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Behind The Mic: Jason Heilman

When Classical Tulsa host Jason Heilman first discovered classical music, it just spoke to him.

“I was this hard rock, heavy metal fan and [I found that classical] music was just as exciting and hit many of these same emotional beats in a way that a lot of pop music didn't,” Jason describes.

Jason grew up playing the trumpet and attended the University of Tulsa to study trumpet performance. There, he discovered musicology, the study of music.

I was fascinated with how music related to major historical events. It seemed like they informed each other,” Jason says. “Beethoven's music wouldn't have been possible without the French Revolution, and he reflects that in his music. Had that not happened, Beethoven's music might've sounded completely different.”

Jason’s studies took him from TU to a master’s in musicology, and finally a Ph.D. at Duke University, with time spent in Vienna, Austria. Afterwards, he returned home to Tulsa where he founded the chamber music group, Tulsa Camerata. Here, he organized performances and presented the background of a piece before it was performed.

After several successful years, Jason realized something that sparked the idea for Classical Tulsa.

“I started to notice when I was running the group that I wished I had a way to show people what the music was going to sound like before they [listened,]” Jason says. “And that was what we were missing out on.”

And so, in 2018, Jason pitched his idea to KWTU: a local, classical music show called Classical Tulsa.

Jason’s show is now in its sixth season. “I'm really just working on making it the best show I can make it like every week, one week after the other.”

I like to make sure that I'm representing as much of music history as I can. And that means playing a lot of pieces by women, a lot of pieces by Black American composers, composers from Asia, Africa and South America,” Jason says. “All of them contributed to classical music.”

Six years since starting this show, Jason has never run out of pieces to play.

“There is so much [classical music] that you can live your whole life as I have and encounter new stuff constantly. And those new things are completely different from what's come before.”

“Classical music has everything. It spans hundreds of years and continents."

“Classical music has everything. It spans hundreds of years and continents. Every country on Earth has people who have participated in it, composers who participated in it and a shaped classical music in its own way,” Jason says. You can imagine the passion he brings to his show.

Think classical music isn’t for you? Jason says you probably won’t like everything, “but it’s like Oklahoma weather, right? If you don't like what's going on the classical radio station, wait, because the next piece might be completely different.”

You just have to want to get into [classical music] and you can,” Jason says. “The dirty secret is that it's cheaper to go to a classical concert and a lot of the music is in the public domain. It's not as closed off, it's not restricted.”

And if you don’t know where to start, just switch on KWTU Classical 88.7 FM. You’re bound to hear something you like, even love.

When he’s not jigsaw-puzzling a Classical Tulsa show together, you can find Jason searching for the perfect coffee bean, sipping brews or watching movies with his wife, Rosalyn.

“My passions in life are music, coffee, and beer. And I don't consider a day complete without all three,” Jason says.

And we’ve got one of those three all the time, on Classical 88.7. Tune in to Classical Tulsa, Fridays at noon. You can listen to the latest episode of Jason's podcast Masterworks in 10 Minutes or Less HERE.

Julianne joined Public Radio Tulsa in June 2022 as Development Associate. She wear many hats at the station — connecting with listeners, writing PRT's newsletters, planning events and doing digital behind-the-scenes.