Jason Heilman

Host, Classical Tulsa

Classical Tulsa host Jason Heilman is no stranger to Tulsa’s concert audiences, having been a frequent speaker at concerts by Tulsa Camerata, Chamber Music Tulsa, and other local groups. Originally from Wisconsin, Jason grew up in Tulsa, where he began playing trumpet in his middle school band. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance from the University of Tulsa, a master’s degree in music history from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. in musicology and European Studies from Duke University. Jason’s area of expertise is the music of Vienna circa 1900, and while he was completing his dissertation, he lived in Vienna for a year and a half. Officially, he was there as an invited fellow at the IFK International Research Center for Cultural Studies, but in reality, he spent most of his time attending concerts and sampling the city’s many bratwurst and kebab stands.  Jason has taught music courses at Duke and at the University of Texas at Austin, but his real calling is inspiring people to experience the vast diversity of classical music firsthand. After returning to his hometown of Tulsa, he and three other local musicians co-founded Tulsa Camerata in 2010. In addition to his innovative role as Tulsa Camerata’s concert narrator, he also served for two years as its executive director. When Tulsa Camerata commissioned Michael Daugherty’s This Land Sings: Songs of Wandering, Love, and Protest Inspired by the Life and Times of Woody Guthrie, Jason wrote the narrator’s part and performed it at the world premiere in Tulsa in April 2016. Jason met his wife, Rosalyn, when they were both sixth graders at Byrd Middle School and they married twenty-five years later. His three passions in life are music, beer, and coffee, and he doesn’t consider a day complete without all three.

Arnold Schönberg Center

A century ago, as Europe was coping with both the aftermath of World War I and the influenza pandemic, concerts were pretty far from most people’s minds. But amidst the chaos and uncertainty, one Viennese composer saw an opportunity. In the fall of 1918, Arnold Schoenberg and his students founded a bold, new organization – a Society for Private Musical Performances – to promote contemporary music by reinventing the concert experience altogether. 

Courtesy Lara Downes

To call pianist Lara Downes “busy” is an understatement. In just the past year, she’s released three albums, including one of my favorite new releases of 2020, Florence Price Piano Discoveries. She also launched a new interview series for NPR Music, Amplify, where she hosts revealing conversations with compelling music makers, like clarinetist Anthony McGill and the multitalented Rhiannon Giddens.

It's Just a Fantasy

Jan 27, 2021

Every now and then on my show, I like to explore some of the genres and ideas we take for granted in classical music. I’ve covered subjects from rhapsodies to minimalism before, but on Classical Tulsa this week (Friday, Jan. 29, 2021 at noon on KWTU 88.7 FM), I’m taking a look at one of the most evocative of all musical forms: the fantasy.

Wikimedia Commons

What does it mean to be an American? And who gets to define the American experience? These are questions we often ask ourselves, particularly around the inauguration of a new president, but they’ve taken on a new urgency in light of recent events. 

Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a bit of trivia: no one knows when Ludwig van Beethoven’s birthday really was.


This week on Classical Tulsa, we’ll give the radio premiere of a new composition by Tulsa Opera Artistic Director Tobias Picker. Tobias has composed six operas to date, but this new piece represents his return to symphonic music – with an operatic twist. 

Classical Tulsa

This fall, you’ll have the chance to learn even more about some of the greatest works of classical music, as our Masterworks in 10 Minutes or Less podcast returns for its second season. Starting next week, you can my hear bite-sized audio introductions to six of the pieces on Chamber Music Tulsa’s streaming and live 2020-21 season, complete with a quick historical background and highlights from the musical themes. 

Tulsa Drillers courtesy

For classical music lovers, fall means the beginning of a new season and the promise of an exciting mix of new discoveries and familiar favorites. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed most of Tulsa’s concerts, but the Tulsa Symphony has just announced a plan to kick off their 2020-21 season in a responsible way.

As you may have heard, 2020 marks an important anniversary in the classical music world: the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven. Naturally, Beethoven’s music is getting plenty of exposure, both on Classical 88.7 and in live concerts (whenever those resume). 

Every now and then, I still encounter music lovers who aren’t familiar with the vast and diverse repertoire of classical music by Black American composers.

I can’t really blame them; it’s easy to get the impression that this is a strictly European tradition from some ... less imaginative concert programs, albums, and yes, even radio shows. It can take a lot of effort to expand your own horizons – especially when your familiar favorites are so comforting.

I’ve never considered classical music to be a harmless diversion, detached from the real world. On the contrary: I’ve always loved this music precisely for its ability to speak to the human condition and give meaningful emotional expression to even our darkest hours.

This is all to say that this Friday’s Classical Tulsa could have been just another hour of nice music. But after recent events, I thought I needed to do better.

With Memorial Day this weekend, and the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe earlier this month, I wanted to spotlight some American music from the war years on this week’s Classical Tulsa.

For nearly a month, the Public Radio Tulsa studios have been closed to everyone but the news team. This means that many of the local shows on 88.7 and 89.5 have been in reruns for the past few weeks. My own show, Classical Tulsa, was in that same boat – until now, that is: I’ve just finished setting up a home studio, so I can record new episodes while I shelter in place!

For nearly a month, the Public Radio Tulsa studios have been closed to everyone but the news team. This means that many of the local shows on 88.7 and 89.5 have been in reruns for the past few weeks. My own show, Classical Tulsa, was in that same boat – until now, that is: I’ve just finished setting up a home studio, so I can record new episodes while I shelter in place!

Courtesy Jason Heilman

      “It’s a story – it’s like reading a novel” is how British conductor Timothy Brown describes George Frideric Handel’s oratorio, Messiah. “As a novel, it has no poor moments. It’s a page-turner.”

This summer I am dedicating the show to composers you don’t get to hear often, and I am calling is a "Festival of Overlooked Composers" on Classical Tulsa. The series began on June 7 with the Baroque era and moves forward each week, culminating on July 5 with some of my favorite overlooked American composers.

Who are the artists? Of course, there are several women among history’s most overlooked composers

Spring is already upon us, which means it’s time for Tulsa’s classical music institutions to set their programs for next season. Whether you have season tickets to the Tulsa Opera or it is on your bucket list to attend a Tulsa Ballet performance, there is something for eveyrone right here in our hometown. Here’s an overview of what you can look forward to hearing next season:

This month, I’m excited to join the classical music world in paying tribute to French romantic composer Hector Berlioz on the 150th anniversary of his death. 

Classical Tulsa with Jason Heilman
Classical Tulsa

In addition to the weekly show, you can also enjoy the Classical Tulsa Podcast. It spotlights upcoming local concert performances through extended interviews with the music-makers themselves. Hosted by Jason Heilman.


An Interview with Violinist Rossitza Goza

An Interview with Composer Noam Faingold

Sitting Down with Ryan & Ryan

New Music from Lara Downes