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Candlelighters dressed in Mozartian era costumes open the Festival with candlelighting ceremony
Candlelighters dressed in Mozartian era costumes start the Festival with the traditional candlelighting Photo courtesy OK Mozart International Festival

OK Mozart International Festival

The OK Mozart International festival came to life in 1985 in the small, but sophisticated town of Bartlesville, near Tulsa. Within nine years the festival was heralded around the world as a major musical event, presenting renown concert artists.

In 1983, flutist Ransom Wilson and the chamber orchestra, Solisti New York, which he founded in 1980, stopped in Bartlesville for a performance during its midwest tour. The musicians were delighted to discover a charming town with a magnificent performing arts building that contained one of America's finest acoustic concert halls. Designed by William Wesley Peters, chief architect of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation's Taliesen West, the Community Center and its 1,800-seat concert hall had opened in 1982.

Wilson told Nan Buhlinger, a Bartlesville musician and community leader, his dream of establishing a Mozart festival in rural America. Within two years, they presented the first OK Mozart festival, with the Solisti New York as its resident chamber orchestra during the two-week event.

The festival's "masters chamber series" has featured outstanding instrumentalists, which have included Itzak Perlman, Misha Dichter, Anne-Marie McDermott, James Galway, Pinchas Zuckerman, Paul Neubauer, Andre Watts, and Robin Sutherland. The festival also has commissioned works and held many musical premiers by world renown composers and musicians, such as Peter Schickele and Jean-Michel Damasse.

Each season the festival presents outdoor opening ceremonies with a free concert and fireworks. For two weeks in June, both orchestral concerts and chamber music are performed in the Community Center's outdoor amphitheater, at a historic ranch and nature preserve, a downtown church, and at Wright-designed Price Tower. During the festival, more than 100 tours, workshops, and exhibitions fill non-concert hours.

OK Mozart established and maintains a special relationship with Salzburg, Austria, birthplace of Mozart, which inspires artistic exchange and ambiance for the festival. During the festival, special European style bistros are open, and a Festival Art Gallery shows classic-style art in harmony with the Mozartian era, often loaned by museums, and provides related lectures.

Documentation includes a 12-page report; 15 slides; a CD of 1993 festival highlights; a video featuring TV festival coverage; several issues of the festival newsletter; magazine and newspaper articles; festival logos; poster ads; buttons and programs.

Originally submitted by: Ernest J. Istook, Representative (5th District).



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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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