Oberlin's orchestral program is very good. Here are some quotes from the national press concerning a Carnegie Hall performance two years ago. The Bartok mentioned is the Concerto for Orchestra and the other pieces on the program were the Mozart Piano Concerto #25 in C, K.503 and Jennifer Higdon's blue cathedral.
"Vivien Schweitzer of the New York Times praised the Oberlin Conservatory Symphony Orchestra’s Carnegie Hall appearance with Robert Spano, especially their performance of the Bartók, which was, she wrote, “stellar.” She called the orchestra’s reading of the Higdon “dynamic,” writing that the musicians “played … with skill and understanding, vividly illuminating the Coplandesque swaths of color that build to an intense, optimistic climax.” Muzijevic, she wrote, “gave a … tastefully ornamented rendition” of the Mozart.”
"Writing for MusicalAmerica.com, Patrick J. Smith praised the Bartók as a “polished and forward-thrusting rendition calculated to bring down the house—which it succeeded in doing,” and he agreed with the ovation the musicians received at the end of the program: “These young men and women had shown conclusively that the so-called ‘death of classical music’ is a very long way from being realized—at least at Oberlin.”
A hand-picked student chamber orchestra, Oberlin 21, recently backed up some soloists from the Cleveland Orchestra on the Telarc recording "Air" that has been getting very good reviews.
Non-majors may audition for admission to the Conservatory ensembles (including the Symphony Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra, the Contemporary Music Ensemble and many others) but the standards for admission to those groups is high. Clarinet in particular is going to be a tough nut to crack because of the small number required for an orchestra and the large number of talented players there. The Wind Ensemble may be a slightly better bet for a non-major because it employs a lot more clarinets than the Orchestras and there is already a lively competition among those clarinet performance majors who prefer the Orchestras to the Wind Ensemble. Note that the top ensembles put on a completely new program about every six or seven weeks, so there is a big commitment in terms of rehearsal and personal practice time for these groups.
There is also a College Community Strings ensemble and a College Community Winds ensemble that are oriented toward non-majors and community members. These groups are generally directed by teachers from the Conservatory and do not have as rigorous a rehearsal or performance schedule. In addition, there are lots of ad-hoc groups that get put together by students who just want to play on their own. Many non-majors are involved in these.
While there is a BA degree in music available through the College, the College does not maintain a separate music faculty from the conservatory. There are only a few music classes available under the aegis of the College and even those are taught by Conservatory staff. You should realize that a lot of the Conservatory classes, particularly the higher level ones, do not have a lot of extra space and that Conservatory students and College music majors get first crack at those. There may be a lot of classes that non-majors get shut out of completely.
As memake mentioned, non-majors can audition for lessons with the Conservatory faculty. Most of the time, those who are accepted into a studio will get a half-hour lesson for two credits per week. Very occasionally, a non-major will be accepted for full hour per week, four credit per semester lessons, but the expectation when getting full lessons is the same amount of daily practice as a Conservatory student. Those who do not audition into a faculty studio can study with upper level Conservatory students who are being mentored by their own teachers. There is a nominal charge (something like $10 per hour lesson) but no academic credit given for student-led lessons.
Last edited by BassDad; 06-29-2009 at 01:26 PM.