Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute seeking talented high schoolers

Every winter, nearly one thousand high school students from all corners of the state crowd into auditoriums and line school hallways, dragging oversized instrument cases, rehearsing lines from Shakespeare monologues, clutching unwieldy artist portfolios, scribbling free flow thoughts into journals, warming up their knees and feet with small prances, humming do-re-mis and nervously clasping tiny thumb drives that represent a year’s worth of photography or video work.

This year’s audition process will look a little different for those vying for one of the 270 scholarships offered to attend the annual Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain (OSAI), a two-week residency program widely known as Oklahoma’s premier arts experience for high school students. Auditions for the 2021 Institute are currently underway and are being conducted entirely online due to the continued rise in coronavirus cases. The program will still be held in person, but one month later than normal, July 10-25.

To be considered, students must complete a brief online application and submit audition materials demonstrating their artistic ability. The submission requirements vary from discipline to discipline. Performing artists and filmmakers will submit a video file. Writers and visual artists will submit a digital portfolio of their work. The application portal is currently open at apply.oaiquartz.org, and all auditions must be submitted by early March.

As the state’s Official School of the Arts, OSAI provides an experience far beyond that of an ordinary arts camp. Renowned teaching artists from across the country travel to Quartz Mountain, where they provide advanced, college-level training and mentorship to the young artists in one of eight artistic disciplines: acting, chorus, creative writing, dance, drawing & painting, film & video, orchestra or photography. Its multidisciplinary structure sets the Institute apart, allowing students both intensive study in their chosen discipline and new exposure to unfamiliar art forms.

The OSAI environment is highly collaborative; students often create work with young artists in other disciplines and find inspiration in the Quartz Mountain landscape and surrounding communities. The creative writing students hone their poetry in the Quartz Mountain lodge or on the hiking trails. Photography students might be found documenting an avant-garde dance performance on the mountainside or creating portraits of local residents. Drawing & painting students take part in plein air classes by Lake Altus-Lugert. The acting students make their screen debut in student films, and the music students often perform in local town squares and community centers.

Although the cost of an intensive arts residency program of this magnitude is steep, every student accepted to the Institute receives a full scholarship to attend. The State Department of Education, Oklahoma Arts Council and numerous private foundations underwrite the program costs to ensure that the experience is in reach of any talented student, regardless of their financial means.

Though the program brings together students of all backgrounds from many parts of Oklahoma, they all have one thing in common: a passion for their chosen art form. For many students, like Chandler resident Tate Radcliffe (Chorus ‘19, ‘20), it’s the first time they’ve encountered so many kindred spirits.

“Everyone [at OSAI] understood whatever high-end music theory concept I mentioned, and the chorus was easily the most densely talented and knowledgeable group of musicians I had ever sung with,” says Radcliffe. “Quartz showed me an entirely different demographic of people that I had never been in contact with: people like me. I felt at home there.”

Partial audition information for each discipline is listed below. Detailed application instructions are listed on the Oklahoma Arts Institute website. Applicants are also encouraged to follow OAI’s social media accounts (@oaiquartz) for tips and updates.

First, students must submit a general online application and then submit their discipline-specific audition materials by the deadline listed at oaiquartz.org/OSAI.

ACTING: Applicants must upload a video of themselves performing two contrasting monologues from published plays by March 15 at 11:59 pm CST. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/acting.

CHORUS: Applicants must upload a video of themselves singing two pieces listed on the OAI website by March 15 at 11:59 pm CST. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/chorus.

CREATIVE WRITING: Applicants must submit creative writing samples online per the guidelines by March 15 at 11:59 pm CST. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/creative-writing.

DANCE: Applicants must submit a video of themselves performing eight required combinations and two prompted solos as demonstrated on the OAI website by March 15 at 11:59 pm CST. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/dance.

DRAWING & PAINTING: Applicants must submit three portfolio pieces and one original still-life drawing per the guidelines by March 15 at 11:59 pm CST. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/drawing-painting.

FILM & VIDEO: Applicants must submit an original film (maximum five minutes) and participate in a Zoom interview. Students must sign up for a Zoom interview on an available date, February 6 through March 9, and submit their film 24 hours before their interview. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/film-video.

ORCHESTRA: Applicants must submit a single, unedited video recording per the instrument-specific instructions by March 15 at 11:59 pm CST. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/orchestra.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Applicants must submit six to eight original images and take part in a Zoom interview. Students must sign up for a Zoom interview on an available date, February 6 through March 9, and submit their film 24 hours before their interview. See the full guidelines at oaiquartz.org/disciplines/photography.

The Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain (OAI) is Oklahoma’s Official School of the Arts. A private, nonprofit organization, OAI has partnered with the State of Oklahoma for over 40 years to provide exceptional multidisciplinary arts education experiences that develop individual talent and inspire a lifelong passion for the arts. In addition to the Summer Arts Institute—the state’s flagship program for talented high school artists—OAI administers a series of continuing education workshops for educators and other adult artists during the annual Oklahoma Fall Arts Institute. For more information, visit oaiquartz.org.

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