American Classical Voices

Thu, Nov 24 and Fri, Nov 25

Native American classical artists, including composers, performers, and educators, will tell you about their lives, their family and community, their music, and their professions. Join us every hour from 7am-11pm for this special feature. Below are profiles of just a few of the artists who will be featured. 

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, composer

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, is a classical composer, citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma and is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition. His Washington Post review states that “Tate is rare as an American Indian composer of classical music. Rarer still is his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism.”

Tate is Guest Composer/Conductor/Pianist for San Francisco Symphony Currents program Thunder Song: American Indian Musical Cultures and was recently Guest Composer for Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Balcony Bar program Home with ETHEL and Friends, featuring his commissioned work Pisachi (Reveal) for String Quartet.

In 2022 Tate released “Moonstrike.” Composed for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, the recording features American Indian stories with narrator and string quartet.

Barbara McAlister, mezzo-soprano and teacher

American dramatic mezzo-soprano Barbara McAlister, of Cherokee Indian heritage, began her operatic career as an apprentice with the Santa Fe Opera Company and Central City Opera Company. After Santa Fe and Central City, she has gone on to perform with the The Washington Opera Company, Cherokee Heritage Center, Arizona Opera, San Diego Opera, Tulsa Opera, Florentine Opera, New York Grand Opera and Opera New England.

Ms. McAlister’s international career was launched when she won the prestigious Loren Zachary Competition in Los Angeles. She was subsequently engaged to perform the dramatic mezzo-soprano repertoire in the opera houses of Passau, Koblenz, Bremerhaven, and Flensburg in Germany, as well as in Monte Carlo, Cannes, Modena, Ferrara, Paris, Lisbon and Hong Kong. She toured France with the New Bulgarian Opera as Ortrud in Lohengrin and returned the following year as the mezzo soloist in the Verdi Requiem. She was also the recipient of the NY Wagner Society Grant.

In l999 Ms. McAlister was a recipient of the Cherokee Medal of Honor. Her Los Angeles voice teacher was Lee Sweetland and in NYC it is Steve Sweetland.

Charles Shadle, composer

Charles Shadle teaches composition, music theory, and music history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he serves as a Senior Lecturer in Music, and as Theory Coordinator. He is the 2016 recipient of a SHASS Levitan Teaching Award. Numerous institutions, including SUNY Buffalo, Longwood Opera, The Lake George Opera Festival, The Handel and Haydn Society, The Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, The Newton Choral Society, and Lontano (UK) have commissioned his work. For the National Film Preservation Foundation he has composed six film scores, all of which are commercially available.

Shadle’s Symphony No. 4 for orchestra and baritone soloist premiered in 2022.

Connor Chee, composer and pianist

Navajo pianist and composer Connor Chee is known for combining his classical piano training with his Native American heritage. Chee made his Carnegie Hall debut at the age of 12 after winning a gold medal in the World Piano Competition. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, Chee’s solo piano music is inspired by traditional Navajo chants and songs.

Chee has released 3 studio albums of original pieces and piano transcriptions of Navajo music. The Navajo Piano won Best Instrumental Recording at the 16th Annual Native American Music Awards, and his piece “Beginnings” won Best New Age Song.

Chee’s newest work is “Unbroken,” tracing the brave journey of the Code Talkers through eleven minutes of music for solo piano.

Renata Yazzie, Diné (Navajo) pianist and musicologist

Renata Yazzie holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry (emphasis in pre-medicine) with a minor in Music and a Master’s degree in Music with dual concentrations in Musicology and Piano Performance both from the University of New Mexico.

Over the past decade, Renata has given performances throughout New Mexico, Arizona and Germany to great acclaim. She has been invited as a guest lecturer/performer, panelist, and speaker at many universities, presenting research on various facets of Indigenous music. She has also served as a piano adjudicator, given masterclasses, and workshops. Renata is actively involved with mentoring other young Indigenous classical-oriented musicians and has become both a role model and inspiration for many. In 2018, she established the American Indian Musicians’ Scholarship which funds several American Indian students pursuing a music major, every semester. During her tenure as Miss Indian University of New Mexico 2015-2016, she dedicated herself to raising musical awareness and improving the standards of cross-culturally competent music education for Indigenous youth.

Yazzie’s current research is focused on Navajo hymnody and the art of translation. Other current research topics also include the Indigenization of Western art music, Diné-centered approaches to music pedagogy, music theory, and the influence of Korean Pop and Korean media on the Navajo Nation. In addition to her research, Yazzie has also worked in conjunction with her parents and Dr. Melvatha Chee, a Navajo linguistics professor at the University of New Mexico, to create the first music dictionary in Diné Bizaad. Yazzie has written for First American Art Magazine, Native Max Magazine, Source New Mexico, and several forthcoming edited volumes. She is also the current host and producer of American Classical Voices which airs on Classical 95.5 KHFM out of Albuquerque/Santa Fe, New Mexico.