues that people are very focused on,” Boen said. “That’s not just something that will be fixed overnight or in a year; that’s a long-term thing. I think it’s important to take care of the little things as we go and increase dialogues between students and administration and among students within themselves.”

Not only does the Council hope to improve communication between students and administration, but some candidates expressed hope that it will also help connect students in different years.

“I would love to see more connection between underclassman and upperclassman, whether it’s creating a younger sibling-older sibling program,” Boen said. “I’d love to bridge the gap for future students, whether it’s creating student-run tours for all the string students, or vocal students, I don’t know exactly how that would happen, but that is one thing I’d really love to do. Just to have more communication at the beginning of the year.”

Skayhan, who was elected secretary, hopes to improve communication between majors and increase professional development opportunities.

“[I want] to work on more community in the [Conservatory] between departments and providing an opportunity for other majors getting to know each other,” Skayhan said. “For me as a vocalist, I tend to socialize with a lot of singers, [but] I’ve also come to rely on my friends in other degrees I just wish more people had an opportunity to get to know people in ways I’ve gotten to know [people]. I’d really like to see more professional development workshops as well, and Creativity and Leadership to help provide opportunity with students, and work on website building, and do things that bring people together and have a pre- professional goal as well.”