Future Of OK Mozart Festival In Jeopardy

Friday, June 17th 2011, 9:17 pm
By: News On 6

Emily Baucum, News On 6

BARTLESVILLE, Oklahoma -- It was once the hottest ticket in town, but the OK Mozart festival is facing the music.

The Bartlesville concert series is celebrating its 27th year, but the celebration of classical music is showing its age.

The nine-day festival features world-renowned musicians.

"We have a resident orchestra that's Amici New York orchestra," Shane Jewell said.

Over the years, orchestras have played to sold-out houses. And a more modern swing was added to the lineup as Grammy award-winning musicians took the stage.

"At the height of it we would have over 20,000, 25,000 people attend every year," Jewell said.

But the audience is aging and musical tastes have shifted away from the classics. This year, organizers expect just 12,000 people to buy tickets.

"We're one of the few festivals in the country that's in a town of 35,000. And when you're in a town of 35,000, you rely heavily on regional sales," he said.

Executive Director Shane Jewell says he's noticed fewer people from out-of-state attending the concerts this week.

"We are connected directly to gas prices. So when gas prices go up, travel goes down and so do our ticket sales," he said.

He also blames a culture that's paying less attention to preserving the arts.

"In April, four symphonies in the country had to close their doors. And then, as you probably know, recently the governor of Kansas completely wiped out the arts from the state budget," he said.

With the festival's future in jeopardy, organizers aren't ready to silence the stage.

"I can say right now that we will come up with a way to survive. We just have to do things differently than we've done them before," Jewell said.

That may mean a shorter festival, or more pop-oriented acts. Whatever it takes to find the right tune.

The OK Mozart festival also expanded to Oklahoma City this year. Organizers hope the new venues -- combined with more corporate sponsorships -- will keep the budget afloat next year.