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NYC Quartet, Tribal Composers Record Historic Album at OCU
Sixteen works by young American Indian composers will be performed and recorded by ETHEL, a New York-based string quartet, Jan. 22-24 at the Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University. “The album will be the first in history to release works of American Indian student composers,” said Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, composer-in-residence of the Chickasaw Nation. The 11 featured students, aged 13-19, studied with Tate over the past two years at the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy. Among them is Cruise Berry, now an OCU freshman composition major. “The academy itself is the first tribally funded fine arts academy in the country,” Tate said. “Now we’re pressing the first album of young Indian composers. We’re doing a lot of firsts with the tribe. These kids are making history by doing this. We’re ready for an album. It’s time. It’s amazing how consistently brilliant these kids are.” The CD will be released later this year by Thunderbird Records, distributed worldwide by Naxos, and be available online through iTunes and Amazon. “The 16 pieces range in length from 90 seconds to 7 minutes,” Tate said. “Every last one of them is different. They are extremely modern Indian, I don’t know how else to explain it. They’re so unique, yet you can hear different things in the students’ life experience, what they’ve heard and what they’re reacting to.” During the past decade, the ETHEL string quartet has conducted workshops, tours, and performances as ensemble-in-residence with the Native American Composers Apprenticeship Project. “We’ve been so enriched by the people, cultures, and sounds we’ve experienced over the years that we feel utterly compelled to share them through music,” said Ralph Farris, ETHE:’s violist. “By working with young Native composers who have written music for string quartet, we give these children a chance to hear their music be performed by professional musicians.” “ETHEL has an unbelievable ability to express multiple styles of expression at the drop of a hat,” Tate said. “This will be a life-changing experience for these young composers.” All 11 students will actively participate in every aspect of the album’s recording. “During the recording session, the composition students will be with me in the control room to co-produce the session,” said Alan Bise, producer/owner of Thunderbird Records. “They will discuss with ETHEL how they’d like their music to be performed, and what kind of feeling they are trying to convey. During classical recording sessions, we do not often get to collaborate with living composers, so the student’s involvement brings extra meaning to this recording.” Tribal officials, the composers’ families, and students from OCU’s Bass School are invited to watch the recording process. The recording project is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and Governor Bill Anoatubby. The undertaking is part of the ongoing initiatives by the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities. “Our governor is unusually supportive of contemporary and traditional arts in our tribe,” Tate said. “He finds enormous value in investing in creative and artistic production with our tribe. It’s an easy handshake with our governor. He’s aware that a lot of kids haven’t even thought about composition and now they’ll be released on a label worldwide.”