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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


September 6, 2003 - Issue 95


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Native American Composers Apprentices Program

by Rosanda Suetopka Thayer
TC District Media

The Native American Composers Apprentice Program (NACAP) was created three years ago to develop the musical talent of high school students in northern Arizona’s Hopi and Navajo communities.

Intensive coaching in composition techniques with the Grand Canyon Music Festival’s composer-in-residence Brent Michael Davids, creates new student works for string quartets. Tuba City High School, Monument Valley High, Greyhills Academy High School, Kayenta High School and Hopi High School are the participating high schools in the western reservation area.

The native student composer apprenticeship program, offered through the Grand Canyon Music Festival, has been overwhelmingly successful. The music festival was founded in 1983 and, since 1985, has conducted outreach presentations at schools on the nearby Navajo and Hopi reservations, as well as at Grand Canyon and Flagstaff.

Again this year, surrounding lower grade schools on Hopi will also benefit by having a live performance at selected school sites in student assembly presentations. These grade schools include Hotevilla-Bacavi Community School, Polacca Day School and Second Mesa Day School.

The NACAP program is spread over several days of supervised one-on-one work with the composer-in-residence at each of the high school sites. The final touches on the piece are completed at the Grand Canyon during the final rehearsal week with the quartet and student.

Davids, this year’s composer-in-residence, is a Mohican composer and professional crystal flute player. He will work with students to develop musical literacy, which enhances critical thinking and decision-making skills through the study of music composition.

Davids works individually with selected NACAP students and in group sessions. He will cover comparative discussion of western music theory, composition, oral traditions of indigenous cultures, an overview of western and native instruments, music notation, orchestration and individual artistic expression. The student’s work is reviewed and then performed by award-winning string quartets (the Miro’ Quartet in 2001; the Corigliano String Quartet in 2002) and is the focus of outreach programs to nine northern Arizona schools, in Tuba City, Kayenta Chilchinbeto, Polacca-Keams Canyon and Second Mesa.

This year’s NACAP’s 2003 quartet in residence is the award winning Avalon String Quartet.

According to several major publications and musical reviews, GC Music Festival’s Native American Composer Apprentice Project has been quoted to “light fires.” This is easy to assess with the obvious continued interest of native students in the five area reservation schools who have actually made requests for a longer time to study and create music with the composer-in-residence and the selected string quartet.

There are currently no Native American composition students enrolled in any music conservatories and only a handful of formally-educated Native American composers working today.

NACAP addresses the root causes of this scarcity of Native American voices on the American music scene, due to several causes—lack of music programs in reservation schools, lack of access to musical institutions and even cultural biases.

The GC Music Festival and the native apprentice program enable five western agency high schools’ students, who are interested in music composition or music in general, to participate with professional musicians and hear their final student works through the concert series that is presented in a formal concert setting at the Shrine of Ages at the Grand Canyon. Appropriately, this shrine is a sacred site for the student tribal members who participate and benefit from this program.

The National Endowment for the Arts, Arizona Commission on the Arts—with funding from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Compton Foundation, WESTAF-Western States Arts Federation, and Arizona ArtShare—the state arts endowment fund, as well as additional public and private contributions provide monetary support for the program.

An added native feature for this year’s concert series will be well-known storyteller Michael LaCapa (Hopi, Tewa and Apache). LaCapa will tell his version of the Russian story, “A Soldier’s Tale,” at the Sept. 19 presentation at the Shrine of the Ages in the Grand Canyon.

Tickets for the concerts are $18/adults and children/$8. For more information on the native apprentice composer program or for concert tickets, call Chris Crossland, administrator for GCMF, at 1-800-997-8285. The fax number for ticket requests is 928-638-3373.

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.

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