Historical Performance
Primary Contact:
David Breitman

Administrative Assistant:
Cindy Shairba

Division Email:

Phone: (440) 775-8198
Fax: (440) 775-8942

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Historical Performance

Historical Performance

Department Overview

Historical Performance is a way of looking at music, one in which the performer takes on some of the responsibilities of a scholar. Our aim is to provide students with the tools needed to make historically informed decisions about the pieces they perform. This requires an understanding of the music’s cultural context, familiarity with the practical aspects of historical instruments and performing conventions, and an appreciation of how performance styles and traditions have changed over time. 

Oberlin offers degree programs leading to the BM, MM, or Artist Diploma in performance on historical instruments. Master’s students may elect to pursue a program combining the study of multiple historical keyboards. The program also offers a minor, as well as a five-year program combining the BM in a traditional conservatory major with an MM in Historical Performance.

Coursework includes applied study on historical instruments, music history, music theory, continuo realization at the keyboard, and courses in performance practice, as well as historical performance ensembles. Students are exposed to the latest thinking in the field and take advantage of Oberlin's extensive music library to pursue their own research. The college's broad range of courses in history, theater, dance, and the visual arts complement and enrich the Historical Performance program's offerings. Some of the world's foremost artists are brought to campus as performers and teachers, augmenting the resident faculty.


Curriculum Overview

  • Private instruction (principal or secondary) is available in harpsichord, fortepiano, clavichord, organ, baroque violin, viola da gamba, baroque cello, historical flutes, recorder, and historical oboes. Although some students come to Oberlin already specializing in an early instrument, others come with more traditional musical backgrounds and begin their study of an early instrument in the conservatory.
  • Winter term is traditionally rich in events of interest to early music students. Recently, these have included an early piano workshop and introductory courses in baroque violin, viola da gamba, recorder, hurdy-gurdy, crumhorn, portative organ, and lute.
  • Many students in Oberlin's historical performance program participate in off-campus tours, including recent engagements in New York City, at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and at the Boston Early Music Festival. They may also perform in the Baroque Performance Institute, an intensive two-week program that takes place on campus every summer. 

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