Alexander Mickelthwate connects UCO Symphony Orchestra with OKC Philharmonic
Alexander Mickelthwate, while continuing as music director and conductor for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, will teach orchestral conducting students and assist with recruitment efforts at UCO beginning this summer.
The Vista asked the conductor what music can do for a community.
Mickelthwate describes it as “this language. It can be with words, but music itself is without words, and everybody can feel it, can dance to it.
“And it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you’re from, you know, it’s, it’s just an emotional aspect to it,” said Mickelthwate. “And that’s a miracle: to have this language on this planet that unites.”
This advice linked with another part of the creative process that he wants to emphasize at UCO.
“Build your own personal voice. Yes,” he said. “Perform the Beatles or Duke Ellington or whatever and, or Katy Perry, or Beethoven obviously, or Mozart. But then sit in your room when nobody can hear you and just play what comes out even if it’s just one note. And go with it. Improvise, find your own voice, and make it stronger. And this can be to music can be through anything, painting, to be creative, and business. Find your own voice,” he urged.
Mickelthwate, who came to the Oklahoma City Philharmonic after serving 12 years with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra in Manitoba, spoke about his roots.
“For me, growing up in Germany, I had a very limited, I must say, awareness of music. Only German music was considered the right music. I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it was still the case that I came to America and wow, the curtains opened up to so many more possibilities, and then especially the last 10 years, even more, so just to really have an open mind and be creative,” Mickelthwate said.
He knew, growing up, that he wanted more.
“I always had hoped that I would study with somebody who had an actual career as a conductor. So that was my goal. I have a career right now with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, as an active conducting career, and then I want to bring this to the next generation, this information and this experience. And I didn’t have this so much in my university time. So this is what I would like to give,” he said.
He addressed his future work with the students.
“I’m excited for working with the next generation and creating concerts that they remember, hopefully, for the rest of their lives,” Mickelthwate said.
He said there is a moment during some concerts that is almost unearthly.
“When there’s a performance where we are all in the zone, I call it, like the orchestra, when we are all in it together [it] captures the audience, this really miraculous moment where something transcends,” he said.
“It’s not me. It’s not the musicians. Something everybody is participating in,” he said.
“Everybody’s united, emotionally, and just with awareness, and it’s very powerful and beautiful,” he said. One of his goals at UCO is to create more of those experiences.