The Kohl Building: PhilosophyKohl Building recording studio

The design of the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building on the grounds of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music is based on the premise that a building should broadcast its purpose to the world. The new $24 million facility does just that: It’s home to the conservatory’s exemplary Jazz Studies Program and its academic programs in music history and music theory. The Kohl Building also honors the life work of the late visionary musician and teacher Wendell Logan, professor of African American music and onetime chair of the Jazz Studies Program.

The Cleveland-based architectural firm of Westlake, Reed, Leskosky designed the three-story building with a goal to house and facilitate innovation by creating spaces for "intellectual loitering" and the "assembly of creative ideas." Instruction, rehearsals, recordings, and all other jazz and contemporary music-related activities will take place here.

In addition, the firm designed the facility with the highest environmental building standards in mind; the Kohl Building has earned a gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating, as developed by the U.S. Green Building Council. This gold LEED certification makes the Kohl Building one of the few, or perhaps, only, music conservatories in the world to receive the distinction. This design philosophy complements the college’s commitment to environmental stewardship.

What's Inside

The building has flexible rehearsal and performance spaces, teaching studios, practice rooms, music archive and exhibits, instrument storage, a lobby, and a world-class recording studio.

The Kohl Building also houses three permanent collections: the James and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection of more than 10,000 recordings, as well as posters, ephemera, and iconography; the Selch Collection of American Music History with nearly 700 instruments and 9,000 rare books and artwork; and the Frank Kuchirchuk Collection of Jazz Photography with images of select jazz greats taken in 1952 and 1953.

Read more about each collection:


Most Conservatory of Music facilities are housed in a complex of three contiguous buildings designed by Minoru Yamasaki: Bibbins Hall, the Central Unit, and Robertson Hall. Resources include five concert halls, a music library, 150 practice rooms, and 233 Steinway pianos. The conservatory's tradition of musical excellence dates to its founding in 1865, making it the oldest in continuous operation in the United States.

In May 2010, the conservatory unveiled the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building, which houses the Jazz Studies Program, and its academic departments in music history and music theory.

Browse through these topical links to learn more about the instrument and special collections, instruction, rehearsal and performance spaces at the conservatory.

Photographs Courtesy of the Office of Communications