Performance Areas in Music

We offer applied study in classical, jazz, and popular styles, in instruments, voice, and composition. From early music to contemporary music, from string quartet to jazz combo, we offer a wide variety of ensemble experiences that are open to students of all majors. Explore them below.​


The Band area at Otterbein (a division within the Department of Music) attracts students specializing on all woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. Through a wide range of large and small ensembles, students can pursue performance opportunities in any of the following:

  • Wind Ensemble
  • Cardinal Marching Band
  • “Mean Cardinal Machine” Pep Band
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Jazz Combos
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • The Anticipations (pop/rock combo)
  • Studio Ensembles (low brass ensemble, Towers brass quintet, saxophone quartets, flute choir, etc.)

Band Ensembles

Athletic Bands

The Cardinal Marching Band is the most visible musical ensemble at Otterbein University, as well as being one of the largest and most active student groups. During the fall semester, the CMB performs at all home football games, maintains a presence in various campus activities, and travels to select high school festivals during the fall semester. ALL Otterbein students who specialize on a brass, woodwind, or percussion instrument, as well as visual performers including color guard and twirlers, are encouraged to join.

During the winter months, members of the CMB can continue to perform with the “Mean Cardinal Machine” Pep Band, which appears at all men’s and women’s home basketball games from January through March. This ensemble has also appeared for special track and field events, as well as select home volleyball matches.

Because of the unique nature and requirements of the Athletic Bands, students who commit to perform are eligible for our “Athletic Bands Award”, which amounts to $1,000 per year.

Students interested in joining the marching band should contact Dr. Michael Yonchak for more information.

Athletics Bands Participation Award

The Athletic Bands Participation Award is designed to assist students who elect to commit to perform with Otterbein Athletic Bands. Award recipients receive $1,000 per year/$4,000 over four years. Competition for this award is open to any incoming Otterbein student who performs on a woodwind, brass or percussion instrument as well as visual performers, including color guard and twirlers. You do not have to be a music major; our members represent almost every major and field of study on campus.

All students must audition to be considered for the Athletic Bands Participation Award. However, auditions are for placement only and are not competitive. If you are an instrumentalist, you may submit an mp3 recording of yourself playing your high school’s alma mater and fight song to Dr. Michael Yonchak for consideration. Visual performers (color guard and twirlers) may have slightly different audition expectations due to the nature of these sections – contact Dr. Yonchak for more information.

Note: Students who have already auditioned for a Talent Award as a woodwind or brass music major or for a non-music major Participation Award do not need to re-audition for the Athletic Bands award unless they intend to participate as a visual or percussion performer.

Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combos

The Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combos provide comprehensive experiences in large and small group jazz environments, as well as opportunities for improvisation. The jazz ensembles perform numerous times throughout each semester, appearing at the monthly jazz series at the Old Bag of Nails Pub and Restaurant in Westerville, on campus at Cowan Hall, and student-organized events at smaller venues throughout Columbus. These ensembles are led by members of the “RedBird” Faculty Jazz Combo, which is comprised of some of the finest jazz musicians in central Ohio.

Wind Ensemble

The Wind Ensemble is the premiere concert band experience for both Music majors and non-majors at Otterbein. This ensemble performs a wide range of literature, combining elements of large-group and chamber stylings, through a unique pairing of contemporary and historically significant repertoire. Students are also exposed to a wide range of guest conductors, performers, and opportunities to perform off-campus throughout the academic year. Auditions are held at the beginning of each semester.


If you are interested in music composition, Otterbein is an exciting place to be! Our department has a lot of enthusiasm for new music, and there are many opportunities to write music and get your work performed. Students can take courses in composition, take private lessons, and compose for student ensembles. We frequently bring in distinguished guest artists to share their own work and/or work with students on their compositions.

We offer a concentration in Music Theory and Composition as part of the Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition to studying a primary instrument and taking the core curriculum, students with the concentration take additional theory courses, composition classes and lessons, and electronic music. They complete a final project which culminates in some sort of public performance, like a composition recital or a reading session or performance with a large ensemble.

You don’t have to be a Theory/Comp major to study composition. Students in all of the degree tracks, like Education and Performance, can (and do) take composition classes. Everyone who studies composition has an opportunity to get their work performed, whether it is on the annual Student Composition Recital, their own performance recital, or by student ensembles like Concert Choir or Wind Ensemble.

If performing new music is also up your alley, Red Noise (our contemporary music ensemble) is open to any musician interested in performing contemporary repertoire, regardless of degree interest.

In addition to the curricular offerings in composition, we have a student chapter of Society of Composers, Inc., which is a national organization dedicated to the promotion, performance, understanding and dissemination of new and contemporary music. And our proximity to Columbus means that it is easy to attend performances of new music happening around the city, like New Music at Short North Stage.

Commercial Music Styles

Students participating in jazz and contemporary music at Otterbein enjoy a wide array of ensembles and courses to support their interests. These ensembles are among the most active in the music department, as each performs regularly at venues on and off campus.

Participation in ensembles is open to all Otterbein students regardless of major. Whatever your level of interest, at Otterbein you can study your instrument or voice with dedicated Commercial Music professionals who are also some of the most sought-after performers and clinicians in central Ohio.

The Columbus area offers a very active and diverse live music scene from which students derive nearly endless opportunities to not only attend jazz and contemporary music performances but also book their own performances as well!

Commercial Music Ensembles

The Jazz Ensemble

The Jazz Ensemble is the large group of the instrumental jazz area, focusing on big band compositions and arrangements from the past 70 years, emphasizing more current music and historically significant pieces.  Instrumentation may vary, but holds closely to the typical big band coterie of around 20 musicians. The goals of this ensemble are to learn important repertoire and performance practice from stylistic innovators in the genre, develop one-on-a-part section blend, swing feel and ensemble precision, and increase improvisation skills.

Jazz and Commercial Music Combos

Jazz was first played in small combos and this kind of ensemble remains the crucible in which artists prepare themselves. The instrumentation of these groups is very flexible to allow maximum participation by any interested student. The goals of each combo are to learn tunes from the standard jazz canon and elsewhere, improve understanding of form and chord-scale reading, build improvisation skills and a precise, unified ensemble sound. Otterbein usually carries two jazz combos, both of which are free to explore diverse jazz styles and adapt any music into their format.

Jazz Guitar Ensemble

The Guitar Ensemble explores the art of the small guitar ensemble in a contemporary jazz and multi-idiom context including part-reading, jazz phrasing, accompaniment, arranging/composition, and improvisation. Prior experience with the guitar and some note reading ability are required. A recent sample of repertoire includes compositions by Sting, Frank Zappa, Freddie Hubbard, Dizzy Gillespie, and various jazz standards.

The Anticipations

The Anticipations encompasses a wide range of popular music styles, blending aspects of Top 40, R&B, soul, rock and roll, jazz, and various other genres based on the personnel and interests of the students. Skills developed in this ensemble will reflect the baseline for any gigging musician – performance, arranging lead sheets, rehearsal strategies, booking off-campus shows, and the basics of running live sound.

Opus One

Opus One is a 16-voice jazz ensemble that performs a wide variety of music, including unaccompanied multi-part pieces. Opus One has a busy performance schedule, and is one of the featured ensembles each February for “Music and Romance,” a performance in an off-campus venue that also serves as a fundraiser for student touring.


Piano Study at Otterbein University

At Otterbein we strive to help you become a creative and skilled pianist, one who is equipped to be competitive in the 21st Century world. Whether you aspire to be a concert artist, educator, recording engineer, arts manager, arranger or composer, we can help you gain the piano-playing skills you need.

Otterbein enjoys a relationship with the the Solich Piano & Music Company and Yamaha Corporation of America​ in which the Department’s piano inventory, including the digital piano lab, is updated yearly.

Professional Piano Studies In A Liberal Arts Context

Our students receive extensive piano instruction through weekly lessons in solo piano (classical or commercial styles), and collaborative piano (with courses offered in chamber music, art song and duo piano). Students also take classes in improvisation – in both classical and contemporary styles. You may also elect to take courses in piano literature and pedagogy. Additionally, we offer lessons in organ and harpsichord, and opportunities to learn about orchestral piano playing and musical theatre performance styles.

Degree Programs

Our program offers three degrees: BM (Bachelor of Music), BA (with concentrations in Theory and Composition, and Music History & Literature), and BME (Bachelor of Music Education). Piano study in each program is tailored to your needs, with the greatest focus on performance in the BM degree track.

Masterclass and Performance Opportunities

Our students work with our outstanding faculty as well as visiting clinicians of world-class stature. Our students have many performance opportunities, both on campus and within the wider community.

Over the years, Otterbein’s student pianists have had the opportunity to participate in master classes with some of the finest pedagogues in the keyboard world, including Andreas Henkel, Benedetto Lupo, John Perry, and Alexander Schimpf.

Mixed Ensembles

The Department of music offers many diverse opportunities for students to participate in small ensemble music making.  Traditional ensembles such as string quartets, brass quintet and strings with piano chamber music are a regular part of students’ musical training and experience. Flute ensemble and saxophone quartets, electrified strings, jazz combos and guitar ensembles for both jazz and classical styles enrich and diversify students’ course of study and musical development. Students interested in modern music seek performing opportunities with Red Noise, the department’s new music ensemble. While students interested in music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods can explore early music instruments and techniques in one of our Early Music Ensemble groups.

These for credit ensembles are coached by music faculty who are enthusiastic specialists in these areas. Students perform at least once a term and enjoy performance opportunities in a variety of venues, both on and off campus. Regular self-coached rehearsals help students further develop their musical skills and a growing sense of independence critical to finding a musical life after college.


String players at Otterbein are able to work with some of the finest artist teachers in the region, and they have a variety of performance opportunities available to them. The program welcomes students from across the campus to participate in its ensembles, but provides the serious string player intensive experiences in orchestra (both string and symphonic) and chamber music, as well as jazz and popular style ensembles.

Internship Opportunity: Suzuki Pedagogy

The Suzuki Pedagogy Internship is available to students who have an interest in the Suzuki approach to string education and are interested in pursuing opportunities as a Suzuki teacher.

A structured internship program with master Suzuki teacher Susan Locke, director of Suzuki Music Columbus is created for students progressing from guided observation to hands-on teaching individual lessons and finally group classes.

Students are compensated for their time teaching, accrue hundreds of practical hours of teaching, and have the opportunity to take teacher training courses. At the end of the internship, students have considerable expertise with teaching in the Suzuki style.

String Ensembles

Commercial Music

String players have several opportunities to step out of their classical pursuits and explore alternative styles of playing is the jazz/pop/rock genres. Electrified string instruments provide the student with additional possibilities for “amping” up their skills through a new playing experience. See the “Commercial Music” section, above for detailed information on the various ensembles.

Early Music Ensemble

This ensemble provides students the opportunity to perform music composed during the Medieval, Renaissance and early Baroque periods. Students interested in this performing experience perform using period instruments, such as the viola da gamba, recorder, krumhorn and lute, and utilize techniques based on Historically Informed Performance (HIP). String players utilize baroque bows to create performances inspired by authentic practices. The Early Music Ensemble performs each semester and frequently collaborates with other student ensembles and faculty performers.

Mixed Ensemble

Chamber music is a vital part of the musical development of string players and all string majors and many non-majors participate in Chamber Music each semester. Students typically perform the masterworks of the string quartet literature, but also perform string quintet and piano/string chamber literature. Student mixed ensembles meet twice each week.

Musical Theatre and Opera Pit Orchestras

Musical Theatre is an exciting part of the Otterbein culture. Each year, Opera Theatre and Musical Theatre present productions utilizing student musicians in the theater pit. The range of styles runs from Mozart to rock and jazz depending on the production. This performance opportunity prepares players to meet the demands encountered by contemporary music professionals.

Otterbein University String Orchestra

The String Orchestra is the principal performing ensemble for all string majors and also provides a performance opportunity for many non-majors from across campus. The String Orchestra performs the standard string orchestra repertoire, but also explores a wide variety of musical genres important to the 21st century string player’s skill set. Baroque performance practice, alternative string styles such as fiddling and jazz, as well as modern string orchestra literature are a regular part of this ensemble’s eclectic repertoire.

Westerville Symphony

The Westerville Symphony at Otterbein University offers students a symphonic orchestral performing experience. In this unique ensemble students perform alongside professional and semi-professional players from the region. The Westerville Symphony presents a Masterworks series, featuring the core classical and romantic orchestral repertoire, as well as Young Peoples Concerts and Pops programs. All string majors participate in this ensemble, and wind, brass and percussion students also have the opportunity to participate. The Westerville Symphony is directed by Peter Stafford Wilson.

Voice, Choir, & Opera

Opera Theatre

The Otterbein University Opera Theatre, under the direction of Dr. Karen Eckenroth, offers students a variety of performance opportunities.

Fully staged productions of either multi-act or one-act operas are performed every semester.  Recent productions include The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Wallace Earl DePue, Mozart’s Magic Flute, Copland’s The Tender Land, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, Gilbert and Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, and Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors.  In addition, workshop performances of operatic scenes designed to educate students in various repertoire and performance practices are also offered each semester.

The casts for all productions are chosen through an audition process that is open to all Otterbein students.


The Otterbein Choirs offer something for everyone.  With four vocal ensembles, choir members perform a variety of repertoire. Students of all majors sing in the choirs, and all vocal ensembles are of the highest quality. There are music award opportunities for choristers from every major on campus.

Otterbein’s choirs combine regularly to perform choral masterworks in conjunction with the Westerville Symphony. In addition, Otterbein choirs have performed with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, and appear regularly at professional conferences of the Ohio Music Education Association and the American Choral Directors Association.

Choirs & Vocalist Groups

Concert Choir

Directed by Dr. Gayle Walker
Concert Choir, an SATB choir, is Otterbein’s most select vocal ensemble. In addition to on-campus concerts, the choir regularly performs on off-campus concert series, and also performs on tour every spring break. In recent years, the choir has toured Germany, New Orleans, Washington D.C., Ireland, and Savannah. The ensemble has been honored with numerous invitations to perform at professional conferences of the American Choral Directors Association and the Ohio Music Education Association.

Otterbein Singers

Directed by Dr. Dennis Davenport
The Otterbein Singers is an SATB choir of BFA Musical Theatre and BFA Acting majors. Repertoire includes classical choral music as well as choral works drawn from operetta and musical theatre repertory. Otterbein Singers performs on campus each semester and rehearses three times per week.

Cardinal Singers

Conducted by Emily Noël
Cardinal Singers is open to all soprano and alto singers on campus. The ensemble performs a mix of repertoire from classical periods to lighter styles, and they frequently combine with Concert Choir to perform choral masterworks with the Westerville Symphony.

Opus One

Directed by Jeremy Alfera
Opus One is a chamber vocal ensemble specializing in a variety of lighter music styles, from pop a cappella repertoire to jazz. Opus One performs for numerous special occasions on campus, as well as community events off campus.

American Choral Directors Association

The Otterbein student chapter of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA) helps students connect with the professional side of choral conducting before securing their first teaching/conducting position. All students who believe that choral conducting may be a part of their future are invited to join. Membership can begin any time, and students are invited to attend one or two meetings before they commit to membership. Meetings include special topics of concern to choral directors such as vocal health and physiology, choral repertoire, and listening to recordings of the world’s top choral ensembles, often with special guests. The organization also takes field trips to hear live performances of outstanding choral ensembles. For more information, please contact Dr. Gayle Walker.