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Oberlin Conservatory dean takes job in San Francisco


OBERLIN — David Stull, Oberlin College’s Conservatory of Music dean, is leaving to become San Francisco Conservatory of Music president.

Stull was praised as a “tested and inspiring educator” with “great initiative and relentless pursuit of excellence” in a Wednesday news release from Timothy Foo, San Francisco Conservatory’s Board of Trustees chairman. Foo wrote that conservatory search committee members were impressed with Stull’s energy and experience.


“Members also believe his vision for excellence and ability to engage others in this passionate conviction is critical to our future success,” Foo said.

Stull, hired as an associate dean at the Oberlin conservatory in 2000, was promoted to dean in 2004. The conservatory has about 615 students from 22 nations and an 88-member faculty, according to Oberlin’s website.

Stull’s accomplishments include receiving the National Medal of Arts on behalf of the conservatory from President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009. The conservatory — established in 1865 and America’s oldest continuously operating conservatory — was praised as a “model of music education” in the medal’s citation.

Stull said by phone from San Francisco on Wednesday that he was honored to accept the award. Stull, who helped raise some $40 million in donations for Oberlin, said his favorite project was overseeing raising $21 million in funds for the Bertram and Judith Kohl Building. The building, which Stull said has a “world class recording studio,” opened in 2010 with performances by Bill Cosby and Stevie Wonder.

Stull also oversaw two tours by the approximately 80-member Oberlin Orchestra in China and performances at Carnegie Hall. Stull, a tubist who performed around the nation before coming to Oberlin, said performing off-campus better prepares students for when they graduate and perform and teach around the nation and world.

“It’s very important for students to leave the cocoon, if you will, of Oberlin,” he said.

Stull’s other accomplishments include establishing Oberlin Music, the college’s record label, and creating Music in America, a program designed to teach music to underserved students.

Despite his accomplishments, Stull and the conservatory were criticized at a March 3 campuswide anti-racism rally.

One Latino student accused the conservatory of racism, saying the curriculum was too geared to whites and the faculty had too many white men. Stull said the curriculum is based on western music but includes the study of jazz, a music rooted in black culture. Jazz studies will soon become the largest division in the conservatory.

Stull said the conservatory’s goal is to be inclusive and supportive, and he has met with students a few times since the rally to address their grievances.

“Music is such a vast discipline that it’s really important to be continuing to add courses that let people see the lens of music as a worldwide phenomenon,” he said.

Stull, a 46-year-old husband and father of three, is scheduled to start in San Francisco on July 1. Stull wouldn’t say what his annual salary at Oberlin was, but said he will be getting a raise in his new job where the cost of living is substantially higher than in Northeast Ohio.

Andrea Kalyn, associate dean for academic affairs, will serve as interim conservatory dean during a national search for a long-term successor to Stull.

Stull is the second dean this week to announce he is leaving Oberlin. Sean Decatur, Oberlin’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences announced Monday he would leave in July to become Kenyon College president.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or

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