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(Many Paths)
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Cherokee National Youth Choir Releases 12th Studio CD
by Will Chavez- Senior Reporter, The Cherokee Phoenix

MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Cherokee National Youth Choir released its 12th CD during an Oct. 28 launch party at the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. Cultural songs from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians inspired the 12-track CD titled “From the East.”

The CD offers listeners an opportunity to experience songs from the Cherokees’ ancestral homeland that are sung in the Cherokee language.

The launch party included a live performance by the 28-member choir and Cherokee opera singer Barbara McAlister, who makes a special performance on the album.

Kathy Sierra, Cherokee language teacher and CNYC travel coordinator, said she first heard the songs being sung by EBCI citizen Marie Junaluska at a Cherokee language meeting.

“Ever since then, they’ve been on mind to record them, to get them collected and have the kids sing them,” Sierra said.

Before the choir went into the studio to record, Sierra and CNYC Director Mary Kay Henderson worked with choir members to prepare them for their studio time.

“We set the date months ahead of time when we know we’re going to record, so they know in their mind when they’re going to record and they should by then know their words,” Sierra said.

Sierra has worked with and shared her Cherokee language knowledge with the choir for 13 years. She said she sees the boys and girls she mentors grow and that many of them let go of school projects and organizations to concentrate solely on the choir.

Along with building their self-esteem, Sierra said members share the Cherokee language with the world.
Garrett Million of Lowery said his two years singing with the choir has been “the most amazing experience.”

“I not only get to learn the Cherokee language, but I get to share it with the rest of the country, and it’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “Being able to visit all these places has been insane.”

The choir partook in the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. Million said he had always wanted to visit New York City and being able to perform in front of millions of people was “a memory he won’t forget.”

The choir also routinely sings with the nationally known singers such as Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, classic rock group Foreigner and the Oak Ridge Boys. Recently, it performed with the Tulsa Signature Symphony at the Tulsa State Fair and with Nashville songwriter Becky Hobbs at the Cherokee National Holiday.

Making the new CD was “a fun experience,” Million said, because it allowed him to grow closer to other choir members, especially newer members.

Lacie Melton of Leach has been singing with the choir for a year and a half. She said making the CD in July was “tiring but fun.” The recording session was like a longer practice session, she said, but she enjoyed learning the songs and singing them. The song “Prodigal Son” has approximately 10 verses and was hard to learn, she said, but she welcomed the challenge.

“I enjoy learning about our culture and the songs and everything. I like the more upbeat songs, but I enjoy learning all of them,” Melton said. “I just love being in the choir, love the traveling and really appreciate being able to do it. I’m really glad I get to have my little sister (Lauren Melton) along with me to do this.”

The choir was founded in 2000 as a way to keep youth involved with the Cherokee language and culture. Its previous CD “Cherokee America” contained patriotic tunes and was released in 2012.

CNYC albums, including “From the East,” can be purchased on iTunes. Individual choir members are selling the CD for $10. Cherokee Nation Gift Shops are also selling it for $14.95.

“The staff and choir members truly enjoyed creating the album, and we hope listeners will enjoy the songs and feel the connection to our brothers and sisters back east. They (songs) were very, very old, so we decided we wanted to keep those songs and give them to the kids so they would know where they came from,” Henderson said.

For more information, call Henderson at 918-772-4172 or Sierra at 918-453-5638 or email

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