Guest Post

Oberlin College: A Distinctive Fusion of Liberal Arts and Music

POSTED ON 09/29/2023 BY Rebecca Kelley

A person strumming guitar with a stack of books beside.

When you enter Oberlin College & Conservatory, the first thing to hit you is the enchanting sound of music permeating our campus. So, when I talk to students about our institution, many say, “I thought Oberlin was just a music school.” But the reality is far more intriguing. 

The institution is a small private liberal arts college in Ohio that consists of two schools. Approximately 80 percent of the students are enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, while 20 percent are in the Conservatory of Music. A harmonious coexistence ensues where students from both schools live together, dine together, and engage in academic pursuits and extracurricular activities, fostering a community that holds music and the arts in the highest esteem.

What is the Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences? 

The Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences boasts a comprehensive and demanding liberal arts programme, with more than forty diverse majors and several interdisciplinary minors. It provides ten integrative concentrations seamlessly blending classroom knowledge with hands-on experiential learning opportunities. Typically, students who enrol in the College of Arts & Sciences may have been musically active in high school, but most don’t aspire to be professional musicians. However, they yearn to keep music in their lives. Oberlin College of Arts and Science provides the atmosphere and the opportunity for them to do just that.

What is the Oberlin Conservatory of Music? 

Established in 1863, this distinguished institution is a professional haven for those aspiring for careers in Western classical or jazz music. It offers a rigorous education with an unwavering focus on performance and composition. Here, students commit to practicing their craft for four hours a day, all while diligently attending academic courses such as music theory, sight-singing, and music history. The facilities include 11 performance spaces, 150 naturally-lit practice rooms, 240-plus Steinway pianos, a world-class recording studio and much more. 

Love music but don’t want to pursue it as a major?

At Oberlin, you’re spoilt for choice. Surprisingly, over 50 percent of our arts and sciences students earn credits through the Conservatory. Here are your options:

1) Audition for music lessons: 

Have you ever had a desire to continue your music lessons? Students from our College of Arts and Sciences can audition for lessons at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music every semester. Most of these lessons are taught by the Conservatory’s advanced students rather than faculty, but rest assured, our advanced student musicians are nothing short of exceptional musicians.

2) Take classes at our Conservatory

Oberlin Arts and Sciences students interested in music academia can also explore courses like music history, ethnomusicology, and music theory/sight-singing. Some classes might be competitive due to Conservatory students’ requirements, but persistence usually pays. Recent offerings include courses like “Pop Music and Media,” “Music as Social Life,” “Introduction to African-American Music,” and “Analysis of World Music.”

3) Join an ensemble

Many Arts and Sciences students engage in ensembles, either for academic credit or as extracurriculars. An ensemble is a group of musicians who come together to perform. There are plenty of musical, vocal and world ensembles for our students. Arts & Sciences Chamber Collective, Musical Union, Small Jazz Ensembles, Oberlin Steel, Javanese Gamelan, and OC Taiko are some of the more popular options, but several others exist. 

4) Study music formally: 

It’s also possible to pursue a double major, which includes music. While it may not be a performance degree, it delves into the study of music as an integral component of the liberal arts. Various music-related courses are available as well, such as “Sound for Moving Picture,” “Music as Social Life,” “Song and Book,” and “Musical Acoustics.” Additionally, six interdisciplinary programmes bridge the College and Conservatory in fields like Arts and Creative Technologies, Music and Cognition, and Music and Popular Culture. Explore the musical opportunities for College of Arts & Sciences students.

What if you just want to enjoy some music?

Well, Oberlin is the perfect place for you. We host over 500 concerts each academic year on campus, covering an array of musical genres, from classical to jazz and beyond. Our student-run radio station, WOBC, sponsors a lively Cover Band Showcase every semester. Moreover, there’s “Rando Bando,” where bands are formed randomly and given four weeks to compose and perform original songs. The musical ambience extends beyond the concert halls, as you’ll find students scattered across campus, serenading the day away. At Oberlin, music is so deeply woven into the institution’s fabric that it’s impossible to ignore.

Oberlin College & Conservatory intertwines a liberal arts education with music in the most exquisite ways imaginable. Sharing a dorm room with a Conservatory student can open your eyes to the value of dedication and commitment to one’s craft. Enrolling in a class alongside Conservatory students, whether within the Conservatory or College, offers a fresh perspective on the subject matter. The best part is that attending one of our numerous concerts is like embarking on a transformative journey where worldly concerns momentarily fade away.

The Red Pen undergraduate team is dedicated to helping applicants identify colleges that align with their goals and passions. You may read more on what a liberal arts education entails and pursuing a liberal arts education in the US. For assistance with your undergraduate applications, please get in touch. Our experts look forward to assisting you.