OKLAHOMA CITY– Young string musicians in Norman have songs like ‘Shortnin’ Bread’ to chew on as beginners, but teachers like Mark Osborn are showing them the possibilities that lie ahead of them.
“I remember, quite often, my first time walking into Festival Strings,” he recalls. “And I was scared to death.”
Forty years ago, he was a little kid who joined up with a new organization calling itself ‘Oklahoma Youth Orchestra.’
He stayed with it, practiced, improved, and made it to the full symphony, OYO’s top ensemble.
“It really opened up a lot of doors for me and opened my eyes up to the rest of the world,” Osborn continues.
Flash forward to another rehearsal.
These are some of the same kinds of kids who started on Shortnin’ Bread about 10 years before.
At this rehearsal, they’re playing ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ by Mussorgsky under the direction of conductor Jeff Grogan.
“This group is really special,” he says. “A lot of them are the best members of their high school programs.”
For recently graduated students like trumpet player Anthony Barrington, who sits in with the OKYO Symphony, this group was his introduction to orchestral music.
His love for it turned into an offer to continue his musical education at Julliard.
“If it hadn’t been for the OKYO, I probably would not have gotten that experience, that ‘aha’, this is what I want to do,” Barrington claims.
For current players in the Symphony like keyboard and violinist Emma Darvin, this group is a whole new world of more than just sound.
“It’s kind of like being in a musical family,” she says. “And then being able to do so much more than you can do by yourself.”
The best and brightest are here. Generations of this group have traveled all over the world.
But Grogan noticed one concert venue he thought his group was ready to handle.
He accepted an invitation to play Carnegie Hall in New York in 2020.
“It feels like it’s firing on all cylinders right now,” he says. “So it gives me confidence to take this group wherever they want to go.”
The Oklahoma Youth Symphony now comprises eight different ensembles and more than 400 students ages 8 to 18.
For more information on the group and its goals, visit the group’s website.
Their next concert is May 5th.