OKLAHOMA CITY — When Kent Kidwell and Bill Thrash first met at Ada’s Hayes Elementary school more than 55 years ago, they had no way of knowing how many times their paths would cross throughout the coming decades.

The two men have moved through life sharing an unrelenting passion for music. After moving through the Ada school system together, college at East Central University for Thrash and the University of Oklahoma for Kidwell, and a joint stint in the U.S. Army, the two old friends join forces each year for the Oklahoma Hall of Fame ceremonies with Thrash serving as producer and Kidwell as music director. They share yet another milestone this year — each received a Governor’s Arts Award on Nov. 29 at the Oklahoma State Capitol.

Thrash, now station manager for OETA-The Oklahoma Network, and Kidwell, now Professor Emeritus at The University of Central Oklahoma, continue to share a love for music with Thrash focusing his energies on quality music productions and Kidwell first building a career as a symphonic musician and then sharing his expertise as a music educator.

Thrash began his career at hometown television station KTEN, directing music and variety specials featuring area talent. When he moved to Oklahoma City in 1962 to join KOCO-TV, he produced and directed many other specials involving orchestras and ballet companies from universities in the Oklahoma City area. In 1971, Thrash joined Channel 4 in Oklahoma City and directed the popular Stars and Stripes Shows that aired nationwide on NBC.

Thrash joined OETA in 1988 to produce the award-winning Oklahoma Passage mini-series. Early in his OETA career, he spotlighted professional musicians from Oklahoma on The Piano Hour and produced and directed 13 Lawrence Welk fundraising specials, raising more than $50 million dollars for PBS stations throughout the country.

During his busy television schedule, Thrash has managed to keep very involved in the arts community serving as president of the Lyric Theatre Board of Directors and co-chairing Opening Night for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. He currently serves on the board of the Oklahoma Arts Institute.

Kidwell’s professional playing experience includes three years as second trombonist with the Baltimore Symphony and more than 25 years as principal trombonist with the Oklahoma City Symphony and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic Orchestra. He has performed with renowned artists ranging from Leopold Stowkowski to Leontine Price and Elvis Presley to Duke Ellington. He led his own jazz group during college and continues to perform nation-wide as a solo, symphonic, jazz and commercial trombonist and clinician. 

During his first five years of teaching, Kidwell served as band director in the public schools of Pauls Valley, Del City and Norman. Before retiring in August, Kidwell spent 37 years at UCO in Edmond. During that time, UCO’s jazz program has grown from a small, part-time group, to a fully-developed academic program with undergraduate and graduate degree options in performance, education and technology with various UCO jazz groups winning numerous national and international honors. 

From grade school to the Army and from music to the Governor’s Arts Awards, Thrash and Kidwell continue to enjoy mutual successes and build on their friendship established so many years ago in their Ada elementary classroom.

The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) provides educational and public television programming to virtually all Oklahomans from its network of 19 transmitters across the state. Visit www.oeta.onenet.net for more information about OETA programs and show schedules.



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