SoNA brings American Indian composer’s symphony to WAC stage April 29

SoNA brings American Indian composer’s symphony to WAC stage April 29

“This season we have ‘imagined big’ and have presented music that reflects our bold vision for our orchestra and the wide possibilities of orchestral music,” says SoNA Music Director Paul Haas. “We have represented the past and present of our artform through time-honored works by William Grant Still, Bernstein, Shostakovich, Brahms, and more — and we’re showing the powerful future of our artform through works by contemporary visionaries like Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate.”

For the final performance of the season April 29, the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas brings to the Walton Arts Center stage its first full-length symphony by an American Indian composer, a moment, says SoNA Executive Director D. Riley Nicholson, that is long overdue.

“Native American music has long suffered from an exceedingly low profile on the concert stage,” Haas says in his program notes. “It has been only recently that works truly reflecting those cultures have been composed by Native American, rather than Eurocentric, composers.”

And there, in the middle of that sea change, he says, is Jerod Tate, whose work “Chokfi” refers to the Chickasaw word for the trickster rabbit in its mythology.

Tate — whose middle name, Impichchaachaaha’, means “his high corncrib” and is his inherited traditional Chickasaw house name — was born in Norman, Okla., and grew up with “a rich background in American Indian culture and modern American music and theater.”

“My father, Charles, is Chickasaw from Ardmore, Okla.,” he begins his story. “Dad graduated from the University of Oklahoma Law School and is a retired tribal judge, special district judge and tribal attorney.

“Dad is [also] a classically trained pianist and baritone,” Tate continues. “He started me on the piano and imparted a beautiful and robust knowledge of American Indian culture, history and law. My mother, Patricia, was Manx Irish and was a professional choreographer and dancer.

“Being Chickasaw is and was the foundation of my everyday existence,” he adds. “Dad played and sang classical repertoire in the house, and Mom choreographed ballet repertoire that exposed me to the finest symphonic compositions in music history.

“Just three months into my first piano lessons, I announced to my family that I was to be a concert pianist,” Tate remembers. “I majored in piano performance for my undergraduate degree at Northwestern University, when my mother asked me to compose the orchestral score for her new ballet ‘Winter Moons’ — a work, with Native storytelling, about American Indian legends from the Northern Plains and Rocky Mountains.

“Mom created a circumstance that asked me to be all of who I am, simultaneously, and opened a path for me to intentionally develop American Indian classical composition,” he says. “Since then, my life passion is creating classical compositions based in Chickasaw and North American Indian culture, history and ethos.”


Symphony of Northwest Arkansas:

‘Evoking Folklore’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. April 29

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $36-$60

INFO — or 443-5600

FYI — Also on the program are Manuel de Falla’s “Nights in the Gardens of Spain,” featuring Angela Cheng on piano; and Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3.

Categories: Music