The Tulsa Youth Symphony Orchestra celebrates 50 years.
The flute section of Tulsa Youth Symphony Orchestra
Courtesy of Tulsa Youth Symphony
The Tulsa Youth Symphony Orchestra (TYSO) turns 50 this month, and it is celebrating the milestone with an anniversary concert featuring music from its inaugural year, plus a premiere piece.
TYSO’s mission is to provide advanced orchestral training and performance experience for talented young musicians ages 10-18 in northeastern Oklahoma.
More than 150 students participate in the program’s two orchestras: the concert orchestra for less experienced musicians, and the symphony orchestra for advanced ensemble. Each orchestra performs at least four formal concerts each season.
TYSO is an independent program that is not affiliated with a particular school, explains Conductor Ron Wheeler. Members gather for weekly rehearsals on weekends throughout the school year.
Students must apply and audition to participate in the program.
“We ask them to prepare an orchestral excerpt, which we provide; play a short solo of their choice; and sight-read an excerpt we have,” Wheeler says. “Those selected by a panel of judges are assigned to the appropriate orchestra.”
Wheeler began conducting the orchestra in 1972, and when he thinks back to the past four decades, two memories emerge over the many others.
“A cellist lost part of a finger in a motel door while on a trip to Los Angeles,” he says. “Our doctor on the tour rushed him to a hospital, where the finger was reattached.”
Another memory is far more pleasant: “performing in a small church in England for a very appreciative audience,” Wheeler recalls.
Co-conductors Richard Wagner and Earl Peterson have worked with TYSO since 2002. It is clear all three men are well loved by the students.
“Last year I had a very fun time working with Mr. Peterson; he just made me glad to be there all the time,” says drum major Jared Shay. “This year, Mr. Wheeler is so sarcastic at times, it is just too hilarious, and Mr. Wagner is great, especially when he messes with the horns, picking out everything they do wrong.”
Six-year TYSO member and violinist Katherine Ho says, “Joining the Tulsa Youth Symphony is one of the best decisions I’ve made. ... Being surrounded every week by good musicians who are around my age has helped improve my technique and skill.
“Rehearsals are hard work, but we also have fun during (mid-point) breaks” with impromptu jam sessions and chatting among members, Ho says.
“Mr. Wheeler, Mr. Wagner and Mr. Peterson are all wonderful conductors who urge the orchestras to never stop working to achieve their best,” she says. “I plan to continue playing piano, violin and cello in college and beyond.”
Violinist Ashtin Johnson is thankful for TYSO because orchestra isn’t offered at Pryor High School, where she attends. Instead, Johnson plays clarinet with the high school band.
“Without TYSO, I would not have discovered my love of orchestral playing, which is what I want to do for the rest of my life,” Johnson says.
Wheeler says the pieces TYSO will play for its 50th anniversary concert were performed at the first TYSO concert in February 1964: “Royal Fireworks Overture” by George Frideric Handel and the first movement of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Trumpet Concerto.”
“The ‘Trumpet Concerto’ will be played by a TYSO alumnus, Jeff Shadley,” Wheeler says. “We will also premiere a piece we commissioned by Dr. Joseph Rivers from The University of Tulsa (called) ‘Buffalo Run.’”
TYSO anniversary concert
TYSO's 50th anniversary concert is at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 18, at the Lorton Performance Center at The University of Tulsa, 550 S. Gary Place. Tickets are $10. Call 918-592-7725 or visit www.tyso.org.
Also this month
Cinderella The Tulsa Ballet will perform the classic fairytale in dance — complete with nasty stepsisters, true love and a lost shoe. Show starts at 8 p.m., Feb. 14 and 15. A third performance is at 3 p.m., Feb. 16. All performances will be held in the Tulsa PAC’s Chapman Music Hall, 110 E. Second St. Tickets are $20-$114. Visit www.tulsapac.com.
Adaskin-Schumann Ensemble The Adaskin String Trio and Ensemble Schumann players will explore the timbres of piano, strings and oboe in several delightful combinations. Doors open at 7 p.m., Feb. 22, for wine and conversation; performance is at 7:30 p.m. in the Westby Pavilion of the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, 110 E. Second St. A second performance is at 3 p.m., Feb. 23, with a pre-concert lecture at 2:15 at the PAC’s Williams Theatre. Tickets are $25. Visit www.tulsapac.com.