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Rising Stars - Wayne Oquin

Wayne Oquin

Juilliard Joins Texas State for a Common
Experience in the Arts

By David King and Mary Kincy, University Marketing

The sound of teenage musicians, rehearsing as part of a summer orchestra camp, creeps through the walls of Gaila Raymer’s office in Evans Auditorium.
 
The air conditioner hums a white noise in the cavernous, cinderblock-walled room. This office of Evans Auditorium’s production manager is home to everything from event posters to theatrical props. There’s also an overstuffed couch, fronted with a cluttered coffee table. This summer afternoon, Wayne Oquin is resting on the couch, wearing a T-shirt and shorts and talking softly about topics ranging from his days of 31-credit-hour semesters to hearing Reverie, his composition for solo organ, performed on National Public Radio. Reverie was commissioned by Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs who has championed the piece, performing it in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and twice in New York. He also gave the European premiere in Stavanger, Norway.
 
Oquin, who graduated from Texas State in 1999, is someone who prompts people to superlatives: Gifted. Generous. Determined, disciplined and driven. A Renaissance man. Prodigy. Genius.
 
Two activity-filled days each spring — and the countless hours of preparation that lead up to them — add “benefactor” to the list as well, as Oquin leads the annual staging of a collaboration between The Juilliard School and Texas State that is the hallmark of his ongoing connection to the university.  
 
The event began more than half a decade ago, when Oquin was a graduate student at Juilliard. He expected the first Juilliard Joins Texas State, a collaboration he and philosophy professor Jeff Gordon launched in 2007, to be the only one. But when the laptop that held a big part of his doctoral dissertation was stolen, he stayed at Juilliard another year and brought another group to San Marcos in spring 2008. Not long after that, as he was approaching graduation, he was offered the position on the Juilliard faculty.
 
Five years later, Juilliard Joins Texas State has matured, but stays true to its roots, bringing some of the world’s best performers together in a union born of performance and a common experience. It’s fitting, then, that each year’s event joins with Texas State’s Common Experience — a yearlong series of dialogue and occurrences organized to facilitate the shared consideration of a single topic within the university community. This year, the Common Experience is focused on the First Amendment, so Juilliard Joins Texas State is staging a theatrical concert commemorating Martin Luther King, Jr., Molly Ivins and the rights to freedoms of religion and expression.
 
Beginnings

Oquin came to Texas State in 1996 after he attracted the attention of former faculty member John Paul Johnson, who put on a full-court-press recruiting effort to get the prodigy to San Marcos.
 
“When I arrived on campus, I couldn’t have been happier, because I was getting college credit to do what I really loved to do,” Oquin says. “And the biggest thing Texas State gave me, the No. 1 asset, was its faculty. For the price of an education here, we give our students an enormous asset — the people it affords.”
 
A dozen or more faculty members mentored Oquin in subjects ranging from music to philosophy. John Schmidt gave him an office key, which meant access to the professor’s sheet music, compact discs and piano. That led to the oft-told story of the University Police Department responding to a call about a prowler in the Music Building in the wee hours of the morning, but instead finding Oquin practicing.
 
He slept rarely. He took what is considered a school-record 31 credit hours in a semester — twice. He was part of the University Honors program. He found time to compose and perform original works alongside faculty members. He earned a bachelor’s in three years with a 4.0 grade point average.
 
And he has never forgotten the experience.
 
“He wants to give back,” says Nico Schüler, a music professor who works with Oquin on Juilliard Joins Texas State.
 
“He’s very close to our school, although he graduated 12 years ago,” Schüler adds. “He wants to come back and help current students. It has happened numerous times that students heard about him or they have met him at the concert or before or after the event, and then they contacted him later for some advice. And he’s always willing to give advice, always willing to look at music that one of our students composed and give some feedback. And that’s invaluable because most composers of his stature would not even spend time doing that.”

 

Wayne Oquin

Wayne Oquin, a professor at New York City’s famed Juilliard School and a graduate of Texas State, is a virtuoso whose talents extend beyond the performance hall to the classroom.