The Norman Philharmonic

Performing Beautiful Music, Making a Meaningful Difference 

Since its inception, community involvement has always been an important part of the Norman Philharmonic’s mission. As an innovative, cutting-edge chamber orchestra, the Norman Philharmonic has spent the past 13 years performing live music, ranging from classical to jazz to contemporary, for the community as a way to showcase different styles of music for as wide an audience as possible. 

“We believe that the arts have the power to make a meaningful difference in a community,” explains Richard Zielinski, the Norman Philharmonic’s artistic director. “It brings life. It sparks joy. It teaches. It connects. It asks us to share, to hear and to see each other differently.”

The Norman Philharmonic offers high-quality programs that appeal to a wide variety of audiences, with a special emphasis on reaching young people. Over the years, the orchestra has accomplished this by featuring living composers as guest artists and incorporating vocalists, choirs, ballet and film.

They have enjoyed partnerships with a variety of organizations, including the Norman Public Schools, the City of Norman, the University of Oklahoma’s School of Dance, McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church, the Chickasaw Nation, the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association, Jazz in June, and Food and Shelter Inc.

“These partnerships have been important in challenging our organization to develop programs that allow us to connect with new audience members so that we can use the unifying influence of music to help bring people together,” Richard says. “We all benefit when we can learn and share with each other.”

One of the organization’s major outreach efforts is bringing concerts to students in Norman Public Schools. Since its inception, the orchestra has featured at least one performance each season specifically for fourth- and fifth-grade Norman Public Schools students.

The Meet the Composer educational concerts bring contemporary American composers to the stage as guest artists with the orchestra. In the organization’s opening season, the Norman Phil commissioned American composer Libby Larsen to compose a new symphony for the city, as well as an anthem for the City of Norman. Larsen’s Norman Anthem has now been taught to fourth- and fifth-graders in Norman Public Schools for the past 11 years.

Other living composers featured in the Meet the Composer series have included classical Chickasaw composer, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate; African American composer Rosephanye Powell; and local composer and educator Jerry Neil-Smith, among others. 

“The Norman Public School educational concerts are viewed by many as the most important concerts we do every year,” Richard explains. “These educational performances help make it possible for students to experience a live orchestra, perhaps for the first time, and meet a composer who inspires both young girls and boys of various ethnic backgrounds who might want to be a composer, musician or conductor.”

The organization’s American Heritage concerts highlight the diversity of American heritage through the unifying influence of music. Drawing on composers who are Native American, African American, and those who have immigrated from other places, these concerts allow audiences to learn directly from the composer and are especially relevant for middle school and high school orchestra students. This year’s event featured Chickasaw classical composer Jerod Tate’s IHOLBA’ (The Vision), the first classical composition sung in the Chickasaw language. 

Concerts such as these have been pivotal in helping the Norman Philharmonic develop a solid reputation for producing the highest quality concerts, showcasing a unique musical repertoire performed by talented local musicians. 

“Since we are fortunate to have so many talented musicians within the orchestra, nearly all instrumental solos are performed by Norman Phil musicians. Most of the vocal soloists used have also been from Norman,” Richard adds. 

The final event of the Norman Philharmonic’s 13th season will be a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, at McFarlin Memorial United Methodist Church. The concert will include a choir involving singers from community groups, area high schools and universities, and information about joining the choir is available on the organization’s website. The event will also include a select group of student high school orchestra members who will perform side-by-side with the Norman Philharmonic members. 

“This piece is one of the greatest masterworks ever written, and it speaks about people of all ages and backgrounds uniting to create a world that is overflowing with compassion, love and joy,” Richard concludes.

“We are in our 13th season because of the unwavering support from individuals in the Norman community, Norman businesses, and local, state and federal arts-granting organizations, such as Allied Arts, the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Harris Foundation, the Kerr Foundation, Chickasaw Nation and Norman Arts Council. I hope you will come to experience the power, the beauty and the unifying message of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. This is going to be a glorious performance that you'll never forget!”

Tickets to the Norman Philharmonic’s season finale concert are $18 for adults and $9 for students and can be purchased online at NormanPhil.com. For ways to support the Norman Philharmonic, including donation and volunteer opportunities, contact Cathy Griffin, executive director, at normanokphil@gmail.com. Follow the Norman Philharmonic on social media at @NormanPhilharmonic.

“We believe that the arts have the power to make a meaningful difference in a community."

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