This Oklahoma State musician waited a long time for the new McKnight Center to open in Stillwater; then her wish came true

Great State
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STILLWATER, Okla. (KFOR) – Deep in the basement of the old Seretean Center at Oklahoma State University, the practice rooms are almost always full of young musicians learning their craft.

On this day, they include cellist Samantha Kerns who happened to grow up in Stillwater and stayed there for college.

“I don’t regret it at all,” she states. “I enjoy being this close.”

She remembers the rumblings about some new performing arts center when she was an underclassman.

Then she recalls the announcement itself.

“That was exciting in general because I’m from here and I hadn’t seen something like that happen.”

She watched and practiced patiently as funding came in and the foundations were poured.

This 65,000 square foot facility went up as her education continued.

Kerns says, “It was cool to see the actual concert hall be built because you could see the floor going in. When they started putting in the glass front, I thought, ‘Okay, that’s going to be really cool.'”

For two-and-a-half years, she watched and waited, hoping she might just get the chance to walk through the doors and unpack her cello as a performer.

Kerns remembers thinking, “Maybe if I pull it off right, and nothing goes wrong with the construction, it’ll be open and I can use it.”

Samantha had to juggle a few classes, but she did it.

Her recital was one of the first in the new recital hall, more than 200 seats, state of the art acoustics and right in tune with what she’d hoped.

“The acoustics are good. The setting is really great,” she says. “I know that when I play they can hear every little thing.”

A musician practices long hours in solitude, working toward that moment when the lights go up and the pure sounds flow outward to an appreciative audience.

Samantha Kern will graduate in the Spring of 2020, having achieved her wish.

The McKnight Center and the musician grew up together.

The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts opened in October of 2019.

The next big concert there is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 30 when the Preservation Hall Jazz Orchestra performs.

For tickets or more information on the new center, go to

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