Young Chickasaw composers’ works highlight April 30 concert

Jerod Tate
Jerod Tate

Get to know Jerod Tate, the visionary composer and educator behind a portion of the Spokane String Quartet’s April 30 program.

Praised and honored for “his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism” (Washington Post), Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, born in Norman, Okla., is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition. His compositions have been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Minnesota Orchestra, among many others.

A passionate educator, Tate is among musicians who have developed institutions for the performance and composition of music by American Indians. He is co-founder and composition instructor for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy.  In 2009, Tate conceived, coordinated and implemented the CD project Oshtali: Music for String Quartet. Performed by the ETHEL Quartet, the album consists of original compositions by his students from the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy; it is the first professional recording in history of works by young American Indian composers. The second CD, Tobachi, was recorded by the Linden Quartet, and a third CD was recently released. All three were recorded, produced, and released on the Grammy-award winning label Azica Records.

Spokane String Quartet violinist Amanda Howard-Phillips recently got in touch with Jerod Tate and asked him a few questions that we’d like to share with you.

Amanda: “You co-founded the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came to be, and what your goals are/were?”

Jerod Tate: “In 2004, I was hired to be composer-in-residence for the Grand Canyon Music Festival Native American Composer Apprentice Program. After a highly successful engagement, I contacted my tribal governor, Bill Anoatubby, and said ‘We have got to do this at home!’ As we had recently created our own Division of Arts and Humanities, I partnered to create a new composition academy. Spontaneously, they added an entire arts academy that included dance, theatre, 2D and 3D art, choral studies, textiles, and film.”

Amanda: “The three CD recordings are so fantastic; can you tell me a little about how that project was conceived and put together?”

Jerod Tate: “After a few years, it was apparent that our kids’ compositions were worthy of a world stage. Through my connections in the classical recording world, I arranged a new project that would professionally record and release our kids’ compositions into the realm of Amazon and iTunes and be competitive with major classical chamber ensembles. Azica Records agreed to take a chance on our vision. Now, the world can witness young American Indian talent for themselves. It’s a dream come true.”

Amanda: “What’s been the best thing about teaching these young people? The most surprising?  What are your hopes/goals for the future?”

Jerod Tate: “I think that every human on this planet can agree that we are all born intelligent and talented. We can also agree that, for all the right reasons, showcasing this talent with our children is the best thing in the entire universe. Our youth create the most pleasant surprises that we could ever imagine. My goal is to reveal this beautiful talent, wherever it may exist. I ask all people to join me and replicate this experience in their own communities. Love is the answer.”

The SSQ is thrilled to perform four pieces written by Jerod Tate’s students at our concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Bing Crosby Theater. We hope you’ll join us!