History

A Commitment to Music Education

In 1977, a group of individuals who passionately cared about music opportunities for young Oklahomans created what we now know as the Oklahoma Youth Orchestras. Over the years new ensembles have been added, new orchestral works have been commissioned and premiered, guest artists and conductors have come and shared their musical talents, and students have traveled and performed around the world.

Today the organization serves 400+ students annually, some of whom are second-generation students whose parents played with us when they were students. Many OKYO alumni have continued their music professions: from music educators, performers, private lesson teachers, and even conductors of our ensembles today!

  •  October 1977 – Legh Burns conducts 43 members in the first concerts, including a performance at the Oklahoma Educators Convention

  •  Summer 1981 – The group has grown to 96 members and travels to China

  •  May 3, 1981 – The group performs at OAI Quartz Mountain’s dedication ceremony of the new lodge

  •  September 1982 – Festival Strings founded; conducted by Dr. Colbert Hackler, the ensemble meets in the Fine Arts Building at Oklahoma University

  •  Summer 1984 – The group tours to Scandinavia

  •  Fall 1985 – The group performs at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago

OYO 1985 Midwest with Legh Burns.jpg
  •  Fall 1986 – Oklahoma Youth Philharmonic founded

  •  Summer 1988 – The group tours to New Zealand

  •  Early 1990s – Dr. John Clinton leads the group in period of change and growth; to honor the OKC Philharmonic’s Music Director from 1951-1973, the organization adopts the name Guy Frasier Harrison Academy for the Performing Arts (GFHA)

  • Summer 1999 – Chamber Orchestra founded with Dawn Thrailkill

  •  Fall 2002 – Renowned cellist, Joshua Roman, rehearses with his OYO ensemble group

2002 Joshua Roman.jpg
  •  2001 – By invitation, performed the first public concert for OKC’s newly renovated Civic Center

  •  Summer 2004 – OYW founded with Dr. Matthew Mailman

  •  Summer 2006 – Sinfonia founded with Gena Alexander

  •  2012 – To better convey our work and mission, the name Oklahoma Youth Orchestras is adopted

  •  June 5-8, 2012 – By audition and invitation, OYO performed the opening concert for the League of American Orchestra’s National Conference in Dallas

  •  November 2012 – Organization presents its 35th Anniversary Concert at Civic Center Music Hall, featuring alum, Milena Govich.
    Dr. John Clinton is presented with the organization’s Baton Award for his years of unwavering dedication and service.

Clinton Retire.jpg
  •  Summer 2013 – Oklahoma Youth Orchestra welcomes Executive Director, Jason Edward Grife

  •  May 2014 – Dr. John Clinton retires as conductor of OYO and remains very active with the organization. The Dr. John Clinton Scholarship Award incepted by Chair, Jerry Messick

  •  Summer 2014 – OYO partners with NewView Oklahoma and their O.W.L. Camp (Oklahomans Without Limits), premiering a new work by Chickasaw Composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

OWL Camp.jpg
  •  Summer 2014 – A unique Partnership Position is created with Oklahoma City University; Dr. Eric Garcia joins as OYO’s first Artistic Director

  •  Summer 2014 – Rockin’ Strings founded with Karina Fisher

  •  Spring 2015 – Summer Symphony Strings Camp launched with Camp Director, OYO alum and Edmond Schools Orchestra Director, Peter Markes

  •  August 2016 – Organization welcomes full time Program Manager, Caleb Mitchum

  •  January 2017 – Organization welcomes Executive Director, Melody Garza Mikkelsen

  •  March 2017 – The first Play It Forward™ Campaign kicks off

  •  July 2017 – Organization welcomes Artistic Director Jeffrey Grogan

  •  Summer 2017 – Philharmonia founded with Ms. Shaemon’ Fuston

  •  September 2017 – Our Ruby 40th Anniversary celebration with a season full of special guests and concerts!

  •   April 2018 – OYO received a Governor’s Arts Award in special recognition of contribution to arts education in Oklahoma.

2018 OYO Receive's Governor's Arts Award
  • Summer 2018 – Organization refreshes its branding and adds a “K” to the logo to become OKYO

  • September 2018 – Guitar ensemble OYG founded with Mr. Matthew Denman

  • Spring 2019 – OYO invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in June of 2020!

And we look forward to many more years of fostering the success of young musicians in Oklahoma! If you have an event you’d like to see on our history page contact our office!