Horseshoe Road guitarist seeks new adventure.

Posted by Stephanie Brudzinski on 04/14/2017

When entering the halls of the orchestra department at Edmond North High School, one can feel the passion for music and the eagerness for learning emanating from the incredible talent it inhabits.

Thirteen consecutive OSSAA State Sweepstakes Awards with nine consecutive Accent Medals, the highest honor given by the state activities association.

A coveted performance spot at the prestigious Midwest Clinic in Chicago.

Twice selected to perform at the National Youth Concert at Carnegie Hall.

Looking a these various achievements, it is clear that Edmond North Orchestra Director and 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Peter Markes, has made an indelible mark in this vibrant program during his 15-year tenure at ENHS, but it's his latest news that has students and fellow teachers saddened.

"After 15 incredible years serving the Edmond Public Schools, I've notified them and my students that I will resign at the end of this school year," Markes said. "I am eternally in debt to our students - from the class of 2003 to 2021 - I am taking leave from my teaching profession higher and more in love with you than ever before."

Over the years, Markes has chaired the performing arts department, taught AP Music Theory and team-taught 8th grade orchestra at Cheyenne and Sequoyah Middle Schools in Edmond.

"Teachers are entrusted with an important mission - to assist the personal development of our children so they have an important role to play in the development of society," Markes said.

As he prepares to leave Edmond North, Markes hopes his program has not only taught the value of music and arts education, but also the students he has taught through music have graduated with life skills they will need further in life. "He's been an institution - this program that he's built for the last 15 years," said Kyle Dillingham, friend and musical partner. "His shoes are going to be very hard to fill."

"I am still here - once a teacher, always a teacher," Markes said. "To my students and my successor, I simply ask that you remain faithful - not to me - but to Edmond North Orchestra. We have an incredible gift for sharing music, and that is not dependent on one person, but many. That faith - the belief in what you cannot see or touch, but know in your heart to be good and true and worthwhile - must never be lost."

"His students have achieved so much," said Dillingham, who has performed with Markes and his orchestra. "He gave them fuel for the fire of their passion."

The students say Markes' dedication has set him apart from other teachers in their eyes. "He encourages them to conquer challenges, with the advice that if they work hard enough, they can overcome it," said Dillingham. "And the care he feels for them comes through in his teachings."

"I love teaching. I will always love teaching and relish the future opportunities to teach in small and large group settings," Markes said. "I intend to invest my professional energy into the work with Kyle Dillingham, my musical partner of 21 years, and our band, Horseshoe Road. I look forward to also still having a hand in music education, though no longer in the daily classroom."

"Peter has worked tirelessly to develop the talents of generations of children but after this school season he will finally get his own chance to shine in the spotlight," Dillingham said.

So what do you get when you team up Oklahoma's Musical Ambassador with the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year? "Pure magic," says Markes.

"With our many combined years of performance experience and vast background in education, Kyle and I have developed an educational program, Playing with Purpose, that we'll plan on proposing to youth orchestras throughout the state and beyond," said Markes. "The program will inspire, encourage and heal students, teachers and audiences alike. Today's youth seem increasingly interested in 'why' we do something, and Playing with Purpose begins to answer the question, 'why do we learn music?'"

The program focuses on the personal character development of each student and teacher with the idea that the instruments and music are just one of the tools - very powerful tools - for having a positive impact in this world...one concert at a time. In addition to learning pops-style charts to accompany the band, students will also engage in communicating their language through basic, comfortable improvisation, as well as experience Dillingham's "Broken Beyond Repair" concept. Discovering new sounds on broken instruments whose replacement value is greater than the cost of the instrument (some of which may come from the school's inventory), students will be poignantly reminded that all we come into contact with has special value and meaning, an unique gift to share.

"I have relished the challenges of motivating the unmotivated and keeping the brightest from becoming bored," said Markes. "I have embraced the constant learning and growing."

Markes, Dillingham and their band, Horseshoe Road, have a long history of inspiring music students and their teachers while helping string programs grow and reach high levels of achievement. Playing with Purpose serves as the basis for their educational engagement throughout the USA and indeed around the world.

"Students and teachers alike will have their music world flipped upside-down when they witness Kyle blaze a trail on his fiddle," Markes said.

Through his high energy and positive enthusiasm, Markes has generated immense inspiration for the talent at Edmond North Orchestra, and he looks forward to doing the same for other youth orchestra programs in his new adventure with Dillingham and Horseshoe Road.

"As the students' playing improves, I can see their pride and sense of accomplishment grow," Markes said. "They don't need praise from me, it is intrinsic: the joy-producing, healing power of music. It is the most effective teaching tool and the presence of the arts in every school is there to uplift, sustain and give some kids a reason to get up in the morning."