College shock: Oberlin opts out of Conservatoire status

College shock: Oberlin opts out of Conservatoire status


norman lebrecht

May 15, 2015

The Oberlin College Music Conservatory has withdrawn from the National Association of Schools of Music, which it helped found in 1924.


The reasons are abstruse and couched in academic generalities, but Oberlin is due an inspection from NASM in a couple of years and its aims are now said to differ from those of the parent organisation.

‘In my view, the association is holding onto an old model in lieu of tackling the very pressing need for advocacy for arts education,’ wrote Oberlin Dean Andrea Kalyn. More here.

andrea kalyn_tanyarosen-jones

photo: Tanya Rosen-Jones


  • william osborne says:

    I wish the linked article were more specific. Dean Andrea Kalyn says Oberlin stresses leadership that “demonstrates the role of music in promoting the educational, cultural, and economic well-being of this country.” That’s so general it says almost nothing. What would that leadership be and what would it promote? Why are those ideals alien to NASM? Is this related to a recent thread in which a former Dean of Curtis, Robert Fitzpatrick, suggested that NASM take a stronger advocacy role for better public funding for music education and the arts? Is something afoot involving music schools becoming more socially engaged – aside from the faddish, neo-conservative topic of entrepreneurship?

    Would good leadership question the fact that it costs $64,266 per year to attend Oberlin? How do such burdens on students serve the “educational, cultural, and economic well-being of this country?”

    • william osborne says:

      An Oberlin grad is studying for his masters with my wife at the Musikhochschule Trossingen. All of Germany’s 22 state conservatories have a quality similar to Oberlin and there is no tuition. All education is free.

      The student from Oberlin was so impoverished he was facing the prospect of giving up his studies in Trossingen and returning to the USA until the school gave him a monthly living grant.

      German families are legally obligated to give their children attending college a set monthly sum to live on. If the family is too poor, the state gives the student the monthly sum under a program known as the Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, reffered to as BAföG.

    • V.Lind says:

      Yes, it is not a particularly well-written article. It would appear Oberlin feels institutions such as itself should take a lead in presenting the case for wider public support of arts education, while the Association is simply doing tests to assure some standards, meeting measurables. That’s what I infer from the article, and I further infer that Oberlin feels artistic and thinks NASM is mechanical. If so, Oberlin is in good company.

      BTW: the “captchas” here are often illegible again. I had to try the screen four times before I could read one.

      • NYMike says:

        Try zooming the screen until the captcha becomes clearer.

      • william osborne says:

        When classical music is poorly funded (as with our private funding system,) the clear message is sent to children that classical music is NOT to be appreciated. Children will only truly appreciate classical music when they see that it’s an integral part of the world around them

        So advocacy for better music education alone is not enough. It must be integrated with advocacy for a good system of public arts support. The two goals are inseparable and always walk hand in hand.

        It is unethical for schools like Oberlin to charge students $64,000 per year, and yet make so little effort to change a society where its students will have so few opportunities to make a living, regardless of how “entrepreneurial” they might be. Oberlin calls for a new kind of leadership, but doesn’t provide it.

  • James McCarty says:

    Apparently the NASM is not Marxist enough in its philosophy to satisfy Oberlin. That’s a helluva capitalist tuition rate, though.

    • william osborne says:

      All capitalist countries are in reality mixed economies, neither Marxist or purely capitalist. The US government spends about 38% of the GDP, but it does not spend it wisely.

  • Matthew says:

    As the article mentioned, Oberlin isn’t the first major music school in the country to forgo NASM status. Yale, NEC and others have already withdrawn. I don’t think that this is quite as big of a deal as it’s being made out to be.

    That being said, $64k is absolutely ridiculous.

  • Richland College (DCCCD) which is now part of Dallas College got accredited. This school is supposed to be the first two years of a four year experience, but this junior college keeps students trapped for years and years and pus them into dozens of hours beyond the Associate’s Detgree and what will transfer. The few students who do get out and move on end up having to pay out of state tuition at their own Texas Universities because of the excess hours they accrued at Richland. Many students use up all of their financial aid. The program tries to make everyone who walks through the door a music major with no regard for whether the student has the background or skills to succeed or find gainful employment. The building is in horrible repair and not adequate for the ensembles or professors to use. There are said to be 500 enrollments, but Richland has only 11 practice rooms with broken pianos that are losing key covers that the adjuncts must also teach out of. So, as far as I can see from this horrific mess, accreditation from NASM is a complete joke!


    I have fully documented the issues in the Richland College / Dallas College Richland Campus. If this is an accredited school we are in real trouble!