Conservatory Council Promotes Student Wellness

Laura Paddock

The recently-revived Conservatory Council of Students will launch a number of initiatives this year, joining forces with the administration in an attempt to foster a more welcoming environment within the Conservatory.

The Council, which was dormant for nearly a decade prior to its reinstatement in May, will focus on three different initiative programs that fall under the categories: health & wellness, community outreach and professional development.

In collaboration with the Multicultural Resource Center, the CCS will host MRC socials in Conservatory spaces to promote diversity within the Conservatory community.

The CCS hosted its first MRC event at the Conservatory on Sept. 11, a social to promote the MRC’s various workshops, and to open the floor for any suggestions that students have with regards to the collaboration.

“Generally, we hope to involve more Conservatory students and the CCS and to develop programming that they would like to see in the Conservatory [as well as] to provide a space where we can brainstorm ideas with students,” said Kristen Surla, the Asian/Pacific Islander diaspora community coordinator for the MRC.

With health and wellness at the forefront of their agenda, the Council will aim to provide physical and emotional outlets for musicians and students who study in the Conservatory and the College. One of the programs organized by the CCS involves free yoga classes taught by double-degree senior Tim Gemesi, a recently certified yoga instructor.

Gemesi said that his devotion to yoga allowed him to overcome some of the challenges of being a member of the Conservatory.
“When I first came to Oberlin, I was only a Conservatory student, and the most inexperienced singer in my class. [My peers] … laughed out loud during and after my performances … I felt that there was no way out,” Gemesi said in an email to The Review.

“I started doing yoga in my fourth semester and I learned some very valuable tools for dealing with and embracing the very things that caused me fear and discomfort. It mainly focuses on paying attention to simple parts of our experience that we can access any time. Through paying attention to these simple things, it is possible to notice mental and physical patterns that potentially cause suffering, and also allows us to choose to not follow those patterns.”

Other programs organized by the CCS will include panels focused on meditative breathing exercises to ease music-related anxiety.

As a part of their community outreach programming, the Council will be hosting “ConFabs,” or interactive community-building events that aim to bring students together through music. The first event in the ConFab series is the ConFab Tango, in which the CCS will partner with Hispanic Studies Professor Ana Cara and members of La Casa Hispanica.

“I like the idea that College programming in the Conservatory can overlap and that students at Oberlin across campus can become familiar with tango culture, both music and dance,” said Professor Ana Cara about the upcoming tango event.

In terms of outreach, Council President Hannah Santisi said she is confident in the organization’s ability to impact the community.

“I have seen the passion that drives the two sides of Oberlin and the activist spirits of students from each institution,” Santisi said.

Santisi has also expressed interest in sponsoring and arranging outreach programs in public schools and institutions in the area. A concert series at Kendal, an assisted living center in the city of Oberlin, is on the Council’s agenda for this fall.