Jul 15, 2024  
Course Catalog 2023-2024 
Course Catalog 2023-2024 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Conservatory of Music

The programs in the Conservatory of Music are designed to develop the sensitivity, understanding, and insights, as well as the knowledge, skills, and technical competence, essential to professional musicians.

Conservatory graduates pursue music careers as performers, conductors, composers, directors, music theorists, historians, and educators. They are employed throughout the United States and abroad in major symphony orchestras, opera houses and companies, regional and municipal orchestras, jazz groups, youth orchestras, chamber music ensembles, major film studios, churches, primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities, conservatories of music, and as freelance artists.

arrow See a full list of courses offered by the conservatory.  

Relation to the College of Arts and Sciences

The College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music share the same campus. Students who are enrolled in the conservatory may only pursue a major administered solely by the college if they are also enrolled in the college as a double-degree student; however, there are many opportunities for conservatory students to engage with the college and with a broader study of the liberal arts.

Conservatory students may declare a minor administered by the college with the approval of the minor department or program chair; as well, there are a number of interdivisional minors and integrative concentrations.

In addition, many courses offered by the college are open to students enrolled in the conservatory. Conservatory students interested in a college course should contact the associated department regarding the possibility of enrollment.

arrow See more information about the Double Degree Program.  

arrow See a list of areas of study available to Bachelor of Music students.  

Learning Goals and Outcomes for Students Enrolled in the Conservatory of Music

The Conservatory of Music aspires to provide its students a transformative educational experience that expands their intellectual and artistic capacities and fosters individual growth, thereby preparing them to lead fully engaged lives. As a professional school, the conservatory offers a curriculum that embraces a variety of modalities, from the disciplined acquisition of technical skill and the academic foundations of formalized music study to the nurture of exploration, experimentation, and discovery, both creative and intellectual. In sum, study in the conservatory is designed to inspire artistic achievement of the highest order, educate students who can shape and create the musical profession anew, and animate lifelong work of breadth, significance, and impact.

In particular, students who pursue study in the Conservatory of Music should:

  • achieve a degree of professional competency in their major fields, a competency that in performance majors embraces both artistic attainment and mature technique as well as entrepreneurial awareness.
    • The training of professional musicians is foundational to the conservatory’s mission, and the attainment of a high level of vocational competency lies at the heart of much of its instruction. Though focused and often specialized, this competency is not narrow in its application, but rather reflects the requirements and opportunities of a dynamic professional world.
  • achieve a fluency in engaging music historically, theoretically, critically, and culturally.
    • The paths towards understanding music are varied, and the cultivation of this understanding has traditionally been an important aspiration for students, both professionally and personally. Accordingly, the conservatory curriculum grounds students in diverse historical, theoretical, and critical approaches to music to broaden perspective, foster creative and analytical thinking, and inspire and enable dialogue. Effective written and oral discourse is essential, and the development of this fluency is a robust aspect of the curriculum. Historical, theoretical, and critical work in part involves exploring a diverse range of music in different stylistic, geographic, and social contexts. This not only dramatically shapes perspective, but also increases professional flexibility.
  • achieve a mature perspective on music’s place in the world and develop a reflective consideration of their role in this cultural matrix.
    • The complexity and fluidity of today’s musical world requires perhaps more than ever before an openness to possibility, a re-evaluation of traditional roles, and a reflective capacity to guide one’s path to societal and personal fulfillment and to professional viability. While not rooted in any one experience or course of study, the perspective necessary to discern and enact one’s role is formed in the cumulative experience of study and the broader experiences of Oberlin itself.

The Conservatory of Music thus envisions its graduates as creative and imaginative individuals of high professional attainment and personal depth. A multi-faceted curriculum helps shepherd students toward these outcomes. And, it is in the intertwining of these curricular strands–their counterpoint one with the other–that the richness of the study becomes most distinctively Oberlinian.

Degrees and Diplomas Conferred

Note: Entries marked with an § indicate that the Conservatory of Music is not accepting applications for the specified program at this time.

Conservatory Facilities

The Conservatory is housed in three contiguous buildings designed by Minoru Yamasaki-Bibbins Hall, Central Unit, and Robertson Hall-and the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building. The Conservatory Annex provides additional office space.

Bibbins Hall-the teaching building-contains 46 studios, 13 classrooms, a recital hall, and 15 offices. Private instruction, ensemble coaching, and classroom instruction take place in this building. The building also houses the Office of the Dean of the Conservatory, a distance learning room, and the TIMARA (Technology in Music and the Related Arts) complex, which includes a recording studio.

Central houses two concert halls, the orchestra rehearsal room, the choral rehearsal room, two small ensemble rehearsal rooms, the percussion teaching studio, the Audio Services office and recording facilities, and the student lounge.

The Conservatory Library, one of the largest academic music libraries in the country, adjoins the Conservatory’s central building. In 1988, the Conservatory Library opened a new wing that nearly tripled the library’s space, and the entire library was renovated and expanded in 2000. In addition to sound recordings, scores, and writings on music, the Conservatory Library provides access to:

  • Electronic Resource Center enabling access to the library’s catalog (OBIS), subscription products such as Grove Music Online, and all internet resources
  • Listening stations equipped to play CDs, LPs, digital audio tapes (DAT), and other audio cassettes
  • Listening/viewing rooms accommodating up to four people each and equipped to play DVDs, video cassettes, LaserDiscs, reel-to-reel tapes, and LPs
  • Study carrels
  • Conference room
  • Special Collections Reading Room for the study of rare and unique music items

Robertson Hall, the practice building, contains 182 rooms, including 150 practice rooms, the Otto B. Schoepfle Vocal Arts Center, the Professional Development Office, the Creativity & Leadership Office, the Kulas Organ Center, reed-making rooms, a computing lab, faculty studios, and staff offices.

The Conservatory Annex is located east of Bibbins Hall, on the second floor of the Oberlin Bookstore. The Annex houses offices for Conservatory Admissions, Conservatory Communications, the Associate Dean for Artistic Administration and Operations, and the Business Manager. Two meeting rooms with media resources are available for use by the Conservatory community.

The Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, which opened in Spring 2010, houses Oberlin’s Jazz Studies program, as well as faculty in Musicology, Music Theory, Composition, and Music Education. The Kohl Building includes three rehearsal rooms, teaching studios, practice rooms, a computing lab, and features Clonick Hall, a state-of-the-art recording studio, as well as storage areas for significant collections, among them the Selch Collection of American Music History, the Jim and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection, the Lawrence McDonald Clarinet Collection, the Frank Kuchirchuk Collection of Jazz Photography, and Milton J. and Mona C. Hinton Papers.

Concert Halls

Warner Concert Hall seats 645. Kulas Recital Hall, which seats 144, is especially suited to chamber music concerts. The David H. Stull Recital Hall, a flexible 130-seat performing space, was added in Fall 2013 as part of the renovation of Bibbins Hall, and the William and Helen Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space (“The Birenbaum”), which seats 114, opened in the basement of the Hotel at Oberlin in February 2017.   Artist recitals, orchestra, and other large ensemble concerts are performed in Finney Chapel, which seats 1200. Hall Auditorium, seating 499, is used for Opera performances and Fairchild Chapel, seating 150, is used for a variety of small concerts, especially in Historical Performance and Organ. The Jazz Studies program also uses the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse for many solo and small ensemble performances.

Electro-Acoustic Music

Six acoustically isolated and optimized electronic and computer music studios are located in the Conservatory. The Technology in Music and the Related Arts (TIMARA) complex is equipped with a wide selection of state-of-the-art hardware and software. Additionally, the studios are outfitted with historical analog synthesizers, a wide variety of microphones and signal processing gear, performance instruments like the Yamaha MIDI Grand Piano and Zeta String Quartet, interactive performance interfaces, and original technology built by students and faculty.

The Otto B. Schoepfle Vocal Arts Center is the first of its kind to be incorporated into a program of vocal instruction in the United States. Named for a long-time supporter of the Conservatory, this laboratory includes KayPentax Multi-Speech software applications that transform the phonations of the voice into electrical signals, displaying them spectrographically on a computer screen in either real time or playback. Also under current use is the software application VoceVista, as well as an electroglottograph. The laboratory also houses stroboscopic and fiber-optic instrumentation that displays the vocal fold movement of an individual while singing or speaking (employed under the supervision of visiting medical personnel). Carefully trained student assistants help other singers to interpret displays. Of primary interest to the singer is the easy observation and affirmation of vibrancy, vowel definition, tonal balance, and legato.

Students may use the sophisticated audio and video equipment to record, play back, and analyze their own lessons or performances. Pedagogic and artistic values are not limited to the study of an individual’s own instrument, however. OBSVAC’s ability to analyze the techniques and artistry from recorded performances on DVD and video of great singing artists by vocal category (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass) offers the singing student, as well as visitors from around the world, a powerful resource for study.

Instrument Collection


As Steinway Piano’s oldest continual customer, Oberlin has a superb collection of pianos. Warner Concert Hall, Kulas Recital Hall, Clonick Hall, classrooms, and teaching studios are all equipped with Steinway grand pianos, as are most of the practice rooms in Robertson Hall, the Kohl Building, and the rehearsal rooms in Central. Of the 262 pianos in the Conservatory, 234 are Steinway pianos. The remainder of the collection includes acoustical vertical pianos, historical pianos, a Yamaha Disklavier, and two Electronic Piano Labs. Warner Concert Hall, Finney Chapel, and Clonick Hall each feature Steinway Model D Concert Grands (one from New York and one from Hamburg in each hall).

Orchestral Instruments

Students have access to the Conservatory’s large collection of orchestral instruments, including all stringed and wind instruments, and six Lyon and Healy harps. Through the generosity of the Kulas Foundation, Oberlin owns two Gagliano violins and other performance-quality stringed instruments.


The Kulas Organ Center, located in the Robertson Hall practice building, is composed of practice rooms equipped with organs of various designs, both mechanical action and electro-pneumatic. Of the mechanical action tracker organs, six are Flentrops, one is a Brombaugh, and two are Noacks. Three electro-pneumatic organs are Holtkamps.

The teaching studios in Bibbins Hall contain Flentrop organs. Warner Concert Hall houses a splendid three-manual Flentrop organ of forty-four stops.  Built entirely in classical North European style, this instrument was installed in 1974. Finney Chapel houses a Fisk Opus 116 organ.  This magnificent instrument, a symphonic organ in the romantic tradition, complements the Flentrop in Warner. Three continuo organs, two by Flentrop and one by Byrd, are also available for use in the performing halls. A positiv organ by Flentrop is located in the front of Fairchild Chapel, and a two-manual Brombaugh organ in mean-tone temperament was installed in the gallery of Fairchild Chapel in 1981. In addition, an organ in the style of Silbermann by Bozeman-Gibson is housed in the Peace Church.


The collection of harpsichords available for instruction, practice, and concerts includes: four French doubles (one by Hill, one by Dowd, one by Kingston, and one by Lake); four Italian singles (by Dowd, Dupree, Clark, and Sutherland); a German double by Hill; a Gräbner model German double harpsichord, JPH (John Phillips Harpsichords) opus 112; a Flemish double by Zuckerman; a Flemish single and a Flemish virginal by Martin; a a pedal clavichord by Spearstra; and a clavichord by Gough. 

Other Instruments

The Conservatory owns four fortepianos: five-octave instruments by McNulty, Wolf, and Hester, and a six-and-one-half octave by McCobb. Oberlin’s collection also includes a mid-19th-century Erard grand piano that was completely rebuilt by David Winston in 1993.

The Conservatory owns a large collection of viols for use by its Baroque ensembles and viol consorts. Oberlin’s Baroque instruments are sufficient to form a large Baroque orchestra: twelve Baroque violins, two Baroque violas, three Baroque cellos, and a violone, as well as Baroque flutes, recorders, oboes, bassoon, baroque guitar, baroque trumpets, and natural horns. Also included in the collection are various earlier instruments including vihuela, shawms, krummhorns, vielles, harps, and cornetti.

Oberlin has a Javanese gamelan (complete with both slendro and pelog tuning systems), a large collection of Gambian Mandinka koras and xylophones from West Africa, and a representative selection of classical instruments from China, Japan, Korea, Turkey, and India.

Concerts and Recitals


All concerts and recitals are scheduled through the Office of Concert Production. All recitals will be scheduled to occur before the beginning of the reading period of each semester.

arrow Visit the concert production office web page for information on policies and procedures governing the scheduling of performances and other events.


The Department of Conservatory Audio Services provides recording services for conservatory events. This includes all student and faculty recitals, individual recording sessions, as well as sound reinforcement and editing. Select ensemble concerts and faculty recitals held in select venues may also be live video streamed and available for viewing to the public.

These recordings are available for class work and private listening, and many are available for purchase through the conservatory audio department. The conservatory reserves the right to use these recordings to promote the school and raise money for the scholarship fund. All students who participate in performances and recordings release Oberlin Conservatory of Music from any obligation, financial or otherwise.

arrow Visit the conservatory audio services web page for information on policies and procedures governing the recording and streaming of performances and other events.

Danenberg Honors Recitals

These recitals, typically held in February, are intended to acquaint the entire student body with the highest standard of student performance. Performers may be enrolled in any degree program offered by the conservatory, and are chosen by audition.

Extracurricular Performances

A student must secure permission from their principal advisor before engaging in any extracurricular performances. This rule applies to all solo performances, special ensemble work, and accompaniments within the conservatory, as well as outside activities.