On Monday night, the lights will go down, the music will come up and the hearts of seven OMRF scientists will skip a beat.
On April 26 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art’s Noble Theater, a string quartet from the Oklahoma City Philharmonic will perform seven original classical works composed by OMRF scientists. The catch? Until10 days ago, none of the researchers had any experience with stringed instruments.
“Composing this music has been an eye-opening experience,” said Courtney Griffin, Ph.D, a cardiovascular biologist at OMRF and one of the seven composers. “Now all we can do is listen and hope our work is as good as it sounded in our heads.”
The performance will be the culmination of the OMRF Creativity Project, which has been led by composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate. The project was the brainchild of OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., who got the idea after listening to Tate describe his experiences teaching music composition “boot camps” for Indian American children and teens.
“I wondered what would happen when you took innovative scientific minds and asked them to apply that creativity in a completely different realm,” said Prescott.
Prescott recruited seven OMRF scientists with varying degrees of musical training to participate in the 10 day-long “experiment.” Tate taught them music theory, terminology and writing at an intensive two-day retreat, then worked with the scientists for a week in one-on-one tutorials.
“It has been fascinating for me to watch these incredibly intelligent people embrace this challenge,” said Tate. “They attack this project with the same intensity and creative thinking they use to try to understand cancer and heart disease.”
As head of OMRF’s Free Radical Biology and Aging Research Program, Luke Szweda, Ph.D., spends most of his days studying how highly reactive oxygen molecules affect heart function, particularly in aging. For the Creativity Project, he has composed a musical rendition of a story about his seven-year-old daughter and him.
“This whole process has been exhilarating and frightening, but the real impact is that it gives you a deeper appreciation for the creative spirit that goes into the music we listen to,” said Szweda. “It makes me wish I’d taken my piano lessons more seriously when I was a kid.”
The OMRF Creativity Project is an initiative of Creative Oklahoma, which will host the World Creativity Forum in Oklahoma City in November. The OMRF Creativity Project is funded by a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation.
“We’re excited to see—and hear—the results of this experiment in creativity,” said Kirkpatrick Foundation Executive Director Susan McCalmont. “ When innovative minds face fresh challenges, the results are bound to be exciting.”
Prescott hopes the scientists find the experience enjoyable and enriching. But he also has another aim.
“Taking on a novel challenge can provide fresh perspective and renewed energy. So when our scientists return to their labs, I hope this may spur them to find new ways to think about solving the mysteries of human disease.”
The OMRF Creativity Project concert will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 26 at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, 415 Couch Drive. Tickets are free and may be obtained by calling (405) 271-7400 or emailing Allison-Coleman@omrf.org.