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Song for Norman

Norman becomes the first city in the state to commission its own anthem.

Mia Cantu February 29th, 2012

The city of Norman has made history, of a sort, recently becoming the first municipality in Oklahoma — and possibly the U.S. — to have commissioned its own anthem. The idea to give the community its own theme song originated with two Norman residents: Chuck Thompson, president of Republic Bank & Trust; and Richard Zielinski, artistic and music director of the newly formed Norman Philharmonic.

The pair came to the decision while planning the opening of the Norman Philharmonic.

“I wanted an anthem that would be really involved in Norman,” said Thompson. “I wanted something that would connect generations of the city.”

Zielinski asked a friend in Minnesota, Grammy-winning composer Libby Larsen, to write it. She agreed and shortly thereafter began researching Oklahoma history for inspiration.

“I wanted the words of an Oklahoma poet, and researched deeply,” Larsen said, “reading Joy Harjo, N. Scott Momaday, and many fine poems by numerous Oklahoma poets.”

right Norman elementary school students performed the city anthem in January.

It wasn’t until she stumbled upon “Prairie Schooner” by Edward Everett Dale, however, that she stopped looking. “It had cadence, sentiment and a whiff of the cowboy poetry tradition,” she said. Larsen adapted the poem into the anthem’s lyrics.

Little did Larsen know Dale himself was an important part of Norman’s history. The writer’s name should ring a bell for the Norman community; the University of Oklahoma’s Dale Hall is named in his honor.

With the help of the Norman Public School District’s fine arts director, Brad N. Benson, students from each Norman elementary school began learning the anthem just after Thanksgiving.

“Hats off to the music teachers,” said Zielinski. “They really did a great job teaching the students the anthem.”

The children debuted the song in Norman on Jan. 15 at the inaugural concert of the city’s philharmonic. Larsen traveled from Minnesota to introduce the anthem and discuss the process of creating it. The “Norman Anthem” will be taught each year to all Norman public school students when they reach fifth grade.

“Family, faith, education and community really mean something here in Norman,” said Zielinski. “Here, the anthem will live on.”

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