OSU broadens musical education reach with community school

A new Community Music School at Oklahoma State University open to ages 4 to adults begins next month. Programs offered included youth orchestra, youth choirs, a Suzuki program and a community orchestra.

“We have something for almost every age group,” said Meredith Blecha-Wells, director of the OSU Community Music School. “Our goal is to be a full-service community music school.”

They plan to grow the program and offer workshops, classes along with instrumental and vocal lessons in future years. There will be a lot of talent on display.


Courtesy Photo Sophie Deng, 10, of Stillwater, plays the cello while being accompanied by Jaehee Kim on the piano during a January recital at the Oklahoma State University Seretean Center.

Ten-year-old Sophie Deng started playing cello in the Suzuki program six years ago and has twice performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

The Stillwater student has also been part of the Oklahoma State University String Academy, which is transitioning into a youth orchestra and adding woodwind, brass and percussion sections.

“I like classical and 20th century music,” Deng said. “My favorite piece to play is Kabalevsky Cello Concerto No. 1 in G minor. I like it because it is melancholy but also challenging to play.”

Deng’s mother, Yan Xu, couldn’t be more proud of her daughter.

“Every time I watch her perform it is very emotional,” Xu said. “It is only a few minutes on stage but countless hours of practice at home.”

The OSU Youth Orchestra is made up of mostly high school students but is open to younger talented musicians, said Thomas Dickey, OSU director of Orchestral Students and conductor of the youth orchestra.

Auditions are in late August.

“The purpose of the youth orchestra is to supplement the great education these kids are already receiving in public schools,” Dickey said. “For most musicians in public schools, the wind and string kids are separate. I hope to expose students to different composers than they perform in their schools. We aren’t just looking for Stillwater students, we are reaching out to Ponca City, Perry and beyond. Everyone is welcome.”

The OSU Youth Choirs, formerly the Stillwater Honor Choir, are open to students in grades 4-12 through an audition process. OSU’s Julia Haley conducts the choir program.


The Stillwater Honors Choir, now known as the OSU Youth Choir, performs. (Courtesy Photo)

The Suzuki program is open to cellists and violinists ages 4-8. The program helps musicians learn through listening, imitation and repetition and involves students, teachers and parents working together.


Courtesy Photo Campbell Lowery, 7, left, and Olivia Wells, 5, perform on the cello at Oklahoma State University.

The Stillwater Community Orchestra – founded in 2012 – is a non-audition adult ensemble for string instruments. The group rehearses at Salem Lutheran Church.

“If you played a string instrument in high school or college and want to get the instrument back out of the case, now is a good time,” said Dickey, who also conducts this community orchestra. “The mission is a commitment to lifelong music education. That is something we are committed to at OSU.”

Twitter: @dbittonNP

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