Feodora DeGrasse Steward
July 16, 1928 - October 18, 2021
Feodora DeGrasse Steward was teacher, mentor, colleague, and treasured friend to many in the Oklahoma flute community and beyond. She served on the faculties of the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City University, the University of Central Oklahoma, and Southern Nazarene University, as well as privately teaching. She began her orchestral career in Oklahoma City in the mid-1950’s and played flute and piccolo with the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, the Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra, and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic until her retirement in December 1998. She also performed with the Lawton Philharmonic, Lyric Theater, and many chamber ensembles and festival orchestras.
Feodora credited specializing in piccolo to world-renowned conductor Leopold Stokowski who, while guest conductor of the Oklahoma City Symphony, praised her solo piccolo playing in performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 and encouraged her to make piccolo the focus of her career. She became friends with Verne Q. Powell who made numerous flutes and piccolos for her. She also enjoyed playing chamber music with Powell.
While on the faculty of the University of Central Oklahoma, Feodora decided to create an event for flute players “to enjoy the fruits of flute playing.” She thought there should be something more than contests and honor bands to engage local flutists. She called it “Flute Fair” and invited local and national flutists. This event was the inspiration and model for the formation of the Oklahoma Flute Society and its subsequent endeavors. In 2010, the OFS named Feodora Steward an Honorary Life Member for her contributions to the flute community.
Feodora earned a B.S. Degree in Music Education from Texas Women’s University and an M.M. in Education Degree from the University of Oklahoma. She pursued post-graduate work at Southern Methodist University and the Juilliard School of Music. Feodora’s principal flute teachers were Lois Risely, Arthur Lora, and Nat White. She was also mentored as a chamber music performer in a masterclass with Marcel Moyse.
Feodora was an avid birder and a long-time member of the Oklahoma City Audubon Society. Truly an intrepid traveler, she sought out distant destinations to explore, including the wilderness of Kangaamiut in Greenland, Iqaluit in Nunavut Canada, and the Northwest Territories, sometimes traveling by boat in search of a particular bird or polar bear. She was fascinated by the indigenous culture and art of those areas.
For many years, Ms. Steward volunteered at the Coffee Creek Therapeutic Riding Center whose mission is to help children with disabilities. An ardent gardener, Feodora also enjoyed sky-watching and the study of cloud formations. Late in her career, Ms. Steward collected and played an array of special- wood Native American flutes. A skilled seamstress, she also took pleasure in adding delicate beading to
her instruments. During her retirement years, she became enamored of the reed organ and enjoyed playing it daily. Ms. Steward was a lifetime member of Sigma Alpha Iota, also holding membership in Pi Kappa Lambda and the Oklahoma Flute Society.
Memorial gifts may be sent to:
The Oklahoma City Audubon Society https://okc-audubon.org/ (not an affiliate of the National Audubon Society)
The Oklahoma Flute Society www.oklahomaflutesociety.org
Donations to the Oklahoma Flute Society may be directed to the commission of a piccolo composition to be dedicated in Feodora’s memory.