The marquee of the Apollo Theater in Oberlin, Ohio, one of the venues where silent films were screened with live orchestra music during the weeklong Cleveland Silent Film Festival in February. Photo by Kevin McLaughlin.

In February, Cleveland Orchestra musicians and students at Oberlin Conservatory were among the participants in the inaugural Cleveland Silent Film Festival and Colloquium: Music That Once Filled the Silence. Emily Laurance, a visiting associate professor of musicology at Oberlin Conservatory, came up with the idea for the weeklong festival, which also featured the five-member Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra—which performs silent-film repertoire—and its music director, Rodney Sauer. Violinist Isabel Trautwein and other Cleveland Orchestra musicians joined Mont Alto in music by John Stepan Zamecnik (1872-1953), an American composer best known for writing music to accompany silent films, and his mentor, Antonín Dvořák. The Mont Alto orchestra performed Zamecnik’s music during screenings of the Buster Keaton classic Steamboat Bill, Jr. and other silent films at Northeast Ohio venues that included Cleveland’s 1928 Hermit Club, the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque, and Oberlin’s restored Apollo Theater. During the festival, Sauer coached Oberlin Conservatory on the art of choosing, arranging, and performing historic silent-movie scores, once known as “photoplay” music.