The 2014 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year, Peter Markes, is shifting directions and using music to expand frontiers on a broader scale.

With Markes at the helm for 15 years, the Edmond North High School Orchestra performed twice in the National Youth Concert in Carnegie Hall. The orchestra earned 15 consecutive top State Sweepstakes Awards, received annual invitations to perform internationally, and skyrocketed Markes into becoming one of the state’s top educators.

An Enid native, Markes is now taking his acumen to new heights in Oklahoma City. A singer-instrumentalist with a unique songwriting style, he’s pursuing opportunities across the globe. Markes plays 16 instruments, and, as a member of the band Kyle Dillingham and Horseshoe Road for the past 11 years, he has performed in over 25 countries on 5 continents. He recently performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage. 

On top of that, he owns Peter Markes Music, focusing on solo and band performances with an emphasis on live-looping violin and guitar tunes. He stays busy as a music education consultant throughout the region and teaches violin, viola, guitar, piano and songwriting in his studio and internationally.

“I have conducted short guitar master classes in almost every country where I’ve performed,” he says. In some of these situations, he and the students were unable to speak each other’s languages.  

Markes channeled his energy toward new horizons early this year by teaching eight days of guitar in Saudi Arabia, where public music instruction and performances were just recently government-sanctioned. 

“I am amazed at the hunger to learn about Western music, and the alacrity and appreciation in learning basic ideas,” says Markes. “My work has become less about technical ability and skills, and more about the power to inspire, encourage and heal through music.” 

Involved in numerous cultural exchanges abroad with dignitaries, Markes explains that “music seems to be one of the easiest ways for humans to form a bond, to communicate emotions, and, as pie-in-the-sky as it sounds, solve real-world problems. I have witnessed meetings that began formally. We provided music and a palpable change occurred.”

Markes grew up on a farm in rural Garfield County, where his parents raised Gelbvieh cattle and wheat. He worked the harvest fields during summers. Coming from a family of educators and musicians, Markes recalls that he “began Suzuki violin lessons at age four. The method, sometimes called the ‘mother-tongue’ method, involves students learning the violin by ear as you would language.”

Along the way, he also learned fiddle tunes. But his classical training continued as Markes got older, when he earned a bachelor’s degree at Oklahoma City University and a master’s degree at the University of Central Oklahoma. 

Through his music, Markes strives to appreciate and understand the human condition. 

“A culture is defined by the value it gives to the arts – performing, visual and culinary – that give way to our ability to express our thoughts in language,” he says. “To be part of musical growth is meaningful at home and abroad. My perspective on the power of music education is constantly shifting. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about using music to form human connections.”