Alumni Notes


The music of composer H. Leslie Adams ’55 has been performed regularly during the past year. In January 2010, soprano Yolanda Rhodes performed his works and those of other prominent African-American composers, including William Grant Still. At an October lecture and concert at the University of Mobile, soprano Allanda Small discussed and performed works from Nightsongs and other vocal selections from Adams’ oeuvre. The Cleveland Public Library hosted a program of new instrumental music by Adams, a Cleveland native, in February 2011.


Jazz pianist Stanley Cowell ’62 released his first CD in more than a decade, after spending much of his time as a dedicated educator. The CD is titled Prayer for Peace and features Victor Lewis on drums, Mike Richmond on bass, and Cowell’s daughter, Sunny, on viola and vocals. Cowell performed at a CD release party in January at Murphy’s Jazz Club in downtown Toledo, and also gave a concert with the Toledo Symphony at the Toledo Museum of Art. The CD, which is being released by SteepleChase Productions, features original compositions by both Stanley and Sunny Cowell, as well as familiar jazz standards.

Soprano Joanne Williamson Dorenfeld ’67 has given concerts in Holland and Belgium and has appeared as a featured soloist with the London and Edmonton symphonies and the Illinois Chamber Orchestra, among many others. She has performed with New York’s Mozart Opera Project, was a frequent guest on Canadian Broadcasting, and has premiered many new works written for her voice, which were released on a disc by Radio Canada International. She previously was a faculty member at several colleges and universities and at Toronto’s Royal Conservatory of Music, with which she had a long affiliation.


Sharon E. Dobbins ’72 retired from singing with Opera Memphis in 2006. A devoted teacher with a large studio of students, she spent a great deal of time working with music students with mental or physical handicaps and participated in the Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities’ Interdisciplinary Leadership Training Series.


Sylvia Kahan '73

Musicologist and pianist Sylvia Kahan ’73 published a new book, In Search of New Scales: Prince Edmond de Polgnac, Octatonic Explorer. The winter 2009 issue of Musical Times praised the book as a “fascinating and valuable contribution to modern French musicology, and Professor Kahan shows herself ever aware of the social and cultural milieu in which Prince Edmond operated.” Kahan’s book on Prince Edmond’s wife, Music’s Modern Muse: A Life of Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, was recently released in paperback. Kahan is professor of music at the Graduate Center and College of Staten Island, CUNY, where she is a member of the piano and musicology faculties. She gave a recital of piano music in May 2010 as part of the CUNY Graduate Center’s Music in Midtown series, where she performed works by George Antheil, Samuel Barber, and John Harbison.

Howard Spindler ’74, instructor of piano performance and music theory at the Eastman Community Music School, was named the Rochester Chapter Mu Phi Epsilon Musician of the Year. Past winners of the prestigious honor include Howard Hanson, Ceclie Genhart, Samuel Adler, David Diamond, and the Ying Quartet. As part of the award, Spindler performed a concert at Eastman on March 6. His teaching career there has included piano teaching, chamber music coaching, and classroom teaching, both in the Community School and Collegiate Division. Through Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership, Spindler has directed a certificate program for graduate students interested in honing their studio teaching skills. He also performs in programs offered by the Young Audiences organization and the Rochester City Schools, and he initiated a weekly noontime concert series, Eastman at Washington Square, which is going strong more than a decade later.

Thomas D. Saler ’75 published a comprehensive biography of the conductor Carlo Maria Giulini titled Serving Genius. In the book, Saler discusses Giulini’s major appointments, which included the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as his repertoire of choice and his distinctive, highly emotive conducting style. The Chicago Tribune described the book as “a thorough, balanced, and illuminating portrait of the charismatic Italian as man and maestro,” and the Los Angeles Times as “a fascinating full account of the ... conductor’s unlikely path to his house in the Hollywood Hills.” The book is published by the University of Illinois Press.

Anne Tomlinson ’76 continues to serve as artistic director of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, where she has been since 1995. Last year, the LACC put on a concert of works by noted California composers, including John Adams, Paul Gibson, and David Conte. Under Tomlinson’s direction, the LACC has performed with leading music ensembles, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and Pasadena Symphony. She has also prepared children’s choirs for Esa-Pekka Salonen, Gustavo Dudamel, Carlos Rizzie, and others.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiled Walter Huff ’78, who has been the chorus master at Atlanta Opera for 18 years. “Behind the Luciano Pavarottis or Leontyne Prices on every opera stage,” writes the AJC, “are dozens of singers in the chorus, many with aspirations of stardom and most with day jobs. It’s Walter Huff’s job to train, blend, and encourage those voices.” Huff says that he got interested in working with singers while accompanying singers at the Oberlin conservatory, where he majored in piano performance. In 2008, he completed a European tour with members of the Atlanta Opera’s chorus, where they performed Porgy and Bess alongside the Opera-Comique of Paris.


Rhonda Rider '78

Cellist Rhonda Rider ’78 has been named an artist-in-residence at the Grand Canyon National Park for 2010-2011. She commissioned 10 composers to write works for solo cello that are inspired by aspects of the Grand Canyon. Among the composers are Laura Kaminski ’78 and Jeffrey Mumford, a former composer-in-residence at Oberlin. Rider presented a public performance in February 2010 in celebration of the Grand Canyon’s 92nd anniversary of becoming a national park. She is chair of chamber music at the Boston Conservatory and cellist of the piano trio Triple Helix.



CD release by Sha’ari Garfinkel ’85

Seattle-based music therapist Sha’ari Garfinkel ’85 released a new CD, From Metals Emerging—Music for Gongs and Resonant Metals, with Dean Moore. The CD, which is available on and, draws from Garfinkel’s extensive collection of gongs, which she uses in her music therapy. Her interests in healing music traditions have taken her all over the world, including Bali, Israel, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Belize, Mexico, and Canada, in addition to learning from indigenous communities in Washington and Arizona.


Paul Henry Smith '86

Using only two computers and a Nintendo Wii, Paul Henry Smith ’86 conducts his Fauxharmonic Orchestra, a fully digital symphony orchestra that responds to his movements as conductor. Smith recently performed a concert at Brandeis University that included Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, student compositions, and, fittingly, the soundtrack to the Final Fantasy VIII video game. Smith told the Boston Globe that the Fauxharmonic Orchestra originated as a practical tool for composers who may not be able to have their orchestral compositions performed. “This sort of thing gives composers a chance to hear and perform their work in a new way,” Smith said. Read more at


Book by Mark Brill ’87

Prentice-Hall published a new textbook by Mark Brill ’87, Music of Latin America and the Caribbean. The text covers all the major facets of Latin-American music and comes with plentiful musical examples. Brill’s text aims to develop an understanding of Latin-American civilization and its relation to other cultures, and to foster a historical and geographic perspective of Latin American music by presenting a wide range of musical examples from many national and ethnic types. Brill is professor of music history and literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio.


Rachel Matthews '89

The winner of the American Viola Society’s first annual Maurice Gardner Composition competition was Rachel Matthews ’89. Matthews’ piece, “Dreams for Viola and Piano,” was premiered in Seattle by violist Scott Slapin, with Matthews on piano. (The performance can be viewed on YouTube.) Since earning her doctorate in piano performance from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Matthews has become increasingly active as a composer. She received grants from the American Composers Forum, Jerome Composers Commissioning Program, and 4Culture. This season she holds a residency with Jack Straw Productions’ Artist Support Program.

Kristin Wolfe Jensen ’89 released a solo CD in 2010, Parables and Reflections, on the TNC label. The CD is dedicated to the music of Virko Baley. The July/August 2010 issue of Fanfare magazine wrote of the CD: “Baley has given [Jensen] ample opportunity to showcase her virtuosity.” Jensen is professor of bassoon at the University of Texas at Austin, an artist/faculty member at the International Festival Institute at Round Top, and principal bassoonist of the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. Jensen also authored and launched a free, extensive, multi-media bassoon method website, She returned to Oberlin last January, assisting Oberlin’s Professor of Bassoon George Sakakeeny in hosting the first Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition for young women bassoonists.



CD and DVD by Tony Arnold ’90

Soprano Tony Arnold ’90 recorded Gyorgy Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments for Bridge Records, with Movses Pogossian on violin. The release includes a DVD of the duo being coached by Kurtag, as well as a concert performance of Kafka Fragments filmed in Armenia. Opera News describes the recording as “an interpretation of the highest many ways, it represents an ideal performance.”

Kate Boyd ’91 released a CD of contemporary piano works by American composers. Music for the End of Winter features works by John Halle, Howard Frazin, Frank Felice, Michael Schelle, and Daniel Koontz, and is being released by Ravello Records. Boyd is assistant professor of piano and coordinator of piano studies at Butler University, where the CD was recorded.

Lynelle Ediger ’92 continues to serve as founder and director of the American Youth Harp Ensemble, based in Richmond, Va. AYHE’s touring ensemble has performed twice at Carnegie Hall and at the United Nations, Kennedy Center, and Paris Music Festival. Ediger and the AYHE have also been active in community outreach, including working with the Boys & Girls Club of Richmond to expose harp music to those who might not otherwise have the means to learn the instrument.

Lorenzo Candelaria ’94 addressed students at Oberlin as part of the 2010-2011 Richard Murphy Musicology Colloquium. Candelaria is associate professor of music at the University of Texas at Austin and is a historian of 15th- and 16th-century western art music. His talk was titled “The Mystery of the Rosary Cantorales: A Study in Attribution.” The Rosary Cantoral is a rare manuscript of Latin plainchant for the Catholic Mass, which dates to 1500 CE and was compiled in Toledo, Spain. Candelaria is currently writing a book titled Music in Mexican Catholicism.


Benjamin Lapidus '94

Bevin Kelley ’94 is pursuing a PhD in electronic music and multimedia at Brown University.

Guitarist Benjamin Lapidus ’94 performed at the Lincoln Center in August in the live premiere of Larry Harlow’s 1977 masterpiece La Raza Latina. The piece was composed to convey the history of Latin music in a single song. Lapidus was part of a 45-person orchestra that included vocalists Ruben Blades and Adonis Puentes. Harlow conducted.


Elizabeth Askren ’97

Conductor Elizabeth Askren ’97 was awarded the 2010 Talents Chefs d’Orchestre prize, attributed by France’s Adami (Administration des Droits des Artistes et Musiciens Interpretes) organization. The award honors conductors under the age of 35 who are confirmed professionals and residents of France. Askren is the first American to receive the prize, which is awarded by an international jury. Askren was featured in a public showcase concert last October, conducting the Orchestre Colonne at the Salle Gaveau.

Violinist Jennifer Koh ’97 performed a solo concert at Oberlin’s Finney Chapel in 2009. The program sandwiched modern pieces by Carter, Salonen, Saariaho, and Ysaye between Bach partitas. In its review of the concert, the Cleveland Plain Dealer hailed the program as “a daring and intelligent thematic menu played with uncommon taste, flair, and expressive acuity.”


The Stevens Viola Duo, comprising Daniel Stevens ’00 and his brother, Philip Stevens, gave a concert at Weill Recital Hall in New York City in March. The duo performed a varied program, including a premier by American composer Christopher Schmitz. The Stevens brothers are both former students of Oberlin Professor of Viola Peter Slowik.

Violinist Sungmin Yoo ’01 performed Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet at the 2009 Banff Music Festival in Canada, with festival director Berry Shiffman on viola. Yoo collaborated recently with members of the Cleveland Quartet and the Juilliard Quartet, and is currently assistant concertmaster of the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra. Yoo is completing her doctorate at the New England Conservatory under Donald Weilerstein.

Adam Meyer ’02 accepted a new position as associate dean of administration at Juilliard. He had been serving year-round as dean of students at the Perlman Music Program, where he will continue to work during summers. At Juilliard, Meyer will work closely with the dean and the faculty and be part of the planning and implementation of the procedures and policies overseen by the dean’s office.

Matthew Mehlan ’04, a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, composer, and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, N.Y., was named one of this year’s Brooklyn Philharmonic Composer Fellows. As part of this award, Mehlan will work with noted composer Randall Woolf, writing works for string quartet and chamber orchestra that will be performed by the Brooklyn Orchestra. On March 27, 2011, two of his original compositions were performed at the Brooklyn Museum; one of the pieces, “Where is My New Face,” was inspired by the museum’s special exhibit, Hank Willis Thomas’ “Unbranded.” Mehlan has been performing actively with his band, Skeletons, touring around the U.S. and Europe extensively. The taste-making music magazine Xlr8r described the Skeletons as “one of the few contemporary bands who can legitimately be called ’original.’” The band has an upcoming CD due out on the Crammed Discs label.

Kristina Goettler ’05 won the audition for principal oboe of the Kansas City Symphony, continuing the tradition of Oberlin graduates filling the role. Goettler is filling the vacancy left by Mingjia Liu ’10, who has gone on to become the new principal oboist of the San Francisco Opera.

Ami Dang ’06 has been making headlines in Baltimore for her unique blend of classical sitar, pop, and western avant-garde music. Dang has been a fixture of the Baltimore live music scene since returning there in 2007, and this year she’s released her debut LP, Hukam, on Baltimore’s Ehse Records. Dang grew up playing sitar and singing, and Hukam fuses her Indian musical background with electronics, looping, and pop sensibilities. In a recent feature on Dang, Baltimore’s City Paper drew favorable comparisons between her music and that of rapper M.I.A., and went on to write that “Dang and her music are so much more interesting than [M.I.A.]—and where she wants to take her art feels more eclectic.”

Sopranos Megan Hart ’06 and Marcy Stonikas ’02 performed in Seattle Opera’s Young Artists Production of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos last April. More than 600 singers applied for the 2009-10 season of the Young Artists Program, which is geared toward recent college graduates embarking on professional singing careers. Hart sang the role of Zerbinetta, and Stonikas the role of Ariadne. The two sopranos knew each other at Oberlin. “Marcy was one of the people who seriously inspired me; she was an upperclassman at the time I was there,” says Hart. “Watching her perform and hearing her voice, I knew I was witnessing something very important. I feel so lucky to be performing with her now.”

Violinist Edwin Huizinga ’06 performed Barber’s Violin Concerto with the San Bernardino Symphony last May. The San Bernadino Press-Enterprise praised Huizinga’s “obvious technical wizardry,” writing that “Huizinga and the orchestra, with strong and confident strings, treated the audience to an intelligent performance of this seldom-heard but rich work.” Huizinga now lives in Toronto.

Baritone Edward Parks ’06 won first prize in February in the prestigious George London Foundation Awards Competition, a prestigious honor that comes with a $10,000 prize. The New York Times singled out Parks for his performance: “Mr. Parks, [age] 27, wielded his burnished voice to fine effect in “Avant de quitter ces lieux” from Gounod’s Faust.” Twenty-four American and Canadian singers under the age of 35 competed in the final event, winnowed from 95 finalists selected from almost 300 applicants.

Jazz trumpeter Theo Croker ’07 released his second album as a bandleader. In The Tradition features two jazz legends, trombonist Benny Powell and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath. Village Voice jazz critic Nat Hentoff praised the new CD: “I was struck by his ’signature sound’—personal and indeed ’in the tradition,’ but also contributing to its future.” Joining Croker on the album is Sullivan Fortner ’08, who is earning his master’s degree in jazz piano at the Manhattan School of Music and performing with acclaimed vibraphonist Stefon Harris’ quintet, Blackout. In his review of Blackout, New York Times music critic Ben Ratliff singled out Fortner, writing: “the band’s young new pianist, Sullivan Fortner—a name unknown around New York, though maybe not for long—went deep inside [the song], playing with gestures and percussive force.”

Percussionist Aaron Williams ’07 was recently profiled in the Des Moines Register in an article titled “Iowa’s Most Essential Classical Musician?” Williams is the principal percussionist of both the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra and the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, positions he has held since 2009. “When my parents were shelling out money for lessons and equipment and everything,” said Williams in the article, “they always said, ’Well, it better pay off in the long run.’ Right now, I think they’re pretty happy.”

Thomas Arsenault ’08 was recently profiled in a New York Times blog about culture written by Johnny Misheff. Arsenault, a graduate of Oberlin Conservatory’s TIMARA program, has produced albums for a variety of artists in New York. Misheff describes Arsenault’s own music and video work as “lush and emotive, filled with subtle nuances that somehow jerk the audience into deep self-reflexive awareness.”


An Oberlin reunion in Lucerne, Switzerland

Ben Zilber ’08 writes that the 2009 Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland served as a mini-reunion for many recent Oberlin graduates. The festival, which is run by Pierre Boulez and focuses on contemporary music performance, features an international orchestra: only about one-third of the orchestra was American, and of that portion, Oberlin had the highest representation of any school. The alumni who participated with Zilber were Anne Lanzilotti ’07, Stephen Menotti ’07, Curt Miller ’09, Jon Hepfer ’07, Jennifer Torrence ’09, Bonnie Anne Whiting ’04, Philip Alejo ’05, Johanna Lundy ’04, Jeff Young ’07, and Anna Steinhoff ’03.

Jeffrey Hill ’09 was praised by Anthony Tomassini in the New York Times for his performance at Zankel Hall in Luciano Berio’s reconstruction of Mozart’s “Zaide.” Tomassini wrote: “Jeffrey Hill, a lyric tenor with a sizable sound, was a suitably flustered sultan.” He also described the entire vocal cast as a “winning roster of young singers.”

Jazz vocalist Nina Moffitt ’09 now lives in New York City, performing regularly with her quintet. Her new EP, Where I Have Been, features Rafiq Bhatia ’10, Jackson Hill ’10, Alex Morris ’10, and Tim Bennett ’12, as well as a guest appearance by Jordan Goldstein ’09. The EP, which is available online, features modern interpretations of two jazz standards, an angular and virtuosic Ravi Coltrane composition, and Moffitt’s arrangement of a song by pop singer Joanna Newsom.


Steuart Pincombe '09

Cellist Steuart Pincombe ’09 is one of two winners of an international early music competition hosted by the Danish Jumpstart Jr. Foundation. In addition to being recognized as a promising performer of early music by the foundation’s internationally acclaimed panel of judges, Pincombe was awarded an extremely rare Carlo Antonio Testore baroque cello, made in Milan in 1720. The instrument was never modified to the specifications of modern cellos, and is still in original condition. In announcing the award, the foundation called Pincombe “daring, [with] a very good understanding of what makes music speak.” Pincombe, who holds both a BMus in modern cello and an MM in viola da gamba and baroque cello from Oberlin, is active as a performer of baroque and historically informed music. He plays baroque cello in Apollo’s Fire: The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, and he has given master classes and guest lectures at Missouri State University, Oral Roberts University, Gordon College, and at Oberlin. He also performs modern cello in the Credo Trio.

Baroque instruments differ from classical instruments in many ways, including a shorter and lighter fingerboard, a tailpiece without fine tuners, and a lighter bass bar and thinner sound post. Jumpstart Jr. provides winners with instruments that are correctly set up for baroque performance, to aid them in their period play. In March 2011 Pincombe performed a concert in Oberlin of solo cello music featuring his new instrument. He performed Ricercars V and VI by Giovanni Gabrielli, Cello Suite I in G major by Johann Sebastian Bach, Etudes VII and VIII by Jean-Louis Duport, and Caprices II and VII by Alfredo Piatti.


Attending the annual Music EdVentures conference in Portland, Oregon, in February were Obies Danielle Solan ’05, Danielle Koplinka-Loehr ’08, Meghan Meloy ’10, and Professor of Music Education Peggy Bennett. Music EdVentures, an international network of music educators, awarded each Oberlin grad with a Fleurette Sweeney Fellowship for Emerging Pioneers in Education grant.

Jeremy Denk ’90 Makes Unexpected Carnegie Hall Debut


Jeremy Denk ’90

Pianist Jeremy Denk ’90 made his unexpected Carnegie Hall debut on March 27, filling in at the last minute for Maurizio Pollini after he cancelled due to illness. Denk performed a characteristically diverse and thoughtful program, pairing Charles Ives’ “Concord Sonata” with Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.” Denk’s recording of the “Concord Sonata,” Denk Plays Ives, was released last year to universal critical acclaim, and his performance at Carnegie Hall was met with no less enthusiasm.

Reviewing the concert in the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini was effusive in his praise of Denk. “Mr. Denk embraced the moment, played splendidly and won a standing ovation, and probably some new admirers, from the audience...His balancing of elements in the ’Concord’—control and freedom, wildness and repose, ferocity and tenderness, clattering power and melting sonorities—was something special.”

The week before his Carnegie debut, Denk had been a last-minute stand-in for Martha Argerich in a performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Denk performed Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto under conductor Gustavo Dudaeml. Following the performance, Mark Swed of the Los Angeles Times hailed the pianist, writing, “Denk unravels mysteries. He commands an impressive clarity of tone and thought...In many passages his fingers catch the sparkle in his eye.”

Adam Rudolph ’76 Continues Role As
Bold Ambassador For World Music


Adam Rudolph ’76

Master percussionist, ethnomusicologist, and composer Adam Rudolph ’76 performed and conducted masterclasses at Oberlin in April 2010 as part of a larger tour of the East Coast. Rudolph and his Moving Pictures ensemble were on tour performing new compositions written with help of a Chamber Music America “New Works” commission, the second such award Rudolph has received. This past year, Rudolph collaborated with saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Ralph Jones, who is director of African Heritage House at Oberlin, for a duo recording entitled “Yeyi.” The two performed as part of Rudolph’s Oberlin appearance.

Rudolph is known as one the early innovators of world music. In 1977, he cofounded the Mandingo Griot Society, one of the first bands to combine African and American music. Rudolph was also the first student to graduate from Oberlin with a degree in ethnomusicology. “A long string of students followed Adam,” says Professor Emeritus of Ethnomusicology Roderick Knight, “declaring individual majors in the college with an ethnomusicology focus, and like Adam, advised by a conservatory professor (and coadvised by a college professor). Most famous of these is undoubtedly Josh Ritter!”

Since graduating from Oberlin in 1976, Rudolph has gone on to a storied career as a percussionist and propagator of indigenous musics from around the globe. Since 1988 he has had a working association with legendary jazz musician and composer Yusef Lateef; he has also collaborated with Don Cherry and Wadada Leo Smith, among many others.