Dr. Stephen Cook
Founder, Artistic Director
photo by Steve Weiss
Pianist, Dr. Stephen Cook has dedicated his life to building culture through musical performance, education, and nonprofit leadership.
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.
He has participated in masterclasses with legendary pianists Vladimir Feltsman, Alexander Slobodyanik, Philip Kawin, and Alexander Toradze and is prize-winner of numerous competitions including the Jacob Flier International Piano Competition, Klatzkin Contemporary Music Competition, Beverly Hills National Auditions, North Shore Musicians Club Competition, DePaul University's Concerto Competition, National Society of Arts and Letters Piano Competition, Arizona State University Concerto Competition, & Yamaha/Sherman Clay Young Artists Piano Competition.
A visionary pianist, Dr. Cook expands the traditional piano recital format with distinctive elements of artistic fusion. His innovative performance projects harmoniously merge music with visual arts, poetry, film, and even cuisine. He is also a founding member of the Oracle Piano Quartet and an annual guest artist of the Bermuda Piano Festival.
As an educator, Dr. Cook fosters appreciation for artistic tradition through the use of modern technology. He leads a large private piano studio and is founder and director of the Oracle Chamber Music Festival and the Oracle Online Conservatory.
Dr. Cook believes in the philanthropic power of music and created the Oracle Online Conservatory to provide barrier-free musical instruction for students in need.
Passionate about community outreach and cultural development, Dr. Cook founded Oracle Piano Society in 2012. As the organization’s Artistic Director, he has brought together an impressive Artist Advisory Committee, empowered a passionate Board of Directors, and inspired an outpouring of local support. Now in its tenth year of operation, the Society has established a permanent venue called the Oracle Center for the Arts and is developing a new outdoor amphitheatre as part of its campus development plan. With its annual concert series, community chorale, chamber music festival, and online conservatory, Oracle Piano Society intends to become the next great American Music Festival in the tradition of Aspen, Ravinia, and Tanglewood.
Diane Gehret Clark, Co-Chairperson
When thinking of my childhood music education, I’m remembering grade school classrooms, each one had a piano, and all of the teachers could play. Though I yearned for a piano of my own, I did not grow up in a musical family. My music education was limited to church music, the 45-record player we had at home, and my high school band experience (I was a majorette).
Music was ‘play’ for me… childhood friends and I would hold talent contests in the backyard, perform plays we created out of thin air, and sing karaoke in front of the big living room mirror at my friend’s house, pretending we were the Supremes.
Opportunities for extensive world travel changed everything for me deepening my appreciation of all things artful and musical. Everywhere I traveled, I was exposed to the music and art of different cultures from the cathedrals and museums of Europe and Asia to the haunting calls to prayer in the Middle East. I would buy original art and attend musical events at every opportunity reminding me that even though these cultures are different from mine, we all share a common bond--an appreciation for the music that moves us and the art that enchants us; realizing in this way, we are all one.
My professional background: I studied art history, graphic design, and English in college, graduating with a BA in Communication; an easily transferrable skill set to Marketing Communication, Art Direction, and writing and editing in the corporate/technology environment of Silicon Valley. Retired now, I’m grateful to be serving on the board of directors using my experience in marketing and digital arts to support my community through the music and art offerings of the Oracle Piano Society.
Rachel Opinsky, Co-Chairperson
Rachel Opinsky, an Arizona native moved to Oracle with her husband Michael in 2005 after retiring from the teaching profession in Tempe.
Holding a Masters of Elementary Education degree and undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Education, she taught both preschool and elementary education. She also mentored and taught College of Education undergraduate students.
Rachel is an active member of two auxiliary boards with the Oracle Fire Department. She is a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) member and Co-chairs the Oracle Firewise Board. She is also a member of the Pinal County Triad Group on Senior Citizens and the Disabled.
A former and founding Oracle Piano Society board member, Rachel has played an integral role in the organization since its inception.
Rachel enjoys outdoor activities such as gardening, river rafting, camping and hiking and is a watercolorist.
Lorena Candelaria is an Arizona native. She is a 1993 graduate from the University of Arizona holding a Bachelor's degree in Music Education.
Lorena has directed many instrumental performing groups throughout her 29 year teaching career. Twenty five of those years were spent teaching in Nogales, Arizona. She served on multiple boards of organizations that worked specifically to the benefit of music education. Under privileged students were her main passion and working to have an instrument in the hands of every student regardless of social or economic status.
She taught the elementary honor band consisting of 4th and 5th graders. They attended middle school music festivals and competitions even though they were the youngest in attendance. Their very first middle school festival they received the rating of "Superior With Distinction" , with all judges giving them the highest ratings. Years after they received multiple Superior and Excellent ratings.
Lorena left teaching elementary students and started her middle school adventure in 2008. Desert Shadows Middle School in Nogales became her home. She taught Symphonic Band, Jazz Band, Mariachi, Concert Band, and Marching Band there. Each of these groups participated in festivals earning top ratings.
It was a rarity to march middle school students but she marched a minimum of 150 students in every parade. Under her direction the marching band won 1st place three separate times in the Green Valley White Elephant parade beating out high school bands. They also received second place one year. They were a sight to see in the 3 annual hometown parades as well sometimes marching up to 180 kids.
The mariachi program at DSMS attended the Tucson International Mariachi Conference every year getting the opportunity to learn, practice, and perform with world famous mariachi performers. Mariachi Desierto was the name of their performing group and they were highlighted in the Conference famous Showcase.
Both the jazz band and mariachi group performed for various functions in the community in addition to competitions. The location of the town being on the US Mexico border allowed for special opportunities and collaborations. Lorena's groups performed in multiple International concerts that were organized by the Mexican Consulate. The students performed for an audience from another country as well as watched groups from another country performing.
Lorena is now retired due to health issues and resides in Oracle. She is happy to be serving on the board of the Oracle Piano Society.
Jenine Mayer has been drawing, collaging and painting in Oracle, Arizona for the last nine years. Recently she has focused on acrylic paint on canvas to capture some of the Arizona mountains she has hiked. She has abstracted each into simple shape and solid color that take a viewer on a trek into the desert landscape.
Jenine was a middle school teacher in Alaska before retiring and received much of her art education from The Drawing Studio and local artist Pat Dolan.
Sarah Meade Hardin, Director
photo by Steve Weiss
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
Joe Bidwell, Director
In the fourth grade our itinerant music teacher had us singing folksongs, but the boys wouldn’t sing because it wasn’t cool.
With permission, I brought in a tape recorder with the current Top Ten songs and everyone sang along.
With a background in both music and electronics, I operated Autograph Recording Studios in Tucson during the 70’s and 80’s.
I play in the Irish band “The Cattle Street Gathering” and we were honored to play a St. Patrick’s Day concert at OrCA in 2019.
Voices in the Oaks has provided great opportunities and I’ve been singing with them since 2016.
Thank you Mary Huebner for founding the group!
Dr. Coralee Thompson,
photo by Steve Weiss
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.