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Everyone Has an Oberlin Story


We recently spoke with Oberlin College professor of dance Carter McAdams about what Oberlin meant to him and why he gave back to the school. This is what he told us.

From 1982-1988, Nusha Martynuk and I were sharing a position at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1998, the position was shifted from an artist-in-residence type to a tenure track position, and while we applied as inside candidates we also applied elsewhere, including Oberlin.

I had only been to Oberlin once before, in 1974, to see a concert in Warner Main Space. However, we did know a colleague, Jane Armitage, who was a faculty member at Oberlin at the time.

Nusha and I flew out for an interview and, as a part of it, we taught a class – and it got us very excited about Oberlin. But back home, all indications were that Trinity was going to hire us as the inside candidates. Everything was in place back in Hartford, but there was something about Oberlin…

The people who interviewed us were very nice, the facilities like Main Space are out of this world, and some students pulled the two of us out of class and asked us to come see their dance and give them feedback. Twenty-six years later and we’re still friends with those students.

Another interview, another trip out to Oberlin, this time with our two-year-old daughter, and it just clicked. We looked at her and said, “Yes, okay. We can bring up our daughter here.”

Once we took the job in Oberlin, everyone we spoke with back in Connecticut had an Oberlin story. An uncle who taught here, a cousin who attended, a residency they did. Everyone. And they were all glowing, and that got us very excited.

We’ve always been lucky, Nusha and I, to work with good musicians, but once we came to Oberlin, everything just fell into place. I’ve worked three times with The Contemporary Ensemble (CME). And in a concert I directed in 2012, I had the great fortune of having musicians onstage with dancers: CME, a student string quartet working with Jamey Haddad and student percussionists, and a chamber ensemble. I get to teach courses with colleagues in the conservatory, especially those in TIMARA. It’s complex and rich to have that kind of collaboration.

Though we’re employees, we are part of this community. You shouldn’t just give to national organizations or political parties. You have to give locally. The college has given us so much as artists, that it’s a no brainer. You give back because it’s a good institution. You give back because the students, who are very, very passionate about what they’re doing, make it worthwhile. You give back because your work has been supported and pushed into better realms because of the people you’ve met here. You give back because Oberlin has given you so much, and you want others to have that same experience.


Photo by Daniel James