The string curriculum aims to develop students' talents to the highest musical and professional levels. String students have been enormously successful in the musical world. Some hold positions in major orchestras and chamber ensembles, while others teach in music schools, universities, and conservatories around the world. String music education graduates are employed in school music programs around the country.
The curriculum is centered on the broad experience of the faculty. All are current or former members of professional chamber ensembles with extensive performing and recording credits, both as ensemble members and soloists. Through private lessons, faculty members offer rigorous instruction tailored to the needs of each student.
Students are required to take six semesters of chamber music with a faculty coach, and many take additional semesters. The Advanced Quartet Seminar, which focuses on a different composer each semester, offers more concentrated work. Additional chamber opportunities are available during winter term, when the department offers the Intensive Quartet Seminar. Designed to accelerate students' grasp of standard quartet repertoire and rehearsal techniques, this seminar includes four hours of rehearsal each day. The winter-term seminar involves both Oberlin faculty members and distinguished guests.
Orchestral skills are developed through excerpt classes taught by faculty members who are experienced orchestral musicians and through participation in one or both of the student orchestras. Both orchestras rehearse six hours per week and perform concerts every three to four weeks. This schedule exposes students to a broad orchestral repertoire and provides excellent preprofessional training. Because Oberlin has no junior orchestra, first-year students perform alongside experienced players. The relatively small requirement of six semesters of orchestra participation for violinists, violists, and cellists gives these students the scheduling flexibility they need to devote attention to perfecting instrumental technique or audition repertoire.
Students who wish to teach can gain experience through Oberlin's supervised student teaching program, in which conservatory students teach both college and conservatory students. A pedagogy course is also offered to help students prepare for teaching. After taking the pedagogy course, students may teach in the string preparatory program, which includes private lessons for area elementary school students and group classes.
The classical guitar major, incorporated into the string program in 1992, emphasizes the full range of chamber literature. In addition to primary study on classical guitar, instruction is available on lute, early guitar, and jazz guitar. The program offers numerous performance opportunities, as well as seminars that address resume preparation and other job-related issues. The major is supported by an extensive collection of guitar scores and recordings in the conservatory library.