The Thomas and Evon Cooper International Competition at Oberlin alternates annually between piano and violin. The program was first offered in the summer 2010 for pianists, followed by a 2011 competition for violinists. Open to musicians between the ages of 13 and 18, the competition culminates in a final round at Severance Hall in Cleveland, where the top three competitors perform a full concerto with The Cleveland Orchestra.
The relationship between Oberlin College and the Cleveland Orchestra dates back nearly a century, beginning with the philanthropy of John Long Severance, an 1885 Oberlin graduate and flutist who founded the Musical Arts Association, under which The Cleveland Orchestra was established in 1918. Severance and his wife were the major donors for the construction of the Cleveland Orchestra’s home, Severance Hall, and John Long Severance served as the orchestra’s second board president. The Cleveland Orchestra first performed at Oberlin in 1919, six months after its founding. The group has returned to Oberlin each season since, giving more than 200 performances on campus to date.