A youthful linchpin of Oklahoma jazz circles is leaving the scene. Pianist and University of Tulsa graduate Steven Schrag will soon be heading to the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, where he’ll pursue his masters and doctorate.

            Interestingly enough, it will be in communications, not music.

            “Although I’ve definitely thought about it a lot, I’ve never planned for music to be my career,” the Texas native said in 2012, after he was named winner of the Oklahoma Israeli Exchange’s Young Artists Piano Exchange. “My plans are to go into academia, to go to graduate school in communications. But playing has turned out to be a great way for me to stay in Tulsa and meet lots of cool people.”

            Many of those people will be on hand Friday evening to pay tribute to their friend and musical companion in an event dubbedSchrag Voyage (as in “bon voyage”), featuring a variety of artists who’ve shared a stage or two with the pianist over the past few years.

            “What we’re having is a wonderful show featuring a program filled with great  jazz musicians Steven has worked with,” explains Jazz Hall of Fame CEO Jason McIntosh, organizer of the event.

            Since coming to Tulsa from his home in Dallas, Schrag has been a major player on the local scene and a strong Jazz Depot presence, working with the combos at the Wednesday noontime Jazzwich shows, anchoring the Tuesday night jam sessions, and appearing as the pianist for many shows in the Jazz Hall of Fame’s Sunday evening concert series. He’s also headlined and co-headlined concerts at the venue, along with producing the occasional Jazz Depot event, including the December 2012 Dave Brubeck Memorial Tribute Concert.

            “He was not only a great jazz player,” said Schrag of Brubeck. “He was a great person as well.”

            According to the Jazz Hall’s McIntosh, that statement is proof of the old adage that it takes one to know one.

            “Anyone who’s had the pleasure of working with Steven would agree with me that he’s an outstanding jazz man and a hell of a human being,” McIntosh says. “Very rarely do you meet someone with a first-class temperament and a first-class intellect as well. He’s a Merit Scholar, and he’s going to the Annenberg school to get a master’s degree and a PhD, and it’s all on scholarship. There is no telling how far Steven will go.

            “And not only is he smart,” adds McIntosh. “He also knows how to work with people, and he does it very well. You couldn’t ask for anyone better to share a stage with.”     

            Schrag Voyage is set to begin at 7 p.m. Friday, August 2, at the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, located in downtown Tulsa’s Jazz Depot, 111 E. First St.  Admission is $10. For more information, call Bettie Downing at 918-281-8609, Refreshments will be available for purchase.

            The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural and educational organization, with a mission to inspire creativity and improve the quality of life for all Oklahomans through preservation, education, and performance of jazz, our uniquely American art form.