When the Tulsa Philharmonic went out of business, the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra was formed with one goal in mind: to bring music into the community.
For 14 years, the Symphony has been making music in the concert hall, in the soup kitchen, in elementary schools, and in nursing homes across the city.
“It’s not just an orchestra, it’s a community service organization,” Symphony executive director Keith C. Elder said. “We have a unique governance model that allows the orchestra to be nimble and provide music where it’s necessary and important.”
One such place is in schools. With fine arts funding being cut, nearly one in three students in Oklahoma don’t have access to music or visual arts classes. That’s why the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra works to bring music back into schools.
Through the Link Up program, where the Symphony partners with Carnegie Hall to teach elementary school students to sing and play the recorder in the classroom. The students then perform with the Symphony from their seats in the concert halls.
“We go to 15 different school districts across Oklahoma and reach 20,000 third, fourth, and fifth graders,” Elder said. “We play 13 concerts over seven days. It’s a pretty amazing program.”
The Symphony also offers students “Symphony by the Sea,” a field trip opportunity to the Oklahoma Aquarium, where part of the Symphony partners with the Oklahoma Aquarium and plays for the group. The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra also partners with the Rosa Parks Early Childhood Education Center in the Union School District to offer musical exposure to three- and four-year-old children.
Elder said the Symphony is also implementing a pilot program for older students called Step Up, similar to Link Up but using the music of John Williams.
The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra doesn’t just take music to schools — it works to bring it to the city’s vulnerable populations. It offers discounted tickets for veterans, and its Heart Strings program brings symphony members to perform in the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center,Iron Gate , and LIFE Senior Services.
“Heart Strings is basically where we do concerts in places that need the healing power of music,” Elder said. “We’re also doing a program called Creative Aging, which is where we take Link Up and use it in assisted living homes. Studies are coming out about how important music is to cognitive retention for seniors, and we want to help with that.”
So, how can you support the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra?
Become a Subscriber. The Tulsa Symphony announces the new 2020/2021 season in February, when subscriptions will be available for purchase.
Donate. The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra is a 501(c)3 organization, so all donations are tax-deductible. For more information and to donate, visit tulsasymphony.org/donate.
Buy a Sampler. The Tulsa Symphony offers a custom 3-concert package – to see Star Wars in Concert, no less – for only $99.
Your donation and subscription dollars keep the music flowing into the community.
“It’s so important for a community to have music that’s accessible,” Elder said. “We play Star Wars, we play the Nutcracker, we play Harry Potter and the music of Arlo Guthrie. There’s a little something for everybody.”