OKM Music (2023)
In 1983 Ransom Wilson was on tour with his Solisti New York Orchestra. Fortuitously, Wilson and his Orchestra made a performance stop in Bartlesville to play at the Community Concert Series. It was at this time that Ransom Wilson met Nan Buhlinger, a Bartlesville musician and Arts Administrator and Gary Moore, the Managing Director of the Bartlesville Community Center.
Wilson, Moore, Buhlinger and several other Community leaders thought this would be a great place for a music festival, given the exemplary acoustics at the Bartlesville Community Center. After a lot of hard work, their idea came to fruition as a Bartlesville Community Center project and the first OK Mozart International Festival kicked off June 1985. The Bartlesville event held each June was named for the Austrian classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Wilson served as artistic director, Gary Moore served as Managing Director of BCC and Buhlinger was executive director of the music festival. It soon expanded to a 10-day festival, featuring many of the world’s finest performers in classical music.
In 1989 the Bartlesville Community Center Project was completed and OK Mozart, Inc. was incorporated as its own legal entity with Leo Johnstone becoming the first OK Mozart Chairman of the Board. Showcase artists and children’s events added cultural and local flavor to the Festival for out-of-town guests. Those events continue today. In 1991, Phillips Petroleum added the wonderful Patron’s Dinner which greatly helped in fund-raising efforts until 2002, when the ConocoPhillips merger occurred.
Solisti Orchestra served as the resident orchestra through 2005 when Ransom Wilson resigned as artistic director. Because he owned the Solisti New York name, the musicians continued to perform; however, they performed under a new name, Amici New York Orchestra. For many years guest conductors headlined the Festival until 2013 when OK Mozart named its new conductor and artistic director, Constantine Kitsopoulos.
In addition to showcasing a world-class orchestra, OK Mozart, hosted many renowned guests artists each year, such as: Robin Sutherland, Doc Severinsen, Joshua Bell, Jean\ Pierre RampaI, ltzhak Perlman, Sir James Galway, Sarah Chang, Miro Quartet, Kristin Chenoweth, Michael Martin Murphy, Josh Turner, Wilson Phillips, Andre-Michel Schub, Jenny Lin, Jon Kimura Parker, Hot Club of Cowtown, Steep Canyon Range, Balsam Range, and Tina Guo.
By 2016, the Festival simply could not sustain having a resident artistic director and orchestra, and had to turn in a new direction. The new direction was putting the “OK” back into OK Mozart by utilizing the state’s own prominent Oklahoma Orchestras and Quartets. In 2017, the OK Mozart Music Festival became known as OKM Music, while retaining its early heritage with Mozart, but going a step further to include all genres of music (classical, blue grass, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, and country).
During 2017, OKM made another big decision and went to year-round programming. No longer just a Festival, OKM Music expanded its offerings. The annual Festival became a twelve (12) day Festival with the first week dedicated to children, “Especially for Kids”, and with the second five (5) days being dedicated to the OKM Music festival. The Festival always occurs the first two weeks in June. Following the Festival comes Oktoberfest which is held the first weekend in October. Oktoberfest has become a popular and widely attended event and is celebrating Its Eleventh Season in 2023.
In 2018, the traditional Bavarian Christkindl Market arrived In Bartlesville and is celebrated the first weekend of November. This beautiful Christmas Market also brings together the music and cultural traditions of the Bavarian culture. OKM Music also celebrates #Giving Tuesday, a national day of giving with a special concert series each year. This event helps bring awareness of the arts to the community. At the end of each year, OKM Music celebrates the joy of giving through a children’s celebration of St. Nicholas Day.
OKM Music believes community collaboration is vital to its success and enjoys partnering with numerous non-profits such as Children’s Musical Theatre, Boy Scouts of America, Bartlesville Symphony, Choral Society, Boys & Girls Club Nowata, Westside Community Center and SunFest. OKM Music also takes pride in working with local, private and public schools in an effort to bring music education to all children. OKM Music also provides three scholarships each year to youth aged 4-21. Additionally, the No Child Clef Behind program raises money to give to surrounding Oklahoma schools for the purchase of musical Instruments for students who are interested in music but do not have the means to purchase an Instrument.
The knowledge of OKM Music would not be complete without mentioning the volunteers. The volunteer base at OKM Music is amazing and is comprised of patrons, board members, youth and community members who enjoy music, culture and the arts. Each year OKM Music has approximately 500 volunteers that help with its year round programming. Without these dedicated folks, OKM Music would not exist. OKM Music also invites interns from Bartlesville High School and Universities to work and volunteer at OKM Music. These opportunities are intended to help further these student’s educational studies and knowledge of the arts.
The history is rich at OKM Music. Music matters and makes a difference for the Community of Bartlesville. OKM Music has a positive economic, tourism, cultural, and emotional impact on the community of Bartlesville through music performance, education, and outreach. Music is an international language that unites a community and brings it to life.