There are 88 keys on a typical piano. There are also 88 counties in the state of Ohio. This coincidence led to the creation of Opus 88, a program from The Ohio State University’s School of Music that seeks to bring the university’s musical talent to the entire Buckeye State.
“It all started with a contemplation of our land-grant mission and the possibility of actively engaging with communities across the state,” said school director Michael Ibrahim. In addition to the number of piano keys matching the number of Ohio counties, the word “opus” begins with the letter “O.”
“This term typically refers to a large-scale work or collection of many pieces,” Ibrahim said. “It seemed like a perfect fit for our initiative.”
Opus 88 allows people in every county to experience the school’s offerings in some form. Beginning in October of last year, county visits have included informational sessions for students interested in learning more about Ohio State’s music school as well as concerts with Ohio State students and faculty.
Performances have involved the university’s chorale groups and glee clubs as well as instrumental ensembles like the undergraduate saxophone quartet. Clinics at area schools with professors have also been offered.
“It’s the right thing to do, to serve our state in this way,” said Tanya Sparks, recruitment and admissions coordinator for the School of Music. “We are the School of Music and we are Ohio State. We are for everyone. Students and communities in all corners of our state deserve to have musical experiences.”
Ibrahim echoed this sentiment.
“Let me emphasize that music is simply what we happen to do,” he said. “Whether we were dancers, poets, engineers, healthcare professionals or from any college or department, the benefits of connecting with the wider Ohio community will always be present.”
At the end of February, a group of students from the percussion studio traveled to Gallia County to perform at South Gallia Middle-High School. In between pieces, the musicians spoke to the audience of middle school students about topics like productivity, reading and art. The event concluded with a Q&A.
Ben Kerger, a third-year music major, participated in the Gallia trip and was surprised by his favorite part of the experience.
“Though I’m tempted to say as a performer that I enjoyed performing the most, I have to admit that I actually enjoyed the questions more,” he said. “Each class had a different personality and different questions to ask. Getting to answer them and interact with the students in that way was the most rewarding and fulfilling part of the experience for me.”
In addition to serving the larger Ohio community, these visits benefit Ohio State students, Ibrahim said.
“These visits present a wonderful opportunity to place students in a leadership setting, to bring out the best of our students.”
Since many Ohio State students are Ohio residents, some have had the chance to return to and play at their old schools, Sparks said.
“It’s a highlight for them, to go back and be the student performing,” she said. “To be able to play for their former band director in say, a really great saxophone quartet, that sort of thing is lovely.”
Sharing their gifts with these communities has been meaningful, Kerger agreed.
“I believe that there is music in each one of us, and everyone should have the chance to take that sound and show it to the world,” he said. “By going to Gallia County and performing, I got to share mine, and it was an experience I won't soon forget.”
To request an Opus 88 visit, please go to the program website: https://music.osu.edu/outreach/opus-88/request-visit