Tracing its roots to the city’s first professional orchestra in 1924, the Oklahoma City Philharmonic formed in 1988 under the musical direction of Joel Levine with the help of dedicated civic leaders and corporations.
The Philharmonic employs professional musicians in a per service contract. With performances from September through May, the Philharmonic presents a series of eight Classics concerts and six pairs of Pops concerts each season. Regional performances and many educational outreach concerts, including the Discovery Series and Youth Concerts to area school children, are presented by the OKC Philharmonic. Holiday performances of “The Christmas Show!”, the July 3rd Independence Day concert in Oklahoma City, the July 4th concert in Yukon, OK, and the annual Labor Day concert presented at the Oklahoma City Community College have become family traditions for thousands in Central Oklahoma.
Maestro Joel Levine is one of the most versatile and active conductors in America today. He has conducted extensively throughout the United States, Mexico and Europe for a wide variety of dance, theater and symphonic performances during the course of his career. Levine has appeared on the podiums of many of our country's major orchestras including St. Louis, Minnesota, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Detroit, Seattle and Denver. Maestro Levine was named "Oklahoma Musician of the Year" for 1992 and was a recipient of the 1989 Governor's Arts Award.
Throughout the years, the orchestra has performed a diverse selection of music with many different stars. The OKC Philharmonic has appeared on PBS with Michael Martin Murphey in a performance titled “Sagebrush Symphony” for the nationally syndicated program “Austin City Limits.” Kathie Lee Gifford chose the Phil to perform for her internationally-broadcast CBS Christmas Special Just in Time for Christmas. Guest Artists have included Itzhak Perlman, Amy Grant, Yo Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Tony Bennett, Olivia Newton-John, Bebe Neuwirth, Sir James Galway, and most recently Renee Fleming, Pink Martini, and Chris Botti.
In September 2001, the OKC Philharmonic opened its season in the newly renovated Civic Center Music Hall. One of the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS), this $52.2 million renovation saw the complete reconstruction of the performance chamber into the Thelma Gaylord Performing Arts Theater. The theater is transformable from a concert hall into a Broadway theater house and maintains state-of-the-art acoustics in any configuration.
Education is a central component of the Philharmonic's mission. We believe that through the attainment of knowledge from early and continued musical experiences, the enrichment, enhancement, entertainment, and lifelong enjoyment of music is increased, thereby improving an individual's quality of life. Throughout its history, the Philharmonic has maintained a strong commitment to enhancing education and, through these programs, the Orchestra impacts more than 35,000 individuals annually. We also know that cultural education can take place at any age and the Philharmonic's education programs are committed to reaching all age groups. From Discovery Series Family Concerts to Meet the Orchestra, the Philharmonic is continually offering educational events to the community.
Revenue for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic's more than $5 million budget comes from earned and contributed income. Contributed income is provided by individual contributions, gifts from private foundations, corporate sponsorships, endowment earnings, and grants from the Oklahoma Arts Council, the Allied Arts Foundation and the Oklahoma City Orchestra League. The remaining income is supplied through ticket sales and other performance revenues.