Raising the Next Generation of Music Artists for 12 Years

Music enriches any education and provides students with a unique perspective and valuable skills. Locally, the Norman Music Institute has been raising the next generation of music artists for 12 years. I spoke with Dean Brown, NMI co-owner and director of music education, about the institute’s history, unique teaching methods and brand-new state-of-the-art facility.

Dean studied music, and later taught and served in administration, at Hollywood’s prestigious Musician’s Institute. Upon returning to Norman, he taught privately before opening NMI. For several years, he has been a member of the house band, playing for artists appearing at the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, Sooner Theatre musicals, Pollard Theatre in Edmond and OKC’s Lyric Theatre.

He also has performed with the OKC Community Orchestra, as well as out-of-state performances and at the Ottawa Folk Festival in Canada. These extensive and varied opportunities have given Dean a wealth of information to share with the students of NMI, as well as knowledge from some of the most influential musicians in the business today.

“The most important attribute to studying music at NMI,” Dean asserts, “is the development of the absolute joy in playing music.”

NMI, established in 2007 with 50 students, currently has an enrollment of over 400. Leading the way with the best and most qualified music teachers, NMI is mindful of the positive impact they have on the lives of their students and the community. With dozens of qualified teachers, many teaching out of their homes and out of such entities as Gilliam Music and McMichael Music, NMI fulfills its mission to be “the most effective and respected music educational provider for the communities we serve in a nurturing atmosphere that builds credibility through relationships that distinguishes us from the competition.”

NMI is also unique in providing monthly live music experiences for their students. They actively seek out opportunities for their students to play outside their facility, from OKC Thunder games to the Norman Music Festival, and everywhere in-between.

The institute sponsors numerous events throughout the year in support of worthy causes, such as epilepsy awareness, to benefit concerts organized by students and teachers to raise funds and awareness for Food and Shelter. NMI also hosts jazz bands from both Norman high schools, Jazz in June festival artists and several high-profile artists in educational clinics.

“With the application of social media and the pervasiveness of technology in our world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to convince students and their parents about the benefits of studying music and its role in the development of young people’s cognitive abilities,” Dean says. Studying music alongside peers also creates a stronger since of community among the students, he adds.

NMI recently incorporated a “Four House System” into their educational format. Inspired by the Harry Potter series, the new students are sorted into one of four houses. Students earn points for their “house” by completing assignments, participating in performances and doing educational activities, including cooperative, team and individual events. These activities are intended to build students’ musical knowledge and can lead to a special recognition party for the winning “house.”