An emerging soloist, orchestral player, chamber musician, and educator, Emory Freeman explores the various ways music can inspire others to reach their fullest potential. His communities in Cincinnati and Virginia are intrinsic to his artistic identity.
With the overall success of Simon Housner’s Sacred Heart Concert Series in Oberlin, it’s hard to imagine that he had actually quit playing cello at one point in his life. A native of Philadelphia, Housner was raised in a musical family — both of his parents are pianists who met at Oberlin. But it wasn’t until he was in high school that Housner truly became passionate about the cello.
Any modern working musician would agree with bassist Derek Zadinsky, who said in a recent phone call that “in professional life, you never say no to opportunity, at least when you’re getting started.” A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and a member of The Cleveland Orchestra, he has made the most of his musical opportunities and shows a passion for them. Not only is Zadinsky a member of one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world, he also teaches at multiple highly-acclaimed music schools in Northeast Ohio.
Zadinsky talks about his teaching career as the result of being in the right place at the right times and having connections with other bassists, like his colleagues in The Cleveland Orchestra. “I joined the Orchestra in February of 2012 and started teaching at Cleveland State University in the fall. The next year Max Dimoff called me and asked if I wanted to join the Cleveland Institute of Music faculty, and I said ‘Sure, of course!’ The following year, after Tom Sperl left the Oberlin faculty, Scott Dixon asked if I would also be interested in teaching there.” Currently Zadinsky has several students between both CIM and Oberlin as well as leading a couple of classes like double bass repertoire. “I’m honestly still not sure how to manage it all, but I’ve always had a nice balance of students between schools. It’s a great honor to have students who want to work with you.”
Asked to describe her career, Marilyn McDonald, violin professor at the Oberlin Conservatory for the past 45 years, began by saying “I just wanted to play the violin.” A founding member of the Smithson Quartet and the Castle Trio, McDonald reflected on her versatility as a soloist, orchestral player, and a chamber musician, in situations ranging from membership in the Smithsonian Institution’s Axelrod Quartet and worldwide chamber music tours in repertoire from Baroque to contemporary, to solo engagements with the Milwaukee Symphony.
Hailing from Anchorage, Alaska, Arthur Welsh is a 4th year Oberlin student studying Jazz piano and mathematics. He was initially inspired to make music by his parents, who encouraged him to take up the piano at five years old. But his personal journey began around the age of 11, when he started playing the clarinet. Arthur went on to win a statewide competition for that instrument during his senior year of high school, and from there he began to develop his own musical interests and tastes.
Film composer, classical composer, pianist, clarinetist, audio engineer, producer, conductor, orchestrator, vocalist: these all describe 24-year old composer Christopher Chun. Having recently released his first album of film compositions on Spotify, and with over twenty film scores under his belt, Chun’s name is on the rise in the film and concert music industry.
The Texas native’s initial interest in composition began in middle school — a product of having studied piano for five years, singing in church choir, and playing clarinet in his school marching band. “Marching band really sparked my deep interest in orchestration,” Chun said. “Having ten tubas lined up and blasting out loud is so exhilarating and fascinating! That experience catalyzed my interest in composition.”
In modern life, musicians have to wear many hats and juggle different events. Today’s musicians need more than just natural talent — their musical journey requires dedication, passion, and forged friendships. Kirsten Docter, Associate Professor of Viola and Chamber Music at Oberlin Conservatory, isn’t worried that anyone who attends the school will be deficient in any of these areas. Rather, she considers Oberlin to be a place to foster artistic growth and cultivate one’s personal creativity.
When Oberlin graduate Eleda Fernald thinks of drumming, she thinks of healing. “It’s kind of goofy,” she said, laughing in an interview at the end of March, but in reality, she’s realized one of the simplest and yet most complicated truths of playing music. A recent Watson Fellowship recipient, Fernald was awarded a prestigious grant given to graduating seniors for a year abroad to study their project of choice. The musician spoke at length about her life-long journey with percussion, notwithstanding a few bumps along the way.
One thing that bassoonist Dana Jessen prides herself on is not feeling satisfied with the limitations of the instrument. A classically trained musician who forged her own path in contemporary music and improvisation, Jessen has enjoyed a wide-ranging career as a performer, teacher, and collaborator throughout North America and Europe. But the road to get there wasn’t always easy.
As a graduate student eager to expand beyond the boundaries of her classical training, she was frustrated to realize there were virtually no bassoonists pursuing a similar approach. At that point, “I truly felt that I had made the biggest mistake by not choosing another instrument, because there was nobody doing all the stuff that I wanted to do on the bassoon,” she said during a recent interview. So, how did Jessen eventually fulfill her artistic vision? She improvised.