Continuing musical mission: Former state teacher of the year Peter Markes to open Festival of the Arts
Peter Markes punctuated the sentence that changed his life with a smiley face.
The Oklahoma City musician was exchanging emails with his lifelong friend and bandmate Kyle Dillingham about a possible regional showcase for their acclaimed Americana outfit Kyle Dillingham & Horseshoe Road, with Markes struggling to fit the promising prospect into his busy schedule as Edmond North High School Orchestra director.
“In the last line, I said, ‘Sounds like I need to resign.’ Smiley face. Like you’ll do in an email. And he responded with a … very eloquent, bulleted list of ‘here’s what’s possible.’ And there were things that I hadn’t thought about or was not aware of as a band about the opportunities we had,” Markes recalled.
Two years into his career as a full-time musician, Markes has released his debut solo album, “I Have a Dream,” toured with Horseshoe Road in China, Kuwait and Kosovo and added a loop-pedal violin to his one-man-band repertoire along with his guitar-and-voice performances.
The 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year will give a solo performance at 11 a.m. Tuesday when he helps OKC Mayor David Holt, local Boy Scouts Troop 4 and Academia open the 53rd Annual Festival of the Arts in Bicentennial Park. He and his Horseshoe Road cohorts also will perform at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday on the festival’s Main Stage, and Markes will return on Sunday to play solo from 2 to 4 p.m. on closing day of the six-day event.
“So, I’m bookending the festival,” he said. “As a solo artist, this will be my second year to play, and it’s actually my second year as a solo artist. So, sort of fitting.”
Known as Oklahoma City's “rite of spring,” the 2019 Festival of the Arts will feature an array of visual, performing and culinary arts — and people eager to partake in them.
“Peter’s an absolutely delightful person, and his playing is spot-on,” said Peter Dolese, executive director of Arts Council Oklahoma City, the nonprofit organization that produces the festival. “And he’s got a new album out, which is awesome.”
Moving to music
Within a matter of days, Dillingham said he was stunned when Markes had discussed retiring with his wife, Kris, and was ready to make that leap of faith.
“I thought Peter was in the classroom for life. … Peter is this incredible teacher and to rise and have the kind of achievements that he made and at such a young age, it’s just unheard of,” he said.
“Then it began dawning on me that it’s not just that Peter’s a good teacher: Peter is good at whatever he sets himself to.”
Along with learning new musical techniques, penning new songs and playing new places, Markes, 39, said he is enjoying more time with his wife and their two sons — Patrick, 10, and Vincent, 7 — since leaving public education. He still has the opportunity to teach private music students as well as help school orchestras prepare for concerts and contests.
“I definitely could have taught the rest of my life. That’s not to say I won’t go back to the classroom. I enjoyed it very much. But it was a very physically and mentally demanding job — and I had no idea that it was,” he said.
“I just want to see what’s possible. … And my mission (has) remained the same: It is to change lives through music.”
53rd Annual Festival of the Arts
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Bicentennial Park, Colcord and Couch drives, and City Hall lawn.
Admission: Free. Pets are not allowed.
Angels & Friends fundraising party: 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Civic Center Atrium, 201 N Walker. Tickets range from $65 to $2,500.
Information: 270-4848 or www.artscouncilokc.com.