The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts May 5, 2007

Twins Tackle Campus Arts Scene

Many twins, born in close succession after having developed in the womb together, harbor close relationships with each other. having developed in the womb. Over the years, sets of twins have hit the heights of fame, such as the Rossellini twins (Isabella and Ingrid), the Olsen twins (Ashley and Mary-Kate) and President George W. Bush’s twin daughters (Barbara and Jenna). Even Shakespeare had twins. So what happens when arts-oriented twins come to Oberlin?

To many, double-degree biology and oboe performance fifth-year Saya Ebbesen is known as the “girl who makes earrings,” a title testifying to the singular silver-wire pieces she crafts on commission for friends and Main Street’s Ginko Art Gallery. But to College senior art major Mika Ebbesen, Saya is first-string support, personal critic and even better than sister — twin.

The girls’ parents met at Oberlin.

“Our father was a biology and chemistry double major from France with a big interest in photography, engraving and silk-screening,” said Mika. “Our mother graduated in ’76 from the Oberlin Conservatory as a piano major.”

Their involvement in the arts hung a vivid, stabilizing backdrop for the Ebbesens in their childhood, part of which was spent jockeying about between countries.

“There was always a piano in our home, and a constant stream of musicians passing through. It was hard not to be interested!” said Saya, who, along with Mika, began to gravitate towards this sphere in elementary school. A minor tussle ensued involving the choice of instrument.

“There was a cellist colleague of our mother’s with whom we were close,” said Saya.

Ultimately, this battle of the cello gave over to Mika, and Saya picked up the oboe, for “no particular reason, besides perhaps it was like the clarinet but less people played it.” She graduates this year and describes the earning of her performance degree at Oberlin as a wonderful experience.

Mika, on the other hand, has transcribed many of her musical interests — free improv, jazz — onto other fine art mediums such as dance, contact improvisation, and site-specific installation. A recent project was for Oberlin’s Environmental Policy Implementation Group (EPIG) — site-specific sculptures using coal and 1000 light bulbs.

In addition, Mika works closely with 16mm film, digital video and photography. She has organized a series of student photo exhibits on behalf of Oberlin’s photography co-op (OPAC), which was founded by her father during his Oberlin stint.

Saya sees a part of herself in Mika’s artistic trajectory: “I feel a strong sense of belonging to the essence of her expression,” said Saya, “I will always be her number one, most dedicated fan!”

Said Mika, “I always trust [Saya’s] gut reactions about my projects and I think it’s the same for her.”

The Ebbesens move on this year with high aspirations — Saya will matriculate at a Ph.D. program for a thesis on cancer research and Mika hopes to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, global warming crisis and other causes through fine arts.

College sophomore neuroscience major Brandon Grossman and double-degree philosophy and vocal performance sophomore Chad Grossman, another duo, similarly egg each other on to new heights.

“We got to dance around on stage together in bare feet and pajamas with underwear on our heads,” said Brandon, recalling a shared Curtis Institute performance of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

“Also, we would always come up with things to do for high school musical performances,” said Chad, “At one point, we decided to do a Blues Brothers medley and glued sideburns to our faces.”

Here at Oberlin, the Grossmans have worked together on the Lost Highway production. Sunday evenings, they team up to pull off light shows in the Science Library.

“All throughout high school, we were planning on going to different colleges — it just kind of worked out this way. We also weren’t planning on living in the same [building] two years in a row, but I am very glad things ended up this way. I love seeing him every day and couldn’t imagine not going to college together,” Brandon said.

The foundation that makes close collaboration possible was cemented early.

“My dad would always expose me and my brother to new sounds from Weather Report to Miles Davis and Pat Metheny,” said Chad.

At an early age, the boys were also ushered into the cult of the ivories.

“Hated the lessons,” said Brandon.

Said Chad, “At one point I actually used to hide finger braces in my pocket, and as soon as my mom dropped me off I would put them on and pretend that I had sprained my fingers.”

Both ultimately agree, however, that the piano lessons have yielded interest.

“Not only did my early training give me an appreciation for good music at an early age, but it’s really invaluable at this point in my studies. It’s nice to not be reliant upon a pianist to hear how the accompaniment to a piece sounds,” said Chad.

Shortly down the road, the two split, with Brandon branching into jazz saxophone and with Chad narrowing in on vocal performance.

“Our family would have Partridge-style jam sessions in our basement. My dad on drums, brother on sax, mom on Hammond and me on vocals. It was really great to see that side of my parents,” said Chad.

Chad is considering vocal and particularly classical performance as a career, though he “would like to teach at some point, and farming sounds like fun as well.” Brandon, blurring his musical boundaries with self-taught guitar, folk singing and drumming for alternative rock band The Little Old Ladies, does not see himself pursuing music professionally.

“But I think I will always be involved in music in some way,” he said, “Even if it’s only singing in the shower.”


Powered by