Professor helps orchestra gain awareness in Oklahoma

imageFrom NewsOK.com

For recent college graduates who seek opportunities to continue performing and retirees who find they now have considerably more time to practice, the Oklahoma Community Orchestra provides an outlet for those who share the common desire to perform in an accomplished musical ensemble.

Participants pay a minimal fee to join the orchestra, which rehearses weekly on the Oklahoma Christian campus.

The group’s upcoming performance, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Oklahoma Christian’s Hardeman Auditorium, will feature works by Gliere, Rosas, Wagner and Zimmer. Violinist Kyle Dillingham will be featured in the premiere of Callen Clarke’s “The Mary Rose.”

Now in its 26th season, the 75-member orchestra is led by John Fletcher, a professor of music at Oklahoma Christian University.

Fletcher grew up in a home filled with music. His mother taught piano lessons and his father was the first music faculty member hired at Oklahoma Christian in 1950. Fletcher never really considered other career opportunities, noting that he “grew up thinking this is what people did.”

After graduating from Oklahoma Christian, Fletcher landed a job as band director at Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

He returned in 1987 to his alma mater, where he conducts the symphonic band and musical theater productions, as well as instrumental conducting, theory and orchestration.

Fletcher is now in his sixth season as music director of the Oklahoma Community Orchestra.

It’s an eclectic group, both from the perspective of age and musical training. And while the ensemble includes some university music students and a small group who make their living as musicians, most are amateurs who simply love to play.

“The orchestra I inherited six years ago featured fine players by and large,” Fletcher said. “I throw some demanding things at them and they generally rise to the occasion. These are people who want to play exciting, challenging music, so we try our best to strike a balance.”

A survey of past concerts reveals programming that any musician would be proud to perform: symphonies by Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Bizet, overtures by Brahms and Verdi, and concertos that spotlight the talents of area professionals such as Gregory Lee, Amy Cheng and Tess Remy-Schumacher.

The orchestra also sponsors an annual young artist competition for students ages 17 to 25 who are enrolled at an Oklahoma college or university.

Winners of the competition take home a cash prize and have an opportunity to perform with the Oklahoma Community Orchestra.

“I like being able to generate an awareness of the orchestra around the state,” Fletcher said. “We’re slowly building audiences and I’m really pleased with how the group plays up to the level of the literature. For me, it’s very fulfilling.”