Tahlequah Daily Press


June 4, 2012

New arts organization focuses on classics

TAHLEQUAH — Barbara McAlister, a professional opera singer for 40 years, knows a lot about musical talent.

As such, McAlister, along with a number of other area residents,  have teamed up to form the Performing Arts Guild of Northeastern Oklahoma. The group is set to present a free concert, “Musica dell’Anima!”  today at 2 p.m., to spark interest in the arts and the organization.

According to McAlister, the organization is designed to promote classical music and performance art and artists in the community. The expression “classical” isn’t limited to Beethoven and Bach, but can include genres such as jazz and Broadway show tunes, drama or poetry.

“Performing Arts Guild of Northeastern Oklahoma is not yet a 501(c)3 [non-profit organization], but we hope it can become that in the future,” said McAlister. “In the meantime, we hope to collaborate with Muskogee and other communities, bringing more classical talent to the fore in Tahlequah and the surrounding area. There is so much talent, and [it] should be showcased.”

 A Muskogee native, McAlister majored in voice at Oklahoma City University before moving to Hollywood, where she found her master voice teacher Lee Sweetland, won the prestigious national Loren Zachary Opera competition and began her career. She performed almost every night for 10 years with the German Opera Repertory Theatres, and guest performed in many European theaters, including Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. She’s performed with the New York Grand Opera in the middle of Central Park, with the Boston Opera New England, at the Kennedy Center in Menotti’s opera ‘The Consul,’ and at Carnegie Hall three times.

PAGNO came about one day while McAlister was having lunch with Patsy Morton, a retired music educator, and Terri Baker, who said she loves classical music.

“Three friends who sometimes have lunch with each other wanted to find a way to bring classical music into the community,” Baker said.

The friends enumerated several reasons for working together on the project.

“I have some pretty specific reasons,” said Baker. “Arts in the public schools is losing funding. We need to help young people know about classical music. We are citizens of the world, and we need to broaden our horizons. Music connects us with the rest of the world, and I want us to be more connected.”

Baker said it’s also good for the community.

“Music improves the quality of life,” she said. “The more you have, the better quality of life and that’s better for you and me and for bringing business to the community. We have a lot of music in the community, and I personally want more classical music.”

Some people who were active in promoting community music have aged and moved away and the friends, by way of the new organization, want to draw more people into this area of interest.

“I’m pleased the concert will involve young people and seasoned professionals,” Baker said. “I hope people will come out and spend a pleasant hour or so. The concert will be an engaging and pleasant community event.”

In May 2009, McAlister met with Dr. Neil Morton, executive director of education at the Cherokee Nation, and was hired as a fine arts instructor/performer.

“Also, it has worked out that there are some interesting voices, and I am teaching singing to these fine young Cherokees and a couple of students at Sequoyah School,” she said.

Community collaboration appeals to Baker, and she hopes local residents will participate in growing the organization.

McAlister agrees.

“It is wonderful that on June 3 the public will have an opportunity to hear some of these talented young folks, and they are performing with semi-pro performers and pro performers,” McAlister said. “I appreciate some of my friends from Muskogee will be performing and giving of their talent this time. This group also gives students of the arts a chance to perform and hone their talent.”

Performing for Sunday’s concert include are McAlister, Holly and Haley Stocks, Ineta and Martin Bebb, Muskogee A Cappella, Mathew Hill, Patrick Hill, the Four Cherokee Tenors, John Fite, Chandler Gordon, Mike Stopp, Taylor McCoy, Nancy Shelton, Joanna Harlin and Steve Ball. Accompanists are Samantha Benn Duke, Nancy Shelton, Ineta Bebb and Holly Stocks.  

Those interested in learning more about upcoming opportunities or joining the Performing Arts Guild of Northeastern Oklahoma will be able to sign up at the Sunday concert.

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