Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Winter 2014 Vol. 108 No. 4 OAM Home | Oberlin Online

Around Tappan Square

Assistant Professor of Harp 
Yolanda Kondonassis and 
members of the Jupiter Quartet 
at Finney Chapel.
Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Ravel Revelry

It’s been a few years since Yolanda Kondonassis, an assistant professor who is also one of the world’s most widely recorded harpists, first articulated her plan to celebrate the music of French composer Maurice Ravel in a way 
that would also celebrate the great artistry woven into the fabric of Oberlin. What resulted this fall was a fully formed showcase of the conservatory firing on all cylinders.

“Though this idea started four years ago, it took a variety of twists and turns to make it come to pass,” says Kondonassis.

First off, she orchestrated a remarkable convergence of Oberlin talent: faculty flutist Alexa Still and clarinetist Richard Hawkins; the Jupiter Quartet, the conservatory’s own ensemble in residence featuring alumna violist Liz Freivogel ’00; soprano Ellie Dehn ’02, a rising star on the international opera circuit; and pianist Spencer Myer ’00, who has performed as a soloist with many of the world’s top symphonies.


Though originally written 120 years ago for children for Christmas, the opera Hänsel und Gretel has pretty dark roots (abandonment, starvation, and cannibalism are among the fairy tale’s major concerns). In the Oberlin Opera Theater version this fall, directed by Associate Professor of Opera Theater Jonathon Field, it gets darker still. A psychological drama with a voodoo aesthetic, the opera depicts the children’s violence as less heroic than cathartic. “That act of killing the witch,” says Field, “empowers them in a very strange way.”

Above: Marisa Novak ’15 plays Hänsel, while rising opera star Karen Jesse ’04 plays the witch in Hänsel und Gretel.
Photo by John Seyfried.

“In the end, we decided to make it a project where absolutely everybody had a direct relationship with Oberlin,” Kondonassis says. “We really wanted everyone to be invested in Oberlin, because that’s the best way to demonstrate what Oberlin has to offer.”

The forces united on campus in January 2013, amid the desolate chill of winter term. Over three days of recording in Clonick Hall, the musicians captured four pieces by Ravel that came to be known as Intimate Masterpieces—the album that would signal the formal launch of Oberlin Music, the conservatory’s record label.

With plans to release the album in the fall of 2013, the project became a natural fit for Oberlin’s Artist Recital Series. The first concert of the new season, Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces, took place in November to coincide with the release. Just two days before taking the stage at Finney Chapel, the ensemble performed the same program at the nascent New York City nightclub SubCulture.

Kondonassis marvels at the pure artistry of 
it all—namely, the fact that no label reps or record company geeks had the chance to say This will never work.

“We’re all really proud of this one,” she 
says with a smile. “It’s the exact combination you hope for: great music, great players, great facilities, and the support to do it right.”

Ravel: Intimate Masterpieces and other Oberlin 
Music titles are available through Amazon and iTunes.

Learn more at oberlin.edu/oberlinmusic.

$8 Mil for Multipurpose Complex

Oberlin has received an $8 million gift from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation to create a new, multipurpose athletics complex that is positioned to be one of the finest Division III facilities in the country.

The Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex at Oberlin College will be named in honor of the late Ohio businessman who created the foundation through his estate to support colleges and universities throughout the Midwest.

The athletics complex will replace the outdated football stadium with an all-weather, multipurpose field with lights and artificial turf, suitable for nearly every athletics team or club sport on campus. The complex will include a state-of-the-art press box, new grandstands for home and visiting spectators, and a new support facility with home and visitor locker rooms, as well as innovative meeting and social spaces available to the campus community.

Austin E. “Dutch” Knowlton was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company in Bellefontaine, Ohio. He was an original founding partner of the Cincinnati Bengals and a minority owner of the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s.

Romulus Linney’s Life in Drama

Described as “a playwright who roved along many intellectual paths,” Romulus Zachariah Linney IV ’53 wrote three novels, four opera librettos, 20 short stories, and 85 plays. Linney “may be our bravest living playwright,” Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times in 1996, “running from rural dramas about hillbilly homicides to lush meditations on Lord Byron’s ghost and Frederick the Great.” When Linney died in 2011 at the age of 80, the lights of Broadway were dimmed in his honor.

Linney ‘53 in an Oberlin production of 
The Silver Whistle, November 1952.
Courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

At Oberlin, the honor took place over a busy October weekend, as the college celebrated the theater great with “Drama in Every Human Life: The Art of Romulus Linney ’53,” a series of events that included performances, exhibits, lectures, and a symposium.

Colin Wulff ‘14 (left) and Ali Bianchi ‘14 in the world premiere reading of Linney’s The Flower Hunter.
Photo by Yvette Chen

The celebration included five short plays performed in Little Theater and a world premiere staged reading of an unproduced Linney play, The Flower Hunter, directed by John Dillon. Other events included a lecture by Laura Callanan, Linney’s widow, about James Houghton, who formed the Signature Theatre Company after being inspired by the works of Linney; a lecture by Leslie Maslow ’90, who studied with Linney; a master class by accomplished actress Kathleen Chalfant; and an exhibit of original materials from the Oberlin College Archives and those lent by Appalachian State and the Linney family. “Romulus Linney’s Legacy: A Symposium,” moderated by Professor Roger Copeland, featured Chalfant, director John Dillon, playwright Leslie Maslow ’90, and, via Skype, Linney’s daughter, actress Laura Linney.

Not Just Bleeding Hearts

The Oberlin College Archives, working with alumni from the 1950s and ’60s, has created a digital archive of material related to Oberlin College and the civil rights movement. The collection was prompted in part by the summer 2012 article in this magazine, “Memories of a Movement.” For that story, writer EJ Dickson ’11 interviewed scores of individuals involved in the civil rights movement and collected photographs, membership cards, letters, and newspaper articles that are or will be a part of this collection.

Courtesy of the Oberlin College Archives.

A work-in-progress, the Oberlin Civil Rights 
collection will continue to grow as it takes in and digitizes new material. Above, David Owen ’66 is tended 
to after he and other volunteers were beaten with 
steel rods while canvassing in Mississippi in 1964.

View the collection at dcollections.oberlin.edu.


Among the alumni returning to campus this fall for talks, lectures, master classes, residencies, readings, recordings, recitals, and other presentations were Ohio State University professor of economics and anthropology Richard Stackel ’66, poet and nonprofit administrator Anne Marie Macari ’77, doctor and inventor Bill Cohn ’82, New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker ’88, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute Benjamin Wittes ‘90, film producer and author Anthony Arnove ’91, composer Michael Klingbeil ’96, composer Aurie Hsu ’97, baritone David Adam Moore ’97, University of Chicago associate professor and comics expert Hilary Chute ’98, composer Mark Barden ’03, research associate at IMPAQ International Nzinga Broussard ’02, commissioning agent with Group14 Engineering Brody Wilson ’02, arts writer Alicia Eler ’06, senior associate editor at The Atlantic Rebecca Rosen ’06, scholar Erica Tempesta ’07, and composer Alex Christie ’09.

The 2013 Ohioana Book Awards included two winners with Oberlin connections. Former Pauline Delaney Professor of Creative Writing Martha Collins, editor-at-large for FIELD magazine and one of the editors of the Oberlin College Press, won the award for poetry for her collection White Papers. Novelist Tracy Chevalier ’84 won for best fiction set in Ohio for her novel The Last Runway. Ohioana Awards are given in recognition of a writer’s contribution to the literary and cultural life of Ohio.

The conservatory has initiated a new Master of Contemporary Chamber Music (MCCM) program, which is designed for preexisting chamber ensembles.

Oberlin College and architecture firm Westlake Reed Leskosky were presented the Honor Award by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for the new ensemble room—now called Stull Hall—on the third floor of Bibbins Hall at the 2013 AIA Cleveland/ASID Ohio North Design Awards in November.

The West Lecture Hall in the Science Center has been renamed the Nancy Schrom Dye Lecture Hall, in honor of Oberlin College’s 13th president. Both President Marvin Krislov and President Dye attended the hall’s dedication on October 29.

Griffin Sabelli ’14 ranked third in the country for collegiate bowlers. An Oberlin resident, Sabelli has played at College Lanes since he was a junior bowler. Oberlin’s soccer team tied the school record for wins in a season with a 13-3-4 record. This year’s team also established a new school record for shutouts in a season with 10, and the 16 goals allowed are the fewest of any team in longtime coach Blake New’s 16-year tenure. The team made it to the second round of the NCAA Division III tournament, where they lost to the University of Rochester Yellow Jackets.

More than 400 area children and their families took part in the Department of Athletics’ first Track or Treat event on Halloween. Oberlin teams set up stations around the track that featured activities and, 
of course, candy.

The LaunchU Pitch Competition, in which Oberlin student, faculty, and alumni entrepreneurs present business plans to real-world investors for feedback and funding opportunities, will be live streamed via the conservatory website. The pitch competition takes place February 1, 2014, from 9 am to 4 pm. Visit oberlin.edu/conservatory and click on the Listen Live button. The pitch competition is the culmination of this year’s LaunchU, an intensive program designed to accelerate the development and launch of Oberlin entrepreneurs.


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