During the past 25 years, Oklahoma City has elected four mayors, approved three MAPS projects, sustained economic booms and downturns, witnessed sports teams that have come and gone, and celebrated the accomplishments of its talented entertainment ambassadors.
Through it all, one organization has become a continued source of pride among local residents, thanks to the efforts of its administration, conductor and musicians who routinely strive to present the finest performances imaginable.
Next month, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic will celebrate its 25th season, a remarkable accomplishment given the hardships many similar organizations have endured. It's a milestone that the orchestra will celebrate with a spectacular season of familiar and lesser-known repertoire, along with many popular soloists whose talents have earned them an international reputation.
In preparation for this gala silver anniversary, it seemed appropriate to let the musicians share their opinions about this momentous occasion and what it means to be a part of such a successful performing arts organization.
Years with the orchestra: 24
Positive changes during your tenure: I think one of the clear improvements over the past 25 years has been a clarity of intonation that is quite remarkable. The foundation is the basis on which everything else is stacked. You tune the orchestra from the bottom up.
What you enjoy most: How many people get to build an orchestra from complete scratch and sign off on every chair in the ensemble? A conductor is usually handed an orchestra that someone else built. We had the opportunity to have a fresh start.
Why the 25th season is special: One of the things that I am the most pleased about is that the model that we are operating on is successful. That stability gives us an opportunity to attract great talent. The artists enjoy the hall, the orchestra and the experience.
Gregory Lee, violin
Years with the orchestra: 6
Positive changes during your tenure: The level of playing in the string section has strengthened over the years.
What you enjoy most: The conductor is easy to talk to, and people in the orchestra are friendly and supportive. I also like the top-class soloists we get to perform with.
Why the 25th season is special: It's nice to be part of a milestone anniversary. I'm looking forward to having Yo-Yo Ma play with us.
Years with the orchestra: 7
Positive changes: In an economic climate that has seen many of the country's major arts organizations falter, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic has continued to thrive. This is a testament to the quality of the orchestra's management and to the loyalty of our audience and sponsors.
What you enjoy most: The musicians of the orchestra are a truly kind and supportive group of people.
Why the 25th season is special: The all-star lineup of guest artists should make the 25th season special for all.
Years with the orchestra: 15
Positive changes: Continued engagement of excellent soloists and repertoire.
What you enjoy most: Varied repertoire and styles of music.
Why the 25th season is special: A significant landmark in the orchestra's history.
Years with the orchestra: 24
Positive changes: There is greater depth in every section of the orchestra. I think that's due to the partnership the orchestra has with the higher education institutions throughout the state and, in particular, their music departments. That partnership has drawn incredible talent to the state.
What you enjoy most: No matter how exhausted people are after a day of hard work, the musicians are happy to see each other and feel so fortunate to be able to play the fantastic literature for this medium. Moreover, I love our concert hall. It makes playing such a pleasure.
Why the 25th season is special: Oklahoma has been through so much in terms of economics. Who would have thought that this orchestra would be able to weather the rough times so well? We have, and I think it is due to the public support of this organization, the sacrifices the musicians make and the constancy of the management.
Years with orchestra: 24
Positive changes: The overall performance level of the orchestra continues to grow, and the positive support from the community, administration and corporate level is fantastic.
What you enjoy most: The opportunity to perform with fantastic musicians who all share the same music-making goals is a privilege that I feel blessed at every rehearsal and performance.
Why the 25th season is special: After 25 years with this organization, it is still as fresh and exciting now as it was the first time for me with a professional orchestra when I was an undergraduate student.
Years with the orchestra: 9
Positive changes: I think the quality and artistic level of the orchestra, already high, has continued to improve.
What you enjoy most: Making great music with good friends.
Why the 25th season is special: The 25 years of hard work and dedication by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic has blossomed into such a resounding success.
Ted Cox, principal tuba
Years with the orchestra: 21
Positive changes: The quality of musicians overall.
What you enjoy most: My fellow musicians.
Why the 25th season is special: Twenty-five years is a remarkable achievement in this day and age, especially when each and every year has ended with us finishing in the black.
Years with the orchestra: 16
Positive changes: The orchestra growing artistically and welcoming wonderful soloists each year.
What you enjoy most: My colleagues, conductor, great repertoire, financially stable ensemble and appreciative audiences make me very grateful every year.
Why the 25th season is special: Every season is special, but I'm happy the Philharmonic made it successfully to the 25th when many orchestras are collapsing. Oklahoma City is lucky to have the generous support of the community and loyal patrons.
Peggy Green Payne,
Years with the orchestra: 24
Positive changes: We are so fortunate to have such talented faculty from the universities in our area that provide the musical foundation for the Philharmonic.
What you enjoy most: Sitting in the middle of all the instrumental sounds surrounding me, and adding my part to that mixture, hopefully in a helpful way of making music as an ensemble.
Why the 25th season is special: It is wonderful for our community to celebrate and be aware of a celebration of such an important part of the cultural development in the state of Oklahoma. I believe that even the people who may not attend concerts see value for the role of a professional orchestra with such stable and broad-thinking management that continues to support the many facets of development and growth in the state.
associate principal cello
Years with the orchestra: 10
Positive changes: Really good organizational skills, significant improvements in orchestral performance, exciting and more attractive guest artists.
What you enjoy most: Being able to make music and make friends with musicians from all over the Oklahoma City area.
Why the 25th season is special: This is my 10th year with the Philharmonic, it was 10 years ago that we got to play with Yo-Yo Ma and he'll be returning again this season.