Dr. Stephen Cook
Founder, Artistic Director
Through his solo recitals and performances, pianist and Arizona native Dr. Stephen Cook has performed nationwide as well as abroad to popular and critical acclaim.
He has wowed the toughest of music critics such as Harold Shonberg from the New York Times who told Cook "Don't try to impress me, I'm not easily impressed" But after the performance of the E-flat minor Scherzo of Brahms, Shonberg simply stated, "I'm impressed" and went on to hail Cook's interpretation of this rarely performed work as the only one that had ever convinced him.
Cook has performed in major cities including New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. In addition, he has concertized in Italy and Japan. His performances have been televised on such programs as WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" and on South Bend Indiana Public Television's Documentary "Kicking the Notes the Toradze Way." He has also been heard on KBAQ Classical Radio, Phoenix, and WFMT Radio, Chicago.
Dr. Cook is known for expanding the possibilities of the traditional piano recital and blurring the boundaries between the expressive arts. His innovative presentations pair music with visual art, poetry, film, cuisine, and even wine. Some of his performance projects include Picturing Rachmaninoff, a book/recording, multimedia performance, and one-man-show based on Sergei Rachmaninoff's Etudes-Tableaux, Op. 39; Ravel Phantasmagoria, a presentation of Maurice Ravel's piano music in conjunction with silent film clips and poetry readings; Ravel Soirée, a wine tasting concert featuring poetry readings and the music of Maurice Ravel; Brahmsphantasie, a chamber music concert featuring the music of Johannes Brahms and the artwork of Max Klinger, and the Celestial Concert, a performance of celestial music presented in conjunction with astrophotography of Adam Block.
He has received many awards recognizing his accomplishments with scholarships and top prizes in national and international competitions including 1st Prize at the Klatzkin Contemporary Music Competition, Phoenix; 1st Prize at the Beverly Hills National Auditions, 1st Prize North Shore Musicians Club Competition, Chicago; 1st Prize at DePaul University's Concerto Competition; 1st Prize at the National Society of Arts and Letters Piano Competition Southwest Region; 1st Prize Arizona State University Concerto Competition; and 1st Prize at the Yamaha/Sherman Clay Young Artists Piano Competition, Phoenix. He is also a prize winner at the Jacob Flier International Piano Competition in New Paltz, New York, semi-finalist in the Tbilisi International Piano Competition, and prize winner at the National Society of Arts and Letters National Piano Competition.
Cook has studied in masterclasses with Vladimir Feltsman, Alexander Toradze, Alexander Slobodyanik, Paul Ostrovsky, and Philip Kawin.
A student of luminary pianists Ursula Oppens, Robert Hamilton, and Eteri Andjaparidze, Cook trained at DePaul University, Northwestern University, and Arizona State University where he earned his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree.
Passionate about community outreach and cultural development, Cook has brought together an impressive Artist Advisory Committee, empowered a passionate Board of Directors, and inspired an outpouring of local support to found the Oracle Piano Society in 2012. As the Society's Artistic Director, Cook has established an annual concert series, an annual chamber music festival, the Oracle Piano Quartet, a festival of new music, and a performing arts venue called Oracle Center for the Arts.
Dr. Coralee Thompson,
Music has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. Those early memories include sitting next to my sister while she played our evening worship hymns, trying to hold pennies atop my hands during my first piano lessons, singing special music for church, and secretly wanting to sing pop or Broadway. During high school, I sang in 4 groups, played flute in the band, and organized various events related to musical performances. As a young mother, I took my two sons through the Suzuki violin method. For the past 10 years, I’ve played my friend’s original music who nudged me through the process of making an album. I first learned about the OPS when a local friend told me about Voices in the Oaks. Mary Huebner accepted my request to join the chorus very late in the season. It was a thrill to be a part of this magical little chorus. I then attended Steven Cook’s roaring 20s concert. I couldn’t believe that our small town could have such a gold mine of musical artistry. My professional training is in medicine, but my avocations include singing, playing piano and flute, gardening, cooking, exercising, and just helping out. I have learned that my language of love is service. I’m honored to serve on this visionary board.
Our family discovered Oracle when we were looking for a new place to live. When we visited, we were welcomed by everyone we met and learned of the vibrant and diverse artistic community. Now that I live in Oracle year-round, I am looking forward to being a part of the musical community.
I remember my father playing piano by ear in the wee hours and my mother listening to the Met’s Saturday broadcasts throughout my childhood. As a child and young adult, I sang in choirs and worked behind the scenes in community theater.
Professionally, I put my energies into chip verification and firmware for 13 years, then diverged into publishing, homeschooling, import, non-profit, and hypnotherapy. My current hobbies include growing spicy peppers, supporting Challenged Athletes Foundation, and now, supporting the Oracle Piano Society.
Martha de Forest, BS Electrical Engineering, BS Computer Science
Sarah Meade Hardin, Director
My early musical sensitivities we are based on nursery rhymes and songs, camp songs, and classical music. I took piano lessons as a child and sang folk songs and played guitar in high school. Because I had music-playing older siblings, I went to concerts (orchestral) from a very young age. Still do.
While working full time as a Registered Nurse, I sang in church groups and did a lot of musical theater. However, I raised a child who played violin and Scottish fiddle back in the 80s, and when I turned 60, 10 years ago, I decided to start playing fiddle, specifically to play the Scottish fiddle tunes that I loved.
I love live music, and my desire to share this has led to my support of the Oracle piano society and OrCA.
Sarah Hardin BA (anthropology), BSN
John Blair, Director
I discovered Oracle while on a bike ride years ago. There was no question where I wanted to live. My family and I were able to find our place in this mountain setting and have really come to enjoy our unique community. I served in the US Army for 21 years. Service has always been a part of me. After meeting Dr. Cook, I was extremely impressed with his story. I was taken aback by his vision for enriching lives. We are fortunate to have someone of his caliber. From the board members, to many across this community, we have a tremendous amount of talent and human potential to enhance the uniqueness of our mountain village. My youngest is an aspiring musician. Like my mother before her, she has a passion and drive for music performance that is remarkable. It was through my daughter that I met Dr. Cook after the OPS offered a special opportunity for her and her school orchestra to perform in Oracle. I saw this as an experience for myself to serve. Excellence in this endeavor takes involvement from each of us, and I saw myself in it. Although I have no training in any of the arts, I have an appreciation for the skill. It takes hard work and passion for artists to display their work for the enjoyment of others. My desire is to make a positive impact with the OPS while involving and exposing as many of our talented citizens (artist or not) in what Dr. Cook is striving to accomplish.
Jean Wilcox, Director
Growing up without a television, I learned to appreciate recorded music and radio. My childhood years were spent listening to LPs my parents bought at the Army PX, almost all classical recordings with a few modern selections. We invented games to recordings such as An American in Paris, Peer Gynt Suite, and Ride of the Valkyries. When I first saw a live performance in Washington D.C. at age 11, I was captivated by the blend of sounds as well as the performers who appeared to be one with their instruments. Many years later, my love of music led me to serve on the board of the Flagstaff Symphony Association, and as president for its 50th year anniversary in 1999. I was also a founding member of the Greater Beloit Community Foundation, a member of the Granite Dells Preservation Foundation as well as the Central Arizona Land Trust in Prescott AZ. I hope to bring my knowledge of nonprofit organizations and my experience as a public attorney to help the Oracle Piano Society remain one of Oracle’s greatest assets. The OPS was one of several reasons my husband (Jeffrey Zucker) and I decided to move to Oracle in 2018 from Prescott.