The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State University will be a world-class epicenter for the arts, attracting celebrated national and international programs featuring notable performing arts productions and artists. The center will allow the university and the center’s supporters to express — and be recognized for — their passion for the arts on a global stage.

Now Featuring New York Philharmonic

New York Philharmonic and Oklahoma State University Form Residency Partnership for October 2019

STILLWATER, Okla., September 30, 2016 – Oklahoma State University (OSU) and the New York Philharmonic have announced a residency partnership marking the opening of the new McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at OSU in October, 2019. The partnership is made possible in part by the visionary $25 million programming gift to OSU by alumni Billie and Ross McKnight. The McKnights’ gift established a program endowment to benefit all students, faculty and the Stillwater community by bringing top-tier residency programs and performances to OSU.

In addition to multiple New York Philharmonic performances at the McKnight Center conducted by future New York Philharmonic Music Director Jaap van Zweden, the residency partnership will include educational opportunities for OSU students with Philharmonic musicians and management, such as masterclasses, audition workshops and lectures. Every season the Philharmonic reaches millions of people through concerts at Lincoln Center in New York, worldwide tours, educational activities and outreach. The partnership with OSU adds to the Philharmonic’s growing list of educational partnerships throughout the U.S. and world, which includes the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan and New York Philharmonic Global Academy partnerships with Santa Barbara’s Music Academy of the West, The Shepherd School at Rice University and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

"This expansive partnership presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our music faculty and students to interact with and be inspired by members of one of the world’s greatest orchestras," commented Burns Hargis, president of OSU. "I am especially pleased to announce this partnership on the eve of the groundbreaking of the new McKnight Center for the Performing Arts at Oklahoma State. I am confident we are well on our way to establishing a vital hub of creativity and collaboration for the performing arts in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Thanks to Billie and Ross McKnight’s generosity and forward-thinking leadership, learning experiences and the arts will be elevated in our community and region."

New York Philharmonic
Credit: Chris Lee

"We salute Oklahoma State University, under the leadership of President Hargis, and the McKnights for their vision and generosity that will bring the New York Philharmonic to OSU to help launch this ambitious initiative and make the arts more central to the campus," commented Matthew VanBesien, president of the New York Philharmonic. "While we often hear how residency partnerships benefit faculty, students and the regional community, I can say from experience that the musicians and management of the New York Philharmonic also benefit immensely from the creative energy stemming from academic and professional collaboration. We very much look forward to performing at what promises to be a spectacular new performing arts center and to engaging with the university and the community in Stillwater."

The new partnership will be celebrated at tomorrow’s groundbreaking event featuring President Hargis, the McKnights, VanBesien and student performers from the Department of Music. The celebration will continue during a special halftime performance at the OSU vs. Texas football game in Boone Pickens Stadium. The program will feature a special tribute by The Cowboy Marching Band.

"Billie and I are thrilled that the new performing arts center will serve as a stage for global talent and will bring OSU students unique culturally enriching opportunities," said Ross McKnight. "We believe in The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts, and the partnership with the New York Philharmonic validates the caliber of programming that will truly make the center great."

The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts will be one of Oklahoma’s premier cultural institutions, creating an environment for artistic expression that allows Oklahoma State and the Stillwater community to express — and be recognized for — their passion for the arts on a global stage. The performing arts center will stand prominently along the southwest corner of University Avenue and Hester Street within walking distance of the Student Union, the Atherton Hotel and the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center.

New York Philharmonic
Credit: Chris Lee

The 93,000-square-foot McKnight Center for the Performing Arts will include an acoustically perfected 1,100-seat performance hall, 222-seat recital hall and an outdoor amphitheater with a large viewing screen for broadcasting performances in the hall as well as other performances from anywhere else in the world. It will also include a new home for the Department of Music and its masterclass curriculum, teaching studios for one-on-one lessons and ensemble rooms for small or large groups. These spaces will be engineered with the latest acoustics and technology for instruction, practice and performance.

"The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts sets the foundation to invite world-class musicians and artists to Stillwater, Oklahoma," said Dr. Howard Potter, professor and head of the Department of Music in Oklahoma State University’s School of Visual and Performing Arts. "The residency program with the New York Philharmonic begins a new era for performing arts at our school and in our state."

"Students benefit mightily through access to rich educational opportunities, and this new partnership with the New York Philharmonic is just that," said President Hargis. "This partnership announcement with the New York Philharmonic and the groundbreaking of The McKnight Center is a testament to the university’s commitment to education and cultural experience for our students and the greater Oklahoma community."


Oklahoma State University alumni Ross and Billie McKnight are leading the way for the new performing arts center with a transformational $25 million gift to create a one-of-a-kind program endowment. The McKnights' bold gift will ensure the center delivers entertainment, education and elevating experiences on par with other prestigious national art institutions.

Oklahoma State University and the OSU Foundation seek to raise an additional $25 million to complete the funding necessary to offer top-tier performances inside a state-of-the-art facility, drawing attendees and attention from around the nation. Completing this project will require the strength and support of other visionary patrons of the arts.



The McKnight Center for the Performing Arts will encourage discovery, push educational boundaries and redefine Oklahoma State’s influence in the arts with world-class programming unique to the region. It will be a modern venue for OSU’s talented students, accomplished faculty, and members of the community to enjoy with facilities built for producing world-class talent in mind.

By further building the program fund, we will ensure The McKnight Center’s place as a pre-eminent performing arts center and guarantee the exceptionally talented student musicians, dancers, actors and directors at Oklahoma State University will benefit from interactions with renowned performing arts leaders.



In addition to becoming the home stage for OSU’s outstanding Department of Music, The McKnight Center will host traveling Broadway productions, operas, ballets, choruses, symphonies and more. A traditional season could include classical music productions, a regular pop series, an Oklahoma musicians’ spotlight and more.


The McKnight Center is partnering with top orchestras and other professional music institutions across the country to create once-in-a-lifetime entertainment and masterclass opportunities . Partnerships, including the 2019 artistic residency program with the New York Philharmonic, are made possible by The McKnight Center’s donor-funded programming endowment.


Oklahoma is home to a magnitude of musical superstars. The McKnight Center will celebrate the impressive musical talent from Oklahoma with a special series of programs and performances showcasing artists and music from the state.

The new center will serve as a creative melting pot for Oklahoma State. Theatre and music students will interact with touring artists, attend masterclasses and participate in performances and productions. The center will enrich and enhance all aspects of the Oklahoma State family, attracting students, professors, performers and the art community around the nation together to enjoy and create expressive works of art.

Like any facility, bricks and mortar alone cannot create great programs — people do. And, for decades, the Department of Music has created great programs through rigorous musical education. The long-term vision for The McKnight Center includes a new home for the Department of Music. The new space will allow better collaboration between students and the department’s faculty, which includes several sought-after singers, famous composers and musical theorists who shape the performing arts industry.


DEMAND FOR THE ARTS AT OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY AND THROUGHOUT THE REGION HAS NEVER BEEN HIGHER. The McKnight Center and its programming will transform the greater Oklahoma State University community by providing a destination for families, friends, children and art lovers to experience world-class entertainment. It will also provide a platform for Oklahoma State and the region to share its artistic talent with the rest of the country, enhancing Oklahoma’s standing in the global arts community.

From families watching performances on the plaza lawn to our most passionate arts supporters dressed in tuxedos and gowns for an opening performance, The McKnight Center will have something for everyone.


More than 50,000 people live in Stillwater when considering both residents and Oklahoma State students. With the addition of The McKnight Center, those who call Stillwater home will be more likely to spend their time and money in town, making companies of all sizes see Stillwater as a community worthy of their business.


The McKnight Center will directly increase recruitment and retention for OSU students, the impressive staff and faculty who teach them and the professionals who choose to plant roots and raise families in Stillwater.

The evolving programming and power of Departments of Music and Theatre will reverberate throughout the community, improving the quality of life and exponentially growing opportunities for everyone.


While the building will forever change the skyline on the southwest side of campus, it will also change the makeup of our welcoming city.

Stillwater and Oklahoma State University are poised to support the center and its programming, which will amplify and energize the community’s existing cultural synergy.