People & Places: TU Presidential Lecture Series features conductor Michael Tilson Thomas
BY DANNA SUE WALKER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
1/16/13 at 2:58 AM
A California-Tulsa connection pairs perfectly the namesake of the Darcy O'Brien Endowed Chair at the University of Tulsa and internationally known composer and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who spoke in November as part of the O'Brien Chair-sponsored TU Presidential Lecture Series.
The grandparents of Thomas and O'Brien, the late author and TU professor, knew each other well. O'Brien's grandfather, E.T. Churchill, owned several Vaudeville theaters, and Thomas' grandparents were founders and stars of the Yiddish Theatre in New York City.
O'Brien grew up in Hollywood, the son of silent film star George O'Brien and actress Marguerite Churchill, who starred opposite John Wayne, Spencer Tracy and Will Rogers, among other notable actors.
Thomas' father was close friends with Theodore Viehman, the director of the Tulsa Little Theatre, and Thomas said that he was delighted to be speaking in Tulsa, a city he had never before visited.
Thomas has been music director of the San Francisco Symphony for the past 15 years. He is founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony and principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to being a renowned symphonic conductor, Thomas said he enjoys many genres of music. He has shared the stage with R&B legends James Brown and Ray Charles, and jazz great Sarah Vaughan.
Before the lecture at TU's Lorton Performance Center, Thomas was guest of honor at a reception in Collins Hall. In visiting with O'Brien's widow, Suzanne O'Brien, Thomas learned that he also knows Darcy O'Brien's sister, Orin, a double bassist and member of the New York Philharmonic.
Others at the reception were TU Trustees chairman Duane Wilson and his wife, Helen, and other trustees including Steve Turnbo; Jim McGill and his guest, Edith Blair; Sharon Bell and her husband, Greg Gray; Ellen Adelson and her husband, Steve; and Kathie Coyle and her husband, John.
Other guests included Cookie and George Kaiser, who visited with Thomas about their shared love of poodles and noted that in the small world department they often run into Thomas at a dog park near where they live in San Francisco.
Also, Linda and Marc Frazier; Vaughndean and Munson Fuller; Eric Gibson, artistic director of Light Opera Oklahoma; Barry Epperley, director of the Performing Arts Institute at Tulsa Community College and the Tulsa Signature Symphony, and his wife, Jane; Cindy and Lawrence Field; Carol and David Adelson; Caroline Abbott; Rita Levit; George Schnetzer and Mary Lhevine; Patsy Lyons; John Powell; Peggy and Ron Predl; Cathy and Kostis Protopapas, artistic director of Tulsa Opera; Joan and Harry Seay; Vicki and Tom Warburton; Ann Watson; Kathleen Williams; Josie Winter; and Maxine Zarrow.
TU representatives attending included provost Roger Blais and his wife, Mary; Janet Levit, Dean and Dean John Rogers endowed chair; Gale Sullenberger, dean of the Collins College of Business and his wife, Laura; Duane King, vice president for museum affairs and executive director of the Gilcrease Museum; Kayla Acebo, vice president for public relations; Diane Bucchianeri, applied assistant professor of cello; Roger Price, professor of music, and his wife, Jan; Teresa Reed, associate professor of music, and her husband, James; and Joseph Rivers, professor of music and film studies, and his wife, Adriana.
The morning after his lecture, Thomas spent 90 minutes meeting with students in TU's music department. TU students get face time with every speaker who participates in the Presidential Lecture Series.
Original Print Headline: Lecturer and TU chair's namesake share connection
The University of Tulsa Presidential Lecture Series will continue with Pulitzer Prize winning biographer Robert Caro
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12
Where: Allen Chapman Activity Center, University of Tulsa
Cost: Lectures are free and open to the public; no tickets are required.
Suzanne O'Brien (left), composer and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and Helen and Duane Wilson, chairman of the board of TU Trustees, gather following Thomas' appearance as part of the TU Presidential Lecture Series. Courtesy