The OKM Music Festival originally was called the OK Mozart International Festival when it began in 1983, after Nan Buhlinger, Bartlesville musician, arts administrator and community leader, met Ransom Wilson. The Solisti New York Orchestra, led by Wilson, was performing at the Bartlesville Community Center as part of a U.S. tour.
Wilson and Buhlinger thought this would be a great place for a music festival, given the exemplary acoustics at the BCC. After a lot of hard work, their idea came to fruition and the first festival kicked off during a weekend in June 1985. Wilson served as artistic director and Buhlinger was executive director of the music festival. It soon expanded to a 10-day festival, featuring many of the world’s finest performers in classical music, among them Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, James Galway, Itzhak Perlman and Leontyne Price.
Showcase and children’s events added cultural and local flavor to the festival for out-of-town guests. Those events continue today.
Solisti served as the orchestra in residence through 2005, until Wilson resigned as artistic director. Because he owned the rights to the Solisti New York name, the musicians continued on at OK Mozart under a new name, Amici New York. By 2016, however, the festival turned a new direction and put the “OK” back into OK Mozart by utilizing the state’s own prominent orchestras.
The Bartlesville event held each June was named for the Austrian classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. During the years, programs expanded to include everything from classical and contemporary music to bluegrass, gospel and popular music. As the festival continued to evolve and bring on more variety in music genres, the time was ripe for a name change. In 2017, the OK Mozart Music Festival became known as OKM Music, still retaining its early heritage with OKM, but going a step further to include all music.