In recognition of Native American and Alaska Native heritage month, Classical Music Indy spoke with Steven Alvarez, the Director of Arts & Education at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Alvarez is a classical percussionist and vocalist. Read below where Alvarez highlights four prominent musicians in the Native community.
A Native Voice: In Recognition of Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month
The Fall, for many of us, conjures images of changing leaves, Thanksgiving dinners, and bundling up in warm scarves to venture out to Fall Festivals. Music and the arts abound during this beautiful time of year as orchestras, galleries, and other creative communities enhance nature’s beauty with artistic offerings that reflect sounds, images, and stories that are steeped in family tradition.
November is also Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month. The National Congress of American Indians describes the month as a time to celebrate rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and to acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. Heritage Month is also an opportune time to educate the general public about tribes, to raise a general awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and the ways in which tribal citizens have worked to conquer these challenges.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage, Alaska offers classes, lectures, workshops and programming focused on the various Native cultures of Alaska. The Center finds innovative ways to fulfill their mission of sharing, perpetuating, and preserving Alaskan Native cultures, languages, traditions, and values through celebration and education.
In recognition of Native American and Alaska Native heritage month, Classical Music Indy (CMI) talked to Steven Alvarez, the Director of Arts & Education at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Alvarez is a classical percussionist and vocalist. He is a versatile performer, and has stepped into an advocacy role for other Native musicians.
In 2006-2008 the National Museum of the American Indians (NMAI) presented the program Classical Native and produced a series of concerts and recitals at the Museum’s Washington DC location involving native composers and performers. Steven explains, “The composer I was most impressed with is Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate. He is Chickasaw and lives in Oklahoma. His work is outstanding and of all the Native classical musicians I know, his work stands out far above anyone else. Other composers that have done notable things include David Yeagly (Comanche) and George Quincy (Choctaw). Dawn Avery (Mohawk) is a talented cellist and composer whose work is not exclusively classical in style. Gabriel Ayala, a Pascua Yaqui guitarist and composer has been doing some fine work as well.”
Alvarez was involved with the commissioning and premier of a piece that coupled a symphony orchestra with Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian song and dance. It is called Echoes and was composed by Randall Craig Fleischer (see excerpts from the debut here). It was commissioned by a collaborative group of museums, cultural centers, and a tribal organization called ECHO: Education Through Cultural and Historical Organizations. There is both a full orchestration and chamber orchestration version of the piece and it is performed with video. Randy is not Native, but has composed several pieces that fuse the two genres (classical and Native melodies and rhythm).
Music unites us. It serves as a means of honoring our differences and exploring similarities. For these talented musicians, their heritage drives the creative process and we hope you will take the opportunity to learn more about Native American and Alaska Native musicians. Keep enjoying and keep evolving!
George Quincy (Choctaw)
Composer and Conductor
Hold degrees from and taught at the Juilliard School. Worked with the Martha Graham Dance Company. Read more in the Juilliard Journal. Find his CD, Choctaw Nights, on Amazon.
Dawn Avery (Mohawk)
Cellist, Vocalist, and Composer
Studied with famed composer, John Cage. Seeks to create music that is “healing, spiritual and restorative”. Find her classical music at: www.DawnAvery.com Or on Amazon.
Gabriel Ayala, (Yaqui)
Guitarist and Composer
Holds a Masters from University of Arizona. Performs nationwide, including at the Kennedy Center. Advocates for education for all youth and maintains a personal philosophy: “Love your children, Honor your elders, and Respect your women.” Find his music at www.AyalaGuitarist.com or on Amazon.
Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate (Chickasaw)
Emmy Award winning musician
Holds Bachelors of Music in Piano Performance from Northwestern University where he studied with Dr. Donald J. Isaak. He then completed his Masters of Music in Piano Performance and Composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Artistic Director for the Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival. Find his music at www.jerodtate.com or on Amazon.