The Classical Guitar Studio at Oberlin Conservatory of Music is modest in size: it hovers between eight and twelve members. All are undergraduates, as, at Oberlin, the student body is all undergraduates. This distinction is important as, unlike at schools with larger programs composed mostly of masters and doctoral candidates, at Oberlin all opportunities fall into the hands of undergrads. Who wins the concerto competition, who is featured as a performer in the guest master class, who sits concertmaster or first chair in orchestra, who gets the lead roles in the operas, who wins the special scholarships, who is selected for honors recitals? At Oberlin, it is always an undergrad.
We feature several guest artists each year, normally four. Each guest gives a recital and teaches a class. Guests have run the gamut from the hottest young competition winners to the most seasoned masters, from soloists to chamber ensembles, from lutanists to new music specialists, from masters of the standard rep to guitarist-composers, from 19th century guitarists to flamenco guitarist; we cover it all.
We have an annual classical guitar competition at Oberlin, open to collegiate guitarists statewide, the James Stroud All-Ohio Classical Guitar Competition and Festival. This event is a three-day intensive featuring guest and faculty concerts, a three-round solo competition and two master classes. There is no guarantee that an Oberlin student will end up in the finals, but one always has.
We have a special scholarship for classical guitar students based on their special activities, over-and-above the curriculum requirements: the James Stroud Classical Guitar Entrepreneurship Award. This special fund set up by James Stroud offers winning Oberlin guitar students $5,000 in cash awards at the end of each year.
Recent years have seen an extraordinary opportunity grace the Oberlin Guitar Studio. A silent benefactor has underwritten student attendance at several out-of-town events. And I mean out of town. The entire studio has been treated to all-expenses-paid attendance at the Pasadena, CA GFA Convention (2014), the Sorrento, Italy Guitar Festival (2015) and this year, they will attend the Classical Guitar Retreat in Cumbrae, Scotland. We are so thrilled and grateful for this amazing and educationally indescribable array of experiences.
Study on Secondary Instruments
Oberlin students can borrow and take lessons on a school-owned Renaissance lute, Baroque lute, theorbo, vihuela and Baroque guitar. In addition, they can take advantage of our extraordinary jazz guitar program for secondary lessons in that area.
Oberlin guitar students have ample opportunities for performance over and above the required degree recitals. They play at the gorgeous Oberlin Museum, Kendal Retirement Home’s formal concert stage, and with Contemporary Music Ensemble and other groups as ensemble members. We have three standard venues for guitar recitals: Kulas Recital Hall (145 seats), Stull Recital Hall (120 seats) and Fairchild Chapel (150 seats), but additional venues have seen guitar on stage as well, including Warner Concert Hall (645 seats), Finney Chapel (1,200 seats), Hall Auditorium (500 seats) and Clonick Hall (150 seats). Few institutions have as many perfect rooms for the guitar.