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Oberlin Club of Washington, D.C.: Beyond The Score

Oberlin Club of Washington, D.C.: Beyond The Score

"Beyond The Score: The Joys of Leading a Professional Choir and Orchestra in the Nation's Capital"

A Zoom Conversation With Matthew Robertson '10, Artistic Director of The Thirteen
Program Moderator Charles McGuire, Professor of Musicology, Oberlin Conservatory of Music


As Oberlin grads in the D.C. region, we have opportunities to enjoy musical programs of diverse genres in venues ranging from cozy to grand. In our focus on the performance, we might overlook the critical interplay of artistic and business decision-making that goes on behind the curtain. How are composers and pieces selected? What is the calculus in embracing new artists and their works? What is the economic and competitive landscape for musical organizations in this region? How do the dynamics of the supply and demand for musicians sort out? How challenging is it for artists to find time to create, prepare, and perform, and “have a life”?

Join Matthew Robertson as relates his experiences as Artistic Director of The Thirteen and reflects on how Oberlin prepared him for his career. The Thirteen is a professional choir and orchestra celebrated for reimagining the potential of vocal music from many periods. Praised for performing with “striking color and richness” that “transfigures the listener” (The Washington Post) and “a tight and attractive vocal blend and excellent choral discipline” (American Record Guide), the ensemble has been at the forefront of invigorating performances of masterworks ranging from early chant to world premieres and the centuries in between.

Matthew Robertson ’10
is the founder and driving force of The Thirteen. His kaleidoscopic artistic vision has led to acclaimed performances of a vast and varied repertoire, often featuring inspired use of staging and multimedia. Equally at home in well-loved classics and contemporary works, Matthew tackles works by Renaissance and Baroque masters and contemporary composers with equal aplomb. Committed to fostering the next generation of musicians and music lovers, he has led educational residencies at more than twenty colleges and universities, and has directed educational outreach for young people throughout the Washington, DC region, including with the LGBTQ+ teen choir, GenOUT. He is a Trustee of the Denyce Graves Foundation, and has served on the Board of the DC-area chapter of the American Choral Director’s Association, and the faculty of Oberlin’s Baroque Performance Institute. Matthew serves as Director of Music at Bradley Hills Church in Bethesda, MD. He holds a M.M. in conducting from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, and was the Robert P. Fountain scholar at Oberlin Conservatory where he studied with Bridget Reischl and Robert Spano, and majored in Organ Performance studying with David Boe. Matthew is a native Washingtonian and graduate of Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, and his early musical formation included studies with Norman Scribner and J. Reilly Lewis ’67.

Charles McGuire ’92 teaches the introduction to music history course all conservatory students take in their first semester at Oberlin, as well as courses on Romantic music history, Mozart, Beethoven, the symphony, and film music. In his classes, he strives to teach students how to use musicology to inform their interpretations of musical works, communicate with their peers and audiences about music, and build their own comprehensive knowledge of music history to aid their love of music.

His areas of scholarly interest include the music of Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, the British music festival, sight-singing techniques, and the intersection of choral singing and moral reform movements. His publications include the monographs Music and Victorian Philanthropy: The Tonic Sol-fa Movement (Cambridge University Press, 2009), Elgar’s Oratorios: The Creation of an Epic Narrative (Ashgate, 2002) and The Historical Dictionary of English Music (Scarecrow, 2011), which he co-authored with Oberlin colleague Prof. Steven Plank.

He has published essays in volumes such as Vaughan Williams Essays, The Cambridge Companion to Elgar, Elgar and His World, Elgar Studies, Chorus and Community and in journals including 19th-Century Music, The Elgar Society Journal, and Musical Quarterly. His publications for reference works include articles in Oxford Music Online, The New Catholic Encyclopedia, and Oxford Bibliographies Online.

He has presented papers at numerous international musicological conferences, and is a frequent invited speaker for panel discussions and pre-concert talks. Mr. McGuire holds a B.A. and a B.Mus. from both Oberlin College and the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, and an A.M. and Ph.D. in music from Harvard University. He has taught in various capacities at Harvard University, Ball State University, the University of Maryland at College Park, and James Madison University. He returned to Oberlin in 2001.


Oberlin Club of Washington, D.C.: Beyond The Score

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