When Chad Haney attended the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute as a chorus student for the first time in 1996, he probably didn’t know he was creating a tradition for his future family. But that’s exactly what happened last year, when his son Carter attended OSAI for acting and carried on a custom that started 25 years earlier. We had the chance to talk to the father-son duo to hear about their experiences at OSAI and what this family connection means to them.
Chad, tell us about your experience at OSAI.
Chad: The unique thing about my time at OSAI was that I was at a different place every year. My first year  was right after the fire, we were at Quartz Mountain and we had our concerts at the outdoor amphitheater and we had temporary yurts that were set up because the lodge had burned down. Then the next year, we were in Tahlequah and my last year we were at OU. Carter was at USAO in Chickasha [in 2021], so between the two of us, we've been four times but we've never really had the full Quartz Mountain facility experience. But that's the unique thing about my time. In terms of the impact OSAI had on me, it's the same thing that you hear from kids now—being immersed in that atmosphere is something you never forget. Of course, in the moment I liked it and you have fond memories shortly thereafter, but I don't think anyone realizes that it sticks with you forever. Anytime I hear a choir sing or I see an orchestra, I think back to my time at Quartz.
I grew up in Stillwater, so we were surrounded by Oklahoma State and I felt like we were pretty cultured and exposed to a lot of things. What I had never really been around was dance, certainly guys who danced, and I vividly remember some of those modern dance recitals and performances that I went to and was blown away that these athletes were artists. To this day, I remember that. And then there's the choral music that we would sing, the conductors that we had. Weston Noble was one of our choir directors, and he's a legend in the choir world. And I've had friends that were in the OSAI choir who were in choir with me at college that I stayed friends with, that I still text.
That's amazing. Carter, how does your experience compare?
Carter: Well, I only had the one year so far. I went for acting. And, honestly, I went for acting just because I've heard so much about chorus. I am a huge chorus and music person just like my dad. I’m in two choirs at school, all the Allstate, OkMEA, OCDA, jazz all of that—and I went for acting just to get a little bit of a break from that and to have a different experience than what I've been hearing about my whole life. [laughs] But anyway, that's just the OSAI stuff overall. I remember my acting training, and I love that I'm more confident with Shakespeare now. I've just been cast in a Shakespeare play at my school and I attribute a lot of that to my training, and I got way more comfortable with it. Being surrounded by a community of artists and people committed to art and being on a college campus was so cool for me. The acting students got to collaborate with film students for our presentation, and I was friends with my director. We had taken tap class together because we're both theater kids. Getting to see him work in film and be a director was really eye opening for me. Just meeting all of these other passionate artists that I now follow on Instagram and have group chats with, we're always connected. It's so cool to have this community.
When I hear you both talking about your experience, you're capturing so much of the value that's hard to quantify. But Carter, I want to piggyback on something you said. You've mentioned a couple of times growing up with these stories from your dad about OSAI. Tell us a little bit more. What kind of stories were you hearing about OSAI growing up, how did your dad talk about this program, and how did it build up in your mind through those stories?
Carter: The main thing I remember, you were in Tahlequah or something, and everybody went into the gym and you all had to write a bunch of thank you notes to all the donors who gave you a scholarship and made this program more accessible. And this story was so impactful for you and it's been impactful for me to hear this story. I've written so many thank you notes, not just at OSAI, but my whole life and I know that stems from you doing that at OSAI. While I was at OSAI, a lot of other kids were like, “We have to do this? This is so boring. I want to go back to my dorm,” or something. And I felt the same way a little bit, obviously, but I totally understood it. I knew that this is just the OSAI thing that everyone does and it’s just a small way to say thank you. I love hearing that story, and I love being a part of that tradition myself.
Chad: Yeah, I mean obviously I've told that story to my kids, but that is part of my career story when I talk about why I went into fundraising. That's my first experience with philanthropy, remembering that we were told to write thank you notes to these people. There were people on the [OAI] board at the time that were from Stillwater, and I knew their names. I was able to piece all that together that those people were donating to the Arts Institute. I remember my dad talking about how this was so affordable, and I was trying to figure out how philanthropy and donors make that possible. And that's honestly part of my career story now.
"In terms of the impact OSAI had on me, it's the same thing that you hear from kids now—being immersed in that atmosphere is something you never forget."
-Chad Haney, OSAI alum and parent
That's incredible. I think that's important for people to know just the sort of universe of jobs that are available in the world of the arts. And then for Carter to get to experience that himself and understand why it's a pain in the butt, but you got to do it. That's great. Chad, I want to hear what it was like for this to become a family tradition when Carter got in and attended for himself and then to see him on the stage in his final performances. What did that feel like for you?
Chad: Yeah. I mean, to realize how selective the [Summer] Arts Institute is and for your kid to get in, that was a way bigger honor than it was when I was selected. I mean, I auditioned, I made it, and I knew it was a big deal, but I was also there with some of my friends so I kind of felt like that's what we did. Now being on this side of it, I really do understand how selective it is to get in, so I was super proud of him for doing that and for being picked. And then for the first few days, we got a few texts from him and little updates, and then after about day three, we kind of quit hearing from him.
Carter: I still sent some!
Chad: Some, but they weren't near as long either. And I knew that was because he was with his people, he found his folks and they were bonding together and working on things. Then you see him at the end of the performance and yes, you know, he ran out and he hugged me and my wife and we had a family time but he was talking to his friends, right? And the chorus kids are telling him good job, and he was saying that he liked their performance, and you could just see those artists talking to each other. I know that they're going to be texting and doing the same thing, and 21 years from now, I know that's going to continue to happen. I've also learned how small the arts world is, and this is how you get your next gig, this is how you find your next opportunity.
Carter, let me ask you kind of the inverse of that question. Can you talk a little bit specifically about what it meant to kind of follow in this family tradition after your dad?
Carter: Yeah, it really felt like completing something I've been working towards for a long time, even when I started theatre acting. And aside from my dad's story, all of my high school friends when I was in elementary, middle school, if they weren't doing the summer show at the theater, they were all at Quartz. That's where everyone wanted to go and it really felt like a completion of something, and I felt like I was part of this community.
How did you get into the arts, and how has your family been supportive of you?
Carter: The real question is, how could I get out of the arts? [laughs] So, my dad was obviously a big musician throughout high school and college. When I was five, I started piano lessons and I hated it for a while, but I learned to love it. Then, in fourth grade we started choir at school so of course I joined. I started doing shows in Oklahoma City, my first was Beauty and the Beast Junior. It was a great experience for me, and I've stayed with it ever since. I’ve always been surrounded by the arts and piano, music, and musical theater most predominantly but I love listening to classical orchestral music and I love going to museums, photography, and all of that. So, OSAI kind of felt like the next step as a continuation of myself as an actor. It was obvious for me probably just because I've heard so much about it. This community of art at OSAI is where you go for that.
I love that in your family, you get to see all aspects, from the development side, from the performance side and I think that's really beautiful.
Carter: Yeah, I'm really fortunate for this family of artists and there's so, so much more than performing and teaching so much more that needs to be done before we even start performing and teaching together. It's a lot and I've learned so much at OSAI.
Chad: You’re right about that. I mean, when I grew up I used to tell people I was either going to be a choir director or I was gonna be Billy Joel, there wasn't really an in between.
Carter: I also still kind of want to be Billy Joel...
Chad: Right? Yeah, that'd be cool. But you're right, I mean I didn't really know what else there was. And then I’ve just fallen into a lot of really cool opportunities, and when your kids want to do stuff, you just try to support that. You support what they love and it really worked out well for me that what they love is something that I also have a little bit of a background in and that I have a passion for. You combine all that stuff and you find yourself surrounded by it and you try to provide all those opportunities that you can for your kids.
Carter is returning this summer to study chorus. To see the full list of attending students, click here.
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