Oklahoma City Philharmonic musicians offer views about orchestra's first 25 years

In preparation for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's gala silver anniversary, its conductor and several musicians shared their opinions about the occasion and what it means to be a part of such a successful performing arts organization.
BY RICK ROGERS rrogers@opubco.com Published: August 25, 2013
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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.

Joel Levine,

music director

and conductor

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

(concertmaster)

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.

Jonathan Ruck,

principal cello

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.

David Steffens,

principal percussion

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.

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