Madeline Guenther of Sand Springs joined an elite group of 262 high school-age musicians from across Oklahoma last month for the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute.
Guenther, a home-schooled 15-year-old, will be starting her sophomore year this fall. She has lived in Sand Springs for the past six years.
She began playing the violin and viola about three years ago but has played the piano since she was in the first grade.
Guenther said her private teacher told her about the Arts Institute.
“I wanted to go because it was a good opportunity to increase my skills,” she said.
Now in its 45th year, the institute was held July 10-25 at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha while its permanent home at Quartz Mountain State Park in southwestern Oklahoma was being renovated.
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Students accepted into the institute — all of whom attend on full scholarship — study for six hours a day in one of eight disciplines: acting; chorus; dance; film and video; creative writing; drawing and painting; photography; and orchestra.
Evening performances, faculty showcases and demonstrations allow students the opportunity to interact with and learn from other disciplines.
More than 40 faculty artists provided instruction this year, including orchestra conductor Allen Tinkham and creative writing instructor A.J. Verdelle.
Tinkham is in his 21st season as music director of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras. Verdelle is a PEN/Faulkner Award and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist whose memoir about her relationship with Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison will be published next year.
Although Guenther said the competitive statewide auditions were difficult, she said she was always hopeful that she would be accepted into the institute.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect,” she said. “I was maybe a little bit surprised but I figured I would probably get in.
“I learned a lot,” she said. “I am so glad to have had this opportunity to play in person with an orchestra and to hang out with my friends and make new ones.”
Still, for Guenther, the best part was always the music.
“The best part was probably being able to play Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony,” she said. “I really liked that one.”
At home, Guenther soon will be starting her third year of performing with the Tulsa Youth Symphony.
She said something she learned at the institute was “to express the emotions of the piece more when I’m performing.”
When she’s not performing, Guenther often is teaching her craft to beginning and intermediate violin and viola players through her own business, Madeline’s Music School, which can be found on Facebook.
Guenther said she’s unsure about whether she will pursue a career in music.
“I haven’t decided on that yet,” she said. “I feel like I have about a 50-50 chance of being a professional musician after school.”
She is certain, however, that she wants to return next year to the Arts Institute.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Definitely.”