Last Friday, at the Cox Convention Center, Mayor Mick Cornett hosted Oklahoma City’s 2016 Mayor’s Development Roundtable. The gathering serves as a forum for the administration to showcase some of the newest developments in a city that seems to be steadily checking off items from our “wouldn’t it be great if” list. It also serves as a way for those in the audience to get a hint of what items might be getting added to that list or moving higher in priority. I moved to Oklahoma City in January of 2006, shortly after the Hornets (and from the same city). Since I have been attending the Roundtables, there have always been plenty of positive accomplishments to talk about and lofty wish list items to either announce as a goal or check off the list as yet another asset for our city to enjoy.
That ability to announce a jointly won and jointly enjoyed victory is what attracted me to Oklahoma City in the first place. This city, at least over the last couple decades, knows how to set big goals. More importantly, and rarer, the city has the ability for city government, private industry, the non-profit sector, and the general public to work together and accomplish those big goals, even when they may seem like long-shots and poor bets. If Vegas odds makers would have set a line on Oklahoma City having a rowing and water sports scene, much less having a part in the US Olympic water sports process, what do you think those odds would have looked like? Yet, the latest additions to the River District and the Road to Rio Olympic event were a couple of the recent accomplishments that Mayor Cornett was able to point to in this year’s Development Roundtable. Don’t you wish Vegas had set the line? Would you have had the faith to bet on Oklahoma City?
So, by now the question seems to be obvious. Why am I talking about all of this in a music blog? Well, because music isn’t just music. It doesn’t just happen, and it sure doesn’t just come to us to enjoy. It is produced, promoted, distributed, marketed, and, thankfully, performed live. It is an art, but it is also an industry. Industries need to be developed and given attention and support. That is what inspired me to write about the Mayor’s Development Roundtable here. At Cellar Door, we are working to help develop that part of our city and want people to appreciate the progress our city is making when it comes to our music scene.
In the 2016 Mayor’s Development Roundtable, the Oklahoma City music scene was prominently featured. Mayor Cornett was able to proudly announce a few key new developments, like the Criterion, The Tower Theater, and The Jones. All of these are projects that local entrepreneurs have spent years and invested millions to develop for our city. I am being very careful not to say that these can be checked off of our “wouldn’t it be great if” list. All three are new or not even open yet, so we can check off “get mid-sized venues at different seating capacities to accommodate various different levels of bands”. What we can’t check off yet is “support those venues by attending shows, now that Oklahoma City has live music as a legitimate option for your leisure time and money”. It’s similar to the difference between checking off “get temporary relocation of an NBA team” (as if that could have ever been on anyone’s foreseeable list) and “attend games to support that team and show that we are a city that can join the ranks of an NBA caliber market”. Ten years ago, by the time the 2006 Development Roundtable took place, Mayor Cornett was able to check both off the list and thank the citizens for accomplishing the second. In fact, we supported the team temporarily relocated here to such an extent that we were able to get a permanent team shortly after.
We need to show a similar level of collective support for the newest developments in our music scene. Mayor Cornett expressed it to the audience when he asked how many had been to a show at the Criterion already. He put out a challenge to everyone in the room to get out and enjoy some live music soon. He didn’t ask it only of the people who are already passionate about live music, just as ten years ago he didn’t ask only those who were already passionate about basketball to attend a Hornets game. Ten years ago, he asked everyone to give NBA basketball a try, and look at the passion that we all developed for it. Last Friday, he similarly called on everyone in the room to get out and experience some live music and support something that is important for our city. That is the type of call to action to which this city responds; and this Mayor has proven to be extremely good at rallying our city around a mission.
The fact that you are reading a local music blog means that you are the choir to which Mayor Cornett is preaching about the need to support the continued development of our local music scene. However, not everyone in the room at the Roundtable was fellow choir members. In fact, I would bet many hadn’t given much thought to our local music scene and how they could help support its success. It's important to get more people involved and spread the sermon beyond the choir. If the Hornets had only been supported by the people in OKC who were involved enough to be reading NBA blogs in 2005, would we have the Thunder now?
Friday’s announcements of the new music developments, even though they are pretty major assets for our city, aren't all that impressed and encouraged me. As I said, this event gives the audience a glimpse into what is getting added to our wish list and what is becoming a higher priority. Again, music was prominently featured as Mayor Cornett looked to the future and said "wouldn't it be great if". Scott Booker, from ACM, and Scott Marsh, from Hellfire Management, presented together and jointly set out a wish list item of setting up a music embassy. They even asked if anyone in the audience could help with property needs.
As I reflected on the event, there were a few things that made me extremely encouraged. Over the last two decades, Oklahoma City has proven time and again that we can and do accomplish the goals that we set as priorities. It seemed clear from the agenda at the 2016 Mayor’s Development Roundtable that “making Oklahoma City a city of distinction when it comes to music” is among the things moving up in priority. What exact form that takes remains to be seen, but it is exciting to think of the possibilities. When we set our sights on sports, look at what we accomplished. I can’t wait to see what we can do as we set lofty goals in the area of music, and we all come together to beat the odds by accomplishing the long-shot items on our “wouldn’t it be great if” list. Based on our track record so far, I’ll bet on Oklahoma City’s ability to accomplish whatever vision/goals end up being set for music.