Vol. LII No. 3
March 2017

Chickasaw composer tabbed for orchestral residency

OKLAHOMA CITY – Chickasaw classical composer Jerod ‘Impichchaachaaha’ Tate and South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (SDSO) have agreed to a three-year residency linking composer and orchestra in a nationwide Music Alive program created by New Music USA.

“Mr. Tate has already played an integral role in the SDSO Lakota Music Project and this new partnership will allow the orchestra to impact the communities we serve in even more significant ways,” SDSO conductor and music director Delta David Gier said.

The big picture involves children, Indian Country, musical and instructional collaborative consultation with top musicians from around the nation. The program is designed to create beautiful symphonic music while training children to compose or spark musical talent.

“I am so excited to be a part of this and so grateful our 2012 Lakota Music Project left such a positive impact,” Mr. Tate said of his original work featuring the Lakota language. “It was a commissioned composition for baritone and orchestra. Everyone just knocked it out of the ballpark. It was magnificent.”

When SDSO learned of potential grants from the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA as part of Music Alive it was on the phone to Mr. Tate immediately to see if a residency was possible. Mr. Tate leapt at the opportunity but first had to pass muster with those in charge of grant appropriations.

The most important elements considered were Mr. Tate’s own achievements and accolades. He is one of approximately a half-dozen classical music composers with Indian heritage. He has earned an Emmy award. Mr. Tate’s critically-acclaimed original compositions, featuring tribal languages, have been performed by a number of orchestras throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Tate compares the new residency to the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, only on a larger scale. During the summer program, he shared his expertise and compositional skills with young Chickasaw talent.

“This opportunity gives me the ability to tell a Lakota student ‘you can do this’,” Mr. Tate said. “It is about learning and developing and showing Lakota kids they have talent, to bring fresh thinking and new ideas to Indian Country and the communities it influences.

“I have worked with many tribes, including Navajo, Ojibway, Lakota, Sac and Fox, Ponca, Cherokee, Hopi, Creek, Tohono O’odham, Choctaw, Apache, Lakota and Chickasaw,” he said. “There is a benefit to be gained by tribes coming together and saying ‘We are truly Indian Country. We work together for positive growth and the common good for all our people.’ We are including everyone to enjoy amazing music, performed in tremendous settings, and we are inviting it through learning, collaboration and training.”

Only five orchestras and composers were awarded residency grants. Others include Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony, Champaign-Urbana Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Each will have a composer “embedded” with them for the next three years.

Mr. Tate will not move to South Dakota from his Oklahoma City home, but will “be doing a whole lot of traveling over the next three years,” he said.

“What it means for the composers is the ability to travel and confer with some of the nation’s most brilliant musicians. We can see what each are doing and share ideas about how to serve our orchestras and communities at so many levels it is difficult to count,” Mr. Tate said. “The opportunities are endless.”

Beginning in 2017, the Music Alive program prioritizes collaborative work and immersive experiences for composers, orchestra musicians, and artistic leadership and community members. Music Alive hopes to demonstrate – through active partnership with the participating residency pairings – the power and value of living composers working at the center of American orchestras, officials said.

About Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

Praised and honored for “his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism” (Washington Post), Mr. Tate was born in Norman, Okla., and is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

He is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition. His commissioned works have been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Canterbury Voices, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Colorado Ballet, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Philadelphia Classical Symphony and Santa Fe Desert Chorale.

He is a three-time commission recipient from the American Composers Forum and he received a 2011 Emmy Award for his work on the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority Documentary, The Science of Composing.