Vol. LII No. 7
July 2017

Chickasaw musician traces success to Arts Academy

CONTRIBUTED BY Gene Lehmann, Media Relations.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Inside Katie Barrick’s heart, a war rages between a refined classical violinist and an undisciplined, improvisational fiddler.

As a violinist, Ms. Barrick’s instrument gives voice to a disciplined composer’s work – each note painstakingly printed on sheet music and performed exactly as the composer intended.

As a fiddler, Ms. Barrick composes instantaneously by following music in her head and heart. In this less restrictive genre, sheet music is as scarce as an electric guitar at a bluegrass festival. The rallying cry in this setting is “play what you feel!”

Her coach, mentor and now colleague, Chickasaw classical composer Jerod Tate, calls such talent “composing in the moment.”

Both Ms. Barrick and Mr. Tate are Chickasaw. Both are professional musicians and composers. While their commonalities are vast, a singular event crafted a career for one and enriched the life of both.

The Chickasaw Arts Academy Summer Session impacts lives.

REACHING OUT

Katie Barrick may well be one of the Academy’s greatest success stories, according to Mr. Tate, who is working with the Spokane Orchestra’s string quartet for an April 30 performance, “Visions of Native Voices.”

The Washington state quartet will play several compositions by Chickasaw Academy youth participants.

One of the selections – “Caffeine Smile” – was composed by Ms. Barrick when she was only 16.

“I am thrilled, excited, fascinated and upbeat the quartet chose to perform ‘Caffeine Smile,’” Ms. Barrick said. “It is an honor and so humbling as well.”

The Spokane quartet will close out its 2017 concert season with American Indian-inspired music. In addition to Ms. Barrick’s composition, three other compositions by Chickasaw Arts Academy students will be performed. They include “Concerto for Strings” by John McAlister; “Circus Revolution” by Miko Begaye; and “Holhchifo Ki’yo” (No Name) by Dylan Bennett.

For more than a decade, Mr. Tate has steered Chickasaw youth along the musical pathway. The Emmy-winning composer believes the Academy is a tour de force to be emulated by others in both Indian Country and America.

The Academy, he said, illustrated the Chickasaw Nation’s dedication to the arts and to its talented youth.

“I think the Academy is awesome and every American Indian tribe should strive to sponsor one,” Mr. Tate said. “’Caffeine Smile’ is Katie’s second composition. It is wonderfully composed and the four instruments bring to life a homage to her bluegrass upbringing.”

But “Caffeine Smile” is not Katie’s most complicated piece of music.

“She thrived at the Academy,” Mr. Tate said. “She applied what she learned, experimented and followed suggestions on where ‘Caffeine Smile’ could go musically and expressively. Each instrument, violin, second violin, viola and cello, are all doing something completely different from the melody. But when it all comes together, wow! True compositional counterpoint.

“And, I want to be crystal clear. As a teacher and coach, I never write one note of their music. Compositions are entirely composed by the students. Entirely! They deserve all the credit.”

ME AND MY FIDDLE

Ms. Barrick is 23. She is education coordinator for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic and the Oklahoma City Orchestra League. She has been in the job a little more than a year since graduating from Oklahoma City University with a bachelor’s degree in music business.

She is an accomplished violinist. She is also a talented fiddler. She has played since age three when her grandfather, Jack Barrick, placed a tiny instrument in her hands and arranged for lessons.

Before auditioning for her first foray into Academy instruction, Ms. Barrick was playing in a Mead-area country music band, attending bluegrass festivals and competing in fiddle contests. Her father, Roland, ferried her to contests. Her mom, Melissa and grandmother, Katherine, cheered on her efforts.

“My senior year of high school, I knew if I wanted to pursue music in college I would have to perform classical music,” Ms. Barrick said. “I worked really hard to beef up my classical chops to audition for the music program. I managed to do well enough to be accepted by OCU’s orchestra. I completely switched gears to classical music from fiddling.

“By the time I graduated, I had a foot in the classical world and a foot in the fiddling world. But I play fiddle every chance I get.”

She is a featured instrumentalist on “Spirit of a Nation,” a tune written by Chickasaws to highlight the theme of the tribe’s Annual Meeting and Festival celebrated each October. Ms. Barrick was an OCU freshman when she contributed to the work.

TATE’S GUIDING HAND

As an impressionable 15-year-old, Ms. Barrick was “star-struck” by Mr. Tate.

“He was the highly successful, hard-core classical composer we would see on television,” she said.

When introduced, Mr. Tate struck the young musician as “warm. He was cool and easygoing.”

When he inquired if she read music, Ms. Barrick was horrified. She told the composer she played by ear but possessed rudimentary reading skills.

“He just said, ‘Okay. Cool. Great,’” Ms. Barrick recalled. “I did not expect that at all. I didn’t expect an accomplished classical composer to say it was okay I did not read music very well.”

Mr. Tate devoted an hour of individual composition instruction to Chickasaw youth each day. Together, student and instructor would discuss what could happen musically, perhaps what should happen, and how voices of four instruments could meld into exhilarating music – compositions that stir audiences emotionally.

“I had the melody of ‘Caffeine Smile’ floating around in my head and I played it for him (Tate),” Ms. Barrick said.

She described the composition as “happy, energetic and positive.” Mr. Tate suggested how the other instruments could act as a foundation while playing musical structures different from the melody, thus enriching the composition with varying rhythms and harmonies. Ms. Barrick wrote music for each instrument. For days, “Caffeine Smile” consumed her every waking moment.

“It was so much fun,” she said. “It was written as a fun song, light-hearted and airy. I did not comprehend at the time what doors of opportunity were opened for me through the Arts Academy. Jerod was my teacher and mentor. Now, we are close friends and colleagues in this wonderful world of music. My tribe opened this door and then helped me through college. I graduated debt-free from OCU. And, my tribe supports the arts. It partners with the OKC Philharmonic and continues to sustain me as a citizen and a professional in the arts field. It is significant.

“Jerod Tate opened so many doors for me artistically and then professionally as I began my career,” she said. “Without the Chickasaw Arts Academy, Jerod and my tribe, I wouldn’t be in this great profession.”

About Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy

The Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy is a two-week exploration into the world of fine arts for students ages 8-18.

The 2017 Academy is set July 10-22 on the campus of East Central University in Ada, Okla. Hosted by Chickasaw Nation Arts & Humanities, students are taught a range of disciplines including vocal music, theatre, theatre technology, dance, creative writing, visual arts in 2-D and 3-D, music composition, photography, textile design, cultural arts and video production. For more information, call Chickasaw Nation Arts & Humanities, at (580) 272-5520.