McKnight Center creates a unique educational experience for OSU students

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OSU music students have the unique advantage of being able to take masterclasses from the artists who perform at the McKnight Center. 

Oklahoma State University music students can perform on the same stage where world-renowned artists and groups display their mastery, thanks to the McKnight Center.

The McKnight Center’s opening season has seen the likes of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra entertain OSU students and Stillwater residents.

Thomas Lanners, a piano professor at OSU, said his current students have expressed excitement about the new facility; his former students have communicated their jealousy.

“Quite a few of the artists who come through The McKnight Center will give masterclasses,” Lanners said.

In those masterclasses, student have the opportunity to learn directly from the performers. Lanners said the new steady stream of direct interaction between students and master guests is extremely valuable to students and staff.

“There aren’t many schools in the country who can boast the culture that we have brought to our school on a regular basis,” Lanners said. “I’m even counting the very top, biggest name conservatories in the country and the top music programs in the country.”

The guarantee of incredible artists coming regularly to Stillwater has enhanced the quality of the music program on offer at OSU and has magnified its culture, Lanners said.

The New York Philharmonic will be back at the McKnight Center for regular visits. This is something no other school Lanners knows of can boast, outside of the University of Michigan, which is one of the top ranked music schools in the nation.

Carly Clayton, a vocal performance junior, said she attended the Kelli O’Hara masterclass.

O’Hara, known for her time on Broadway, shared her experiences in the business and encouraged students, like Clayton, to pursue a career in music theater at her masterclass last fall, during the dawn of the McKnight Center’s opening season.

“I would say that was a really special moment because that was kind of the first time that they brought in somebody of that caliber from the vocal world in,” Clayton said. “Getting to watch all these pros come in and do our art at such a professional level and then to share the same space makes you want to rise up and be better.”

Clayton will perform at the McKnight Center Feb. 23 as part of her degree program.

Jeffrey Loeffert, director of the Michael and Anne Greenwood School of Music, said the McKnight Center’s director will be announcing next seasons’ guest artists soon.

Prior to the announcement, more groups and musicians will come to round out the venue’s first season. One notable event features Joshua Bell, a violin soloist, and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, a premiere London-based chamber orchestra.

Bell and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields will be at The McKnight Center Feb. 26.

Loeffert said The McKnight Center is a great tool for investing in the OSU community.

“This is a great place to be right now,” Loeffert said. “The program is growing and improving. The momentum we have right now as a school is truly special.”