This summer, Jakki Dameron pursued her passion and, in the process, defined her future.
Dameron, a resident of Tishomingo, Okla., is one of thousands of Oklahoma students who hone their artistic passions at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute (OSAI), a two-week residential arts academy held at Quartz Mountain State Park in southwest Oklahoma. Dameron, a 2013 high school graduate who attended OSAI in 2012 and 2013, was a choral music student who participated to learn more about her art, but came away with a firm idea of what she wanted to do as an adult. "OSAI definitely helped me find out what to do with my life," Dameron said. "I want to be a choir director."
Dameron said she had thought about making music her career, but she wasn't sure about it until she attended OSAI. The institute's goal is to offer gifted and motivated high school students the opportunity to study with artists in the fields of acting, ballet, modern dance, orchestra, drawing and painting, poetry, photography, film/video, and choral music - Dameron's choice.
Lucky Coffey, a senior from Tulsa's Edison High School, practices landscape photography at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute.
"I learned so much about it," she said of her craft, adding that OSAI is successful because its students are completely immersed in their art medium for the entire two weeks. "All you do is practice, practice, practice all day."
The intense opportunity and professional interaction are among the reasons that The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has supported OSAI since 1978, the year that the institute first made its home at the Quartz Mountain Resort Arts and Conference Center. Since its first grant of $15,000 in 1978, the Noble Foundation has provided OSAI with 14 grants totaling $712,500, including a $7,500 grant awarded this year.
While OSAI does receive some funding from the state of Oklahoma, the bulk of its financial support comes from individuals and entities such as the Noble Foundation.
Scott Parkman from Boston conducts the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute Orchestra.
Ballet students dance on the Quartz Mountain stage.
Julie Cohen, president and CEO of Oklahoma Arts Institute, said such support is crucial to OSAI's success and its arts programs. "Without it, we couldn't have OSAI at all," Cohen said. "We rely heavily on it. It's clear from our students and the impact on their lives that these funds are changing life directions."
Cohen said financial support from private donors allows the arts institute to handle normal operating costs and provide scholarships to students who attend. While the Noble Foundation has provided operating support in recent years, it established an endowed fund in 1986 to support OSAI's orchestra program.
Will Hedgecock and Caitlin Rose Morrison-Dyke act in the final Summer Arts Institute performance.
Cohen said that support has been instrumental in ensuring "that Oklahoma's most talented young musicians are able to come to Quartz Mountain each summer to play together in the institute orchestra."
Mary Kate Wilson, director of philanthropy, engagement and project management for the Noble Foundation, said that's exactly what the board of trustees had in mind when it began its long association with OSAI. "Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute offers a powerful program for promising artists across the state," Wilson said. "Not only does it give them a phenomenal experience, but oftentimes the students find possible outcomes that last a lifetime."
That's true. Just ask one of Oklahoma's future choral directors - Jakki Dameron.
Parents and students review a gallery of photos taken during the summer.