April 20, 2014

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Building dedication day culminates in jazz concert

OBERLIN – Enthusiastic applause, whistles and cheers filled the Warner Concert Hall at the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building on Saturday throughout the dedication ceremony of the new $24 million conservatory building.

“Sometimes dreams come true,” said David Stull, dean of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, during his opening remarks.

“This is one of the most beautiful manifestations of concrete, metal, wood, glass and imagination anywhere in the world.”

Planning for the Kohl Building began in December 2005. The structure will house its first students during the fall semester.

School officials, staff, alumni, including actor Avery Brooks, and current students spoke about the years of hard work to see the Kohl Building finished and spoke of hope for its impact on the future.

“Music is a fundamental part of the Oberlin experience,” said Board of Trustees Chairman Robert Lemle. “The opening of the Kohl Building is a triumph.”

Brooks, widely known for his television roles as Hawk on “Spenser: For Hire” and a spinoff and as Capt. Benjamin Sisko on “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” wowed the crowd into a standing ovation with his performance piece of a Henry Dumas poem from Dumas’ book “Play Ebony, Play Ivory.”

Donna Kohl, daughter-in-law to the building’s namesakes, wiped away tears as she talked about how much it would have meant to Bertram and Judith Kohl to have their names on the new conservatory.

“Judy loved music,” Donna Kohl said. “Country music. And rap. She would write little rap verses down and perform them with her sisters. You really need to see three Jewish women perform rap to appreciate how talented they were.”

In between laughs, Donna Kohl spoke about her hopes for the Kohl Building at Oberlin College.

“I hope it inspires all students in the future to do great things,” she said.

Her husband, Stewart Kohl, talked about what he and the others involved wanted the building to be.

“That is the magic of buildings and space,” Stewart Kohl said. “We build them, but they transform those around them.”

Wendell Logan, a 37-year veteran teacher at Oberlin College, chairman of jazz studies and a professor of African-American music, has a section of the building named for him – the Wendell M. Logan Commons. He spoke about how the jazz program at Oberlin grew from a handful of students in the 1970s to the program it is today.

“People didn’t say no, but they didn’t help you, either,” he said of his early days. “I’m grateful for the musicians who have come here to share their talents.”

Logan received a couple of standing ovations, spontaneous applause and cheers whenever he was mentioned throughout the 90-minute dedication program.

Current student Timothy Bennett, a double Jazz Studies and Religion major, told the crowd he’s looking forward to a new era in music study at Oberlin College.

“Among the sounds you will soon hear coming from this building, you will hear love for music and passion for teaching and learning,” he said.

Oberlin College President Marvin Krislov ended the dedication ceremony thanking everyone involved from the designer to the Oberlin residents who had put up with the noise and dust of construction.

“The Kohl Building is a vision of a community and college dedicated together to education,” he said. “The Kohl Building will uphold that relationship between college and community.”

Oberlin residents Stephanie Stacko, 62, and Don Smith, 62, came to get a peek at the new building. Stacko admired the architecture while Smith hopes the conservatory will draw more students.

“I think it’s a real good addition to the college,” he said. “Anything that will bring more students has got to be more positive for the college and for the town.”

Contact Alicia Castelli at 329-7144 or acastelli@chroniclet.com.