Versatile stage and bar to showcase Conservatory artists

By Jonathan Delozier -

A $1.1 million stage and bar — the first of its kind in the nation, according to Oberlin Conservatory of Music dean Andrea Kalyn —will open March 3.

The William and Helen Birenbaum Innovation and Performance Space, or The Birenbaum for short, will be located in the lower level of the Hotel at Oberlin.

During the day, the space will be used for conservatory entrepreneurship classes before opening to the public at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The full bar will feature nightly live performances by student musicians.

The college admissions office will also use the space for its morning meetings. While the college will financially back the venture, the hotel will oversee day-to-day operations.

Construction began last summer and was made possible through donations by Chuck Bierenbaum, the Kulas Foundation, and two anonymous donors, said Kalyn.

“This whole thing has kind of a weird origin,” she said. “Three years ago, someone asked me if I heard about the jazz club in the basement of the hotel. I had no idea about it, but when I looked, I saw a little rectangle on the plans that said ‘jazz club.’ We didn’t particularly need another jazz club, but what I long wanted was a place that was about innovation and different kinds of performance. So that’s what we did.”

Kalyn said the venue will teach student performers to be more versatile in front of spectators.

“We wanted to give performers a space where they can connect with a different audience,” she said. “There are high school students and community members who wouldn’t come to Finney Chapel but they will go to a club. When your audience is sitting right there you need to program differently as a performer and that’s a valuable skill to learn.”

The space, while unique, is modeled on Le Poisson Rouge and SubCulture, performance spaces in New York City.

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier