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News and Media

Groundbreaking New Institute at Oberlin Conservatory of Music Focuses On Performance and Performance Criticism

Sep. 30, 2011

Alex Ross Rubin Critic For Web
Alex Ross, critic of the New Yorker, opens the institute with a keynote address on January 18. Photo by David Michalek

OBERLIN, OHIO — Always on the cutting edge of education and culture, the Oberlin Conservatory of Music is proud to announce a bold, creative program, the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. The inaugural sessions will take place January 18-22, 2012 on the 440-acre Oberlin College campus in Oberlin, Ohio, just 35 miles southwest of Cleveland. The first program of its kind focusing on performance and performance criticism, the biennial Institute comprises a weeklong series of public events, including performances, keynote addresses by critics, critical review and discussion panels. The Rubin Institute will bring together before the public national music journalists, renowned musicians, and aspiring young writers, combining the wisdom and insight of today’s highly esteemed critics, the artistry and daring of acclaimed musicians, and the energy and promise of tomorrow’s music journalists.

The Rubin Institute will include four public concerts on Oberlin's 133 year-old Artist Recital Series by acclaimed musicians from the solo, chamber, and orchestral stages. These performances will be reviewed by a hand-selected group of young writers (Rubin Institute Fellows) whose work will be critiqued in private workshops and public sessions by a panel of highly esteemed national music critics and journalists. 

In announcing details of the Rubin Institute, David H. Stull ’89, dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, stated, “We are tremendously excited to launch the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at Oberlin College. This program will dramatically enhance the discourse and awareness of classical music and will provide an extraordinary opportunity for our students and community to engage the great artists and writers of our time. I am deeply grateful to Steve Rubin for his vision and support of this program," he said.

"We are pleased to have with us for the first session of the Rubin Institute such renowned performers as Ohio's own Cleveland Orchestra, pianist Jeremy Denk ’90, baroque orchestra Apollo's Fire, and the International Contemporary Ensemble, whose performance includes the premiere of a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang."

Stull added that Oberlin is honored to have four nationally respected critics participating in the Writers Panel for the inaugural session of the Institute: Alex Ross, New Yorker music critic and author; Tim Page, professor of journalism and music at the University of Southern California, author and former music critic at the Washington Post; Anne Midgette, current music critic at the Washington Post, former New York Times critic, and Heidi Waleson, music critic for the Wall Street Journal and contributing writer to numerous other publications. "We are also pleased to have Jeremy Denk, who, in addition to his work as a performing musician, is the author of a widely followed and popular blog, join the Writers Panel for the second half of the institute,” he said.

Stephen Rubin, benefactor of the Rubin Institute, commented on the importance of creating a program centered on performance and performance criticism: “When my late wife and I decided to underwrite a program supporting what we consider to be the dying art of serious classical music criticism, we had the unfocused germ of an idea. David H. Stull and his colleagues at Oberlin took the ball and ran with it spectacularly, coming up with a far-reaching program of tremendous depth, breadth and sophistication. I am thrilled by David's vision, ambition, and determination.”

Beginning Wednesday, January 18, the Rubin Institute Fellows will attend and write reviews on each of the four consecutive, public institute concerts. Their work will be critiqued privately and publicly the following day by the Writers Panel (Note: Panel members will not review the concerts for their respective publications). The first critique will take place during a private morning workshop conducted by the Writers Panel. In the afternoon, the panel will present a public session focusing on writing critically about music that will include the fellows' concert reviews. The reviews will also be posted on the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism's website at:

Of special note are the preconcert keynote addresses presented each night of the institute by one of the journalists on the Writers Panel. Taking place each night an hour before that evening's performance, each talk is a rare opportunity for audiences, musicians, and writers alike. The 30-45 minute speeches will address, in addition to writing about a performance, the myriad opportunities for writing and speaking about music, including program notes, blogging, vlogging, and preconcert talks, among others. 

Saturday afternoon, January 21, the Rubin Institute will present an informative talk on performing from the perspective of those who perform and compose. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang, pianist Jeremy Denk, and flutist Claire Chase ’01, founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble, will discuss music and the creation, performance, and reception of music in the 21st century, followed by a question and answer session with the public.

Leading up to the institute, the student writers will have worked with a special preparatory team of local journalists and writers while taking the Oberlin Conservatory of Music's new fall course, Introduction to Music Criticism. The course's teaching panel includes Brian Alegant, professor and director of the Music Theory Division at the conservatory; Mike Telin ’84, executive editor,; Dan Hathaway, founder,, and Donald Rosenberg, journalist and president of the Music Critics Association of North America. Students will also have spent several class sessions with guest speaker Charles Michener, author and former senior editor of the New Yorker. (Details on the Rubin Institute Fellows will be released closer to the Institute session near the end of the fall semester when they are selected.)

The weeklong series culminates with the awarding of the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism to one of the Rubin Institute Fellows. Dean Stull, Mr. Rubin, and the Writers Panel will select the awardee. The Rubin Prize, intended to support further study or internships in the field of music criticism, will be disbursed over a two-year period, and will be awarded at the end of each future Rubin Institute session.

For more details on the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism and Oberlin Conservatory of Music, visit or

The website also has a detailed schedule of events, including biographies of the performers, panel members, teachers, and others involved in the Rubin Institute . Downloadable pdf files of directions to Oberlin, maps of the campus, and of this release are available at the institute website.

For questions regarding the Rubin Institute, or to request an interview or press tickets to any or all of the concerts, contact:

Laura Grant, Grant Communications

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