By LOUANN BUHLINGER
YOUNG TALENT: Drew Crane, left, a senior at Verdigris High School, has been studying at the Barthelmes Conservatory music school for seven years. He is posing after playing Polonaise in Ab Major by Chopin to a group of visiting Rotarians. In the background are, from left, Joe Hull III, the president of the Barthelmes Conservatory board of directors; Paula Wood, president and executive director of the Barthelmes Conservatory and Candace Chinsethagid, the director of operations for the organization.
GTR Newspapers photo
Any given afternoon on the ninth floor of the Sunoco building in downtown Tulsa, you can hear the excited voices of students as they happily and swiftly move through the halls to attend advanced music classes in piano, violin, viola, bass and flute. This is the Barthlemes Conservatory, a 12-year-old non-profit school of music that serves the Tulsa area with comprehensive classical music training. This unique organization is primarily supported by the Barthelmes Foundation, which also sponsors Project CREATES – an organization that infuses the arts into high-risk elementary schools in Tulsa.
“I could not get advanced training in my high school or even in my small hometown,” says a high-school-aged pianist. “This is what I’m meant to do, and I’ve improved my abilities by coming to the Conservatory twice a week … now I’m considering applying to the Eastman School of Music,” he says. The Conservatory provides an avenue for students who have the talent to improve to levels where they may compete nationally for desired spots at college-level music schools and grow into professional careers in the arts.
Most students attending the music school do so on scholarship. “More than $350,000 in scholarships have been awarded this year alone,” says Candice Chinsethagid, director of operations and self-admitted “school principal.” Students must audition and compete for the coveted spots. The Conservatory’s style of teaching is called “Music Schola,” a century-old method known for its rigorous and comprehensive training that encourages the progressive mastery of technical skills and expression of emotion in performance.
There are 26 diverse and accomplished professional musicians who teach at the Conservatory. One is Tatyana Lantos, who leads the piano department teaching master classes. Lantos began her musical education at the age of seven at the Stolyarsky School of Music for Gifted Students. She received a master’s degree in performance, pedagogy, classical ensemble and accompaniment from the Odessa State Conservatory, Ukraine.
Another is John Rush, master faculty in flute. Rush earned a bachelor’s degree in music (flute performance) from Wayne State University, a master’s of music in historical flute performance and early music history from Indiana University and a master’s of music in flute performance, literature, and pedagogy from Louisiana State University. Rush is the principal flutist with the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra, Tulsa Ballet, Tulsa Camerata, and Light Opera Oklahoma Musical Theatre. He is also an adjunct professor of flute at the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts University.
As is evidenced by the faculty’s biographies, the teaching talent at the Conservatory is deep and of great value to aspiring musicians.
The Conservatory also runs a music center that offers private music lessons in piano, cello, violin, viola, bass, flute, African drums and guitar. “Most students are ages eight to 13,” says Executive Director Paula Wood. “The school introduces our youngest community members to the joy of listening and responding to sound and instruments. There are also programs for life-long learners. We welcome students of all ages, music abilities and income levels. The Conservatory’s vision is to awaken the musician residing within each of us,” says Wood.
Wood joined the Conservatory in 2012 with the immediate goal to advance daytime programming options to include more classes and activities. Wood came to the Conservatory with a professional background in helping children achieve though education. She served as the director of school and community relations with the Tulsa Public School System and was the project director of Student Voices, a civic education initiative of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Wood also serves on the board of Project CREATES and is a member of the Mayor’s Police and Community Coalition.
“The Conservatory’s long-term goal is to purchase a new building to house both the music school and music center when we reach our enrollment capacity,” says Wood. As the non profit grows, more fund-raising events are being planned including a special arts award dinner to be held this upcoming spring.
With the primary support for the Conservatory coming from the Barthelmes Foundation, additional supporters include many local businesses and foundations in addition to more than 120 individuals. The Barthelmes Foundation is the legacy of Dr. and Mrs. Albert Barthelmes who came to the U.S. from Germany in the early 1930s. Musicians themselves, they and other early Tulsa arts supporters founded the Tulsa Philharmonic.
Members of the Conservatory’s board of directors include Joseph L. Hull , Marilyn Inhofe-Tucker, Jill Pinkerton, Myra L. Sellers and Kirk Van Valkenburgh.
More information on the Conservatory can be found at Tulsaconservatory.org or by calling 918-794-0330.