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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.