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May 9, 2004

Philharmonic offers role to Edmond fifth-grader

From:, OK - May 9, 2004

By Rick Rogers, Staff Writer

Dylan Dunlap is regularly invited to speak to groups at Integris Health and the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He has also appeared in commercials and has served as a mentor for the Hearing Enrichment Language Program.

None of that seems unusual until you learn that Dylan just celebrated his 12th birthday. What's more, the Edmond fifth-grader recently accepted an invitation to conduct the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.

The concert, titled "A Gift of Music," will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Oklahoma City's First Christian Church, 3700 N Walker. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Hearing Enrichment Language Program (HELP) of Integris Baptist Medical Center at the Hough Ear Institute.

Dylan is one of many young people who has benefited from the HELP program. At age 2, he was diagnosed with a severe hearing loss. Hearing aids provided some help. But the most dramatic improvement came at age 7, when Dylan received a cochlear implant.

"Dylan had about a 90 percent hearing loss when we first saw him," said Stanley Baker, the physician who performed Dylan's surgery. "In a cochlear implant, an array of electrodes are positioned inside the cochlea.

"Together with an external speech processor that sends radio frequencies, it becomes an electronic bypass for an ear that doesn't work. That minimizes the consequences of early auditory deprivation."

Aside from scuba diving or frequent air travel, both of which place significant pressures on the eardrum, Dylan has no real limitations. He loves basketball, runs track, plays the guitar and competes as a member of his school's chess team.

"He's pretty much a kid who does anything he wants," his mother, Michelle Dunlap, said. "The only limitation is that it (the device) could fall off if he runs too fast."

Nettie Jean Williams, director of the Oklahoma Master Chorale, put together this benefit concert, which in addition to the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and Master Chorale, will feature several noted vocal soloists.

Former Mayor Kirk Humphreys and his wife, Danna, who are grandparents of a child with a cochlear implant, are honorary chairmen for the concert. Local news anchor Meg Alexander will read a special story to children from the HELP program.

The concert will feature choral works by Beethoven, Haydn, Donizetti and Brahms, as well as selections by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Dylan Dunlap will conduct the philharmonic in Rossini's "Italian Girl in Algiers."

"When Nettie asked if Dylan would participate, we immediately accepted," Michelle Dunlap said. "My husband and I have always tried to encourage Dylan to give back to the HELP program."

In preparation for Friday's concert, Williams worked with Dylan on the basics of conducting and sent him home with a recording of the Rossini piece so he could practice.

"She told me about some rhythms and showed me how to hold the baton," Dylan said. "When I come to the front of the stage, I'll look at the orchestra, raise my hands, and they'll get all their instruments ready to play. Then you just have to keep time."

At age 12, Dylan may be the youngest person to conduct the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. And while he won't have an opportunity to practice with the group until final rehearsal, he's clearly become enamored with the power of the baton.

He may not realize it today, but years from now, Dylan might recall the occasion and marvel at the incredible sounds that emanated from the orchestra. And thanks to his cochlear implant, he'll be able to hear the music instead of just wondering what it might sound like.

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