The Oberlin Improv Fest 2023 was a three-day celebration of improvised music which took place from March 2-4. It featured workshops, presentations, and performances showcasing exciting performances with AI-based interactive and immersive sound, group improvisation, jazz, and students in Oberlin’s Performance and Improvisation program. Guest artists included Nicole Mitchell, Kojiro Umezaki, Aurora Nealand ’01, and Luis Perdomo. Student performers included ensembles from Jazz Forum, OCTaiko, Creative Music Lab, Silent Film Ensemble, and Oberlin Percussion Group.

The event was co-organized by Aurie Hsu ’96, Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts, and Dana Jessen, Associate Professor of Contemporary Music and Improvisation and Director of Conservatory Professional Development. It received support from TIMARA, Conservatory Deans Office, Conservatory Professional Development, and the Alumni in Service to Oberlin College (ASOC) Fund.

Several members of OCTaiko perform choreographed drumming in uniform.
OCTaiko in performance

Notably, the Saturday student showcase featured OCTaiko, TIMARA’s own Silent Film Ensemble, Oberlin Creative Music Lab, and Oberlin Percussion Group. The Silent Film Ensemble, originally established by TIMARA students, performed live, improvised avant-garde soundtracks to historic, surreal, and sometimes homemade films. Projects frequently stemmed from collaborations between students in TIMARA and Cinema Studies.

Performers in front of screen featuring black and white film.
seSilent Film Ensemble at Oberlin Improv Fest 2023

Several featured concerts were held during the festival, including a panel discussion with guest artists and faculty, a guest master class with Luis Perdomo, a presentation by Kojiro Umezaki, an Afrofuturism presentation by Nicole Mitchell, and a concert featuring Aurora Nealand ’01 and Kojiro Umezaki. The festival also included the weekly occurrence of Oberlin’s Jazz Forum, which provided a platform for student ensembles in the Jazz Studies program to perform in a musical forum at the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse.

The Oberlin Improv Fest 2023 was an exciting showcase of the impressive talent of Oberlin’s students and faculty, as well as notable guest artists in the field of improvised music.