Scott Booker thinks in terms of the arts — and music in particular — when he envisions the bright new world of Oklahoma City in 2033.
This is not surprising considering he managed a ragtag psychedelic pop band from Oklahoma City called The Flaming Lips that grew from underground nobodies to a Grammy-winning rock act with a major-label recording contract and a worldwide following. Then Booker was chiefly responsible for launching the first U.S. branch of Britain’s Academy of Contemporary Music right here in Oklahoma City under the auspices of the University of Central Oklahoma.
“I think the biggest change is going to be in the cultural landscape,” Booker said, “where we actually become, as a city, more inviting, more open to, really, youth culture in a sense ... like in Austin, Texas, where there’s a lot of young people that are working there at software companies, etc.
“I think the same thing’s going to happen here because of the expansion of the music scene and the fact that there are people here making movies and there’s more of the arts-oriented businesses that are branching up here. I think that opens the door wider for people that are in other kinds of businesses to want to come here.
“So I see a real expansion in — ‘entertainment’ is almost too easy a word for it — but just the overall kind of a cultural change in the way we look at music and film — and even food. I mean, think of what restaurants were like 20 years ago versus what they are now. I think we’re going to see a healthier place, I think not only for our bodies but for our minds, as well.”
Booker envisions a great deal of physical change coming for Oklahoma City, as well, especially in and around the downtown area.
“In my neck of the woods, which is down in Bricktown, you see the difference of what happened with the first MAPS and what Bricktown is now,” he said. “I think you just draw a circle that goes 10 miles around downtown Oklahoma City, and we’re going to see a major change in what people live and spend their time in downtown and in the Bricktown area.”
Booker sees changes coming to the MidTown and Film Row districts, and the old warehouses that line the stretch of Sheridan running east from Bricktown to Martin Luther King Avenue.
“I think that’s going to be a brand new entertainment district down there,” he said. “I think there’s going to be some great venues. ... So many people are looking for that 1,000- or 2,000- or 5,000-seat venue here that doesn’t exist. I think those things are going to pop up here in the next few years if not the next 20, where we have more facilities to be able to do greater shows.”
A former record store clerk with an education degree from UCO, the 47-year-old Booker had to start from scratch learning the business end of music, and establishing a school that teaches it is, for him, a longtime dream come true.
He feels that ACM@UCO, of which he is CEO, will play an important role in the city’s changes, as it educates more and more people not only in the business side of music, but its creative and technical aspects as well. To Booker, this is a giant step toward transforming Oklahoma City into another nexus of popular music.
“We are the go-to group of people when you think of anything to do with the music industry or music in general,” he said. “We can become the hub, the first place you think of to find not only talented musicians, but talented people that are producers and talented people that are in the music industry.
“Just like in Nashville or even Austin, where there are record labels that have offices in these places, I think we’re going to start seeing that here, too, because I think the physical size of a city isn’t going to determine how great of a place it can be for someone in the business of music or film. ... Just because a city has a huge population doesn’t mean it’s a better place to live for these particular jobs.
“I really do believe that, for Oklahoma City, the idea of the expansion of the arts as business, with the catalyst being ACM@UCO, I think that’s really one of the greatest things that could happen to the city, because the state has identified the music industry in particular as something that has a great deal of financial potential for Oklahoma.”
To learn more
For more information about the Academy of
Contemporary Music at the University of Central
Oklahoma, go to acm.uco.edu, call 974-4700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.