Dana Waters returned to Oklahoma 25 years ago, and has since populated the area with music by teaching a couple of generations how to play and compose.
Originally from Muskogee, Waters said her parents were really conservative and they didn't even own a stereo. Piano lessons were one thing she was allowed to do.
Waters holds bachelor's degrees in music performance for flute and piano from Oklahoma State University. She minored in philosophy, and then went on to get a master's degree at Colorado State university in applied ethics. She taught philosophy at Colorado State and Aims Community College in Loveland, Colorado.
“Philosophy is hard. You have to publish all the time,” said Waters. “Colorado was good to me.”
Her first 10 years in Tahlequah, Waters didn’t teach music.
Also a writer, Waters helped start The Current, worked at The Ledger and the Muskogee Phoenix. She has also worked as a cartographer for real estate at an abstract company, and at one time helped plat parts of the city of Tahlequah. When Boomarang Diner first opened, she worked there for four years while teaching lessons.
Since her first recital in 2004 with the Farinelli family, Waters has held over 50 recitals in the NSU Jazz Lab, including two a year for her studio, as well as other side projects.
The Music Room is in its fifth location, and there is a possibility it may move back downtown.
All of her graduating students have earned music scholarships to universities. One student just announced she will be on the show “American Idol.”
“I have students teaching at The Music Room now who grew up in the studio,” she said. “The students shifted to being teachers.”
Waters’ children are musically inclined, as well. Her son Morrison is in North Hollywood as a musician and entrepreneur. Tucker lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to play jazz. Mazzy, a seventh-grader at Tahlequah Middle School, may have decided to play drums, but has been a featured vocalist in numerous area productions. Waters and she have recently been in the Muskogee Little Theatre shows, among others, of “Annie” and “Matilda,” for which Mazzy won an Outstanding Actress award.
“I dream of starting children’s musical theater here,” said Waters, who has directed three MLT productions.
Waters was playing the piano at TMS before the pandemic hit, and then she was let go. Through her studio, and with technology, she has continued to give lessons.
“We used Google Duo, and it was very difficult to do lessons. There were lag times. It took a lot of patience. I’d rather make videos to do the lessons,” said Waters. “The screen is not the best way to learn music or art. We all found it difficult.”
She is continuing to offer virtual lessons for some students, but is giving one-on-one, face-to-face lessons. Currently, she has three instructors and almost 50 students. The Music Room offers lessons in voice, piano, guitar, ukulele, and flute. She hopes to eventually offer more high-tech lessons, which would include looping and mixing.
Some students who did not return to school physically can't have those lessons in band or choir, so Waters has opportunities for them.
“We clean and sanitize between students, which we did before, anyway. We wear masks. My singers wear masks and hate it,” said Waters.
To compensate for her lost paycheck from TMS, Waters is working at Sunrise Donuts as a clerk, but is also learning how to bake. She said Sunrise is staying masked and is offering drive-thru and walk-up services.
“It’s so spaced out and no one is allowed to congregate. I like putting in seven hours before noon,” said Waters.
She said her family practiced complete social distancing at first, and she wears a mask as often as she can.
“I want to be careful because of my mom. I don’t want to take anything to her,” said Waters. “I do have concerns about kids being at school and then coming to the studio, or me being at the doughnut shop and then the studio. I take a shower between, and keep everything clean.”
Outside of working and teaching, Waters is a district chair for the Oklahoma Music Teachers Association and involved in the Music Teachers National Associations. Her involvement is so her students can compete in regional, state and national competitions.
“We didn’t get to do district or state this past year. They’re talking about doing virtual auditions. It would be a big task for me to serve all the video needs of the students,” said Waters.
She said that lately, Lady Tigers softball is taking up a lot of her and her daughter’s time, but they both enjoy it. They also make time to kayak.
“We try to get to the river every week – usually twice a week – to just get away from everything and have downtime,” said Waters.