Tony winners Kristin Chenoweth and Kelli O'Hara have shared tributes to their mentor and Oklahoma City University vocal teacher Florence Birdwell, who recentlly passed away. The stars maintained a lifelong relationship with their former teacher after graduating from OCU in the '90s.
O’Hara, who won the Tony Award in 2015 for her performance as Anna Leonowens in Lincoln Center Theater revival of The King and I, thanked Ms. Birdwell in her acceptance speech. The professor frequently kept in touch with her former students, including a visit to NYC during the Tonys that year, as documented by OCU in a video below. Chenoweth was also nominated that season, in the same category as O'Hara, for On the Twentieth Century.
"There's something about Anna Leonowens that is Florence Birdwell, inside and out," O'Hara says. "[She's] a very strong, proud, stubborn woman, but it's because she wants people to be better. She wants people to be treated fairly."
"What I always got from her was the truth, whether I liked it or not," says Chenoweth in the interview. "I still get it, in fact. And I still want it from here. If she were to be something else, it would hurt me. So anyone who is lucky enough to have ever studied with her should count themselves blessed."
If you’re lucky, you get one teacher who is YOUR PERSON. Mine is Florence Birdwell. Your voice rings in my ear forever, Florence. RIP Mrs. Birdwell. I will miss you as long as I live. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/Z4jPuQ1wuM— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) February 15, 2021
“I won’t be afraid with you. We shall have the world. I’ll hold your hand and know I’m not alone. We shall have the world to keep. Such a lovely world, we’ll weep. We shall have the world forever for our own. #RIP #florencebirdwell pic.twitter.com/YKJa2P4CvQ— Kelli O'Hara (@kelliohara) February 15, 2021