Oberlin Establishes Collaborative Programs Integrating Music and Liberal Arts

OBERLIN, OH – In fall 2020, Oberlin College and Conservatory will introduce five new programs of study that transcend traditional institutional boundaries and establish a new level of collaboration between the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music. These new programs will offer all Oberlin students innovative educational opportunities which will help them build successful, 21st-century careers in a host of fields including music, visual arts, media, science,and business.

Drawing on Oberlin’s deep strengths in music and the liberal arts, students will have the opportunity to minor in Music and Cognition, Music and Popular Culture, Interdisciplinary Performance, and Arts and Creative Technologies. A fifth program, in Arts Administration and Leadership, will add co-curricular programming in an integrative concentration. All five are available to all Oberlin students.

“We are fully leveraging Oberlin’s unique resources to bring what only Oberlin can to interdisciplinary studies, preparing our graduates for the types of careers they will have in the 21st century,” says President Carmen Ambar. “This collaboration, embraced by our faculty, captures the spirit and opportunity that shape the innovative work taking place under the banner of One Oberlin.”

Conservatory students already take advantage of courses offered in the College of Arts and Sciences virtually every semester of their Oberlin experience. For the first time, those conservatory students now will be able to complete minors in the college as well. College and conservatory faculties are also considering a minor that would allow students in the Arts and Sciences to minor in music.

The new offerings complement Oberlin’s existing robust opportunities for students to pursue their education in both the college and the conservatory, including the Double Degree Program. Attainable in five years or fewer, the Double Degree was created at Oberlin more than 100 years ago and continues to serve as a worldwide model for interdisciplinary education.

Now that spirit of intellectual and practical experimentation at the heart of the Oberlin experience has been elevated to a new level.

These new interdisciplinary offerings are the first to be formally adopted out of the institution’s One Oberlin initiatives, designed to forge new connections between the college and conservatory, to develop new educational and co-curricular opportunities for students throughout campus, and to more fully utilize the remarkable resources already at students’ fingertips.

Key components of the interdisciplinary collaboration were devised by the Conservatory College Interdivisional Curricular Committee, a body consisting of faculty members representing the college and conservatory. Created in 2019 as part of Oberlin’s extensive academic and administrative review process, the committee is charged with examining ways to realize fully the potential of studying music in a liberal arts context. Its recommendations for conservatory and college curricular collaboration were approved unanimously through separate votes of college and conservatory faculty in December 2019.

“Building on Oberlin’s history of pushing past traditional boundaries, these new programs offer something that is both true to the institution and distinctive on the higher education landscape,” Acting Dean of Arts and Sciences David Kamitsuka and Dean of the Conservatory William Quillen wrote in an email to campus announcing approval of the new programs. “This represents an important step in implementing the One Oberlin recommendations.”

The five new interdisciplinary areas of study are intended to complement students’ various majors. The Conservatory College Interdivisional Curricular Committee will coordinate administration of the new minors and integrative concentration.

Requirements for satisfying each area of study vary, but generally include a minimum of 20 credit hours in subjects separate from the student’s major and selected from an extensive series of options (complete course offerings will be available in spring 2020). Distinct from the four minor courses of study, the integrative concentration Arts Administration and Leadership requires a related field experience of at least eight weeks, which can be completed at Oberlin or anywhere in the world.

For each of the five interdisciplinary areas, students are required to maintain a learning portfolio that highlights their academic studies and experiential learning, and that includes reflections on the various connections emerging through these experiences. This ability to weave together concepts from across wildly different worlds lies at the core of liberal arts education.

About Oberlin College and Conservatory
Ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts schools, Oberlin College and Conservatory is known for its exemplary academic and musical pedagogy and its commitment to social justice, sustainability, and creative entrepreneurship. The college, founded in 1833, holds a distinguished place among American colleges and universities as the first to grant bachelor's degrees to women in a coeducational environment and was a leader in the education of African Americans. The Conservatory of Music, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, was founded in 1865, making it the oldest continuously operating conservatory in the United States. Oberlin Conservatory alumni enjoy illustrious careers in all aspects of the music world, achieving prominence as performers, conductors, composers, music educators, scholars, and arts administrators.