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Philharmonic has shown 25 years of growth

One-third of the ensemble’s current 84 members have performed with the orchestra since its inaugural season.
BY RICK ROGERS, For The Oklahoman Modified: August 16, 2014 at 11:50 pm •  Published: August 17, 2014

As the Oklahoma City Philharmonic prepares to launch its 2014-15 season of concerts, it seems like a logical time to examine the orchestra’s first quarter century, a period of considerable artistic and financial growth.

Between 1989 and 2014, the orchestra’s budget grew from $1.2 million to $5.3 million. The Philharmonic also has built a loyal subscriber base of nearly 5,000. More importantly, the quality of the playing has steadily improved.

“During the past 25 years, we have established deep relationships with our numerous universities, colleges and schools,” said music director Joel Levine. “New faculty hires that have joined the Philharmonic have brought a wealth of talent and experience.

“The musicians, board and management of the Philharmonic have worked together in peace and harmony to create a positive environment in which we could grow and flourish. As a result, the orchestra has developed a mature sound and established an approach to music making that is sophisticated and polished.”

In 1994, the orchestra asked acclaimed concert pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet to pick out a new 9-foot concert grand. After trying out numerous pianos in the U.S. and Europe, he chose a Hamburg Steinway that was shipped from Paris to Oklahoma City.

“Never before had a local orchestra owned its own instrument, much less one of this quality,” Levine said. “The acquisition, through the generosity of John and Mary Nichols, is widely considered to be one of the world’s greatest pianos.”

The makeup of the Philharmonic has changed over the years as players retire or resign. However, one-third of the ensemble’s current 84 members have performed with the orchestra since its inaugural season.

When Levine became music director at the time this orchestra was founded, he set out to engage the same guest artists audiences would hear if they attended concerts presented by the nation’s foremost orchestras.

That list is a virtual Who’s Who of internationally acclaimed soloists, and includes pianists Van Cliburn, John Browning, Alicia de Larrocha, Richard Goode, Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Stephen Hough; violinists Midori, Pinchas Zukerman, Gil Shaham, Joshua Bell and Itzhak Perlman; cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell, flutists Jean-Pierre Rampal and James Galway; and soprano Renee Fleming.

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Oklahoma City Philharmonic

Season subscriptions: Classics (eight concerts), $132 to $448, Pops (six concerts), $99 to $336, Family (three concerts), $21.

Single tickets: Classics and Pops, $19 to $65, Family, $9.

Where: Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N Walker.

Information: call 842-5387 or go to

For me, looking forward to the next 25 years will include watching my successor take over when the time comes for me to step down and become a subscriber. But ultimately, we want to see the orchestra strive to continue fulfilling its mission statement: To bring inspiration and joy for the community through orchestral music.”

Joel Levine,
Oklahoma City Philharmonic music director


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