Canku Ota


(Many Paths)


An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


January 27, 2001 - Issue 28



Indian Musician Adds Show


by Christene Meyers Billings Gazette Arts & Entertainment Editor

More than 800 Native American students from throughout the region will take their school lessons to the pulsing of drums inside the Alberta Bair Theater on Friday, January 19.

The inventive alternate to the traditional classroom is to be one of the best-attended offerings of the ABT’s 2000-01 Programs for Schools and Educators.

On Friday, January 19, nearly 2,500 area students will be among three audiences to see Robert Mirabal, the 1999 New Age Artist of the Year. The Pueblo Indian from Taos, N.M., will present “Taos Tales,” with his 12-member company.

A Sheridan, Wyo., audience cheered the performance and called it “phenomenal, feel good, empowering.”

Youngsters from both the Crow and Cheyenne reservations representing a half-dozen Indian schools will join Billings students and others from outlying districts to see the nationally praised musical feast featuring ancestral drumming, chanting and modern music.

The school performances make it possible to treat young people to a day at the theater, present a thoughtful theatrical program and give the students exposure to works of dance, music and theater.

“It opens new vistas,” said Corby Skinner, ABT programming and marketing director.

“Part of the ABT’s mission is to educate and groom the audiences of the future. We are getting tremendous positive feedback.”

More than 300 flyers were sent to Indian communities and schools, said Bess Snyder Fredlund, ABT education director. She praises the education-outreach department for the curiosity and pride it awakens in students.

“We worked very hard to get the Native American community involved in this,” she said.

In fact, response from Billings schools and others in the region, coupled with the response from the Native American community prompted the ABT to add a second school show Friday, bringing the total to three shows for the dancers and musicians.

“It’s an energetic day for them,” Skinner said, “but they’re really up for it. When we told them about the Indian students, they were thrilled.”

Native American students are coming in from both the Crow and Northern Cheyenne reservations, from Plenty Coups School, St. Charles Mission, Pretty Eagle, Fort Smith, Lame Deer, St. Labre and Pryor elementary schools.

The eighth-graders of Billings schools will also see the performance, described as “an intoxicating swirl” of ancient and contemporary Native American culture.

While setting up equipment and doing sound checks Thursday afternoon, Mirabal said he was pleased to have the chance to perform for native people.

He is active in filming his own PBS special, “Music from a Painted Cave” and believes that young people can find voice and focus in seeing other native peoples developing their talents. His special will air during the PBS March pledge drive.

The performer crafts his own flutes, designs his own choreography and writes his own music. Several of his handmade flutes are in the Smithsonian Institution.

Fredlund said, “We prepare curriculum sheets and give the teachers ideas for tying the shows into music, social studies, history, geography and more. It’s a wonderful way to show how the arts play a rich part in the complete education of a student.”

Robert Mirabel Official Site




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