Musical Events

Classical Native Jerod Tate

Tuesday, March 17 at 7:30 pm | Reynolds Recital Hall

Please join us for a special evening of music and the popular Dessert for the Spirit reception.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and a 2011 Emmy Award Winner. Mr. Tate is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition, and a review by The Washington Post states that "Tate's connection to nature and the human experience was quite apparent in this piece…rarer still is his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism." This review was a response to a recent performance of Iholba (The Vision), for Solo Flute, Orchestra and Chorus, which was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra and premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Jerod will be joined tonight by the MSU Symphony and Chamber Wind Ensemble.

Sun Dance Opera Recital performed by the Singer Family

Tuesday, March 24 at 7:30 pm | Reynolds Recital Hall

The Sun Dance Opera was written by Yankton Dakota activist Gertrude Simmons Bonnin or Zitkala-Sa. Zitkala-Sa wrote The Sun Dance Opera while living on the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation in Northeastern Utah. It was received with much acclaim by Utah audiences but then fell into obscurity. Meg Singer (Diné) will present her research on the significance of Zitkala-Sa, American Indian performance in the 20th Century, and the musical and political influence of The Sun Dance Opera. A performance of selected songs will feature Sarah Singer (Diné) of Weber State University and James Singer (Diné) of Utah State University.

The Sun Dance Opera is a 1913 opera written by Yankton Dakota author, Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Simmons Bonnin), and William F. Hanson. The Sun Dance Opera music derived from the Yankton Dakota melodies that Zitkala-Sa heard while living on the Yankton Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Operas and musicals based on Indians was a common genre of entertainment at the turn of the 20th Century, when American Indians were very rarely consulted or involved.

The plot of The Sun Dance Opera is a common one—a love story that must endure trial and adversity before its ending. In the 1913 production, non-Native classically trained singers filled the lead roles as local Native actors made up the choir and minor roles. At various and crucial times the opera would stop, and the Ute cast members would perform songs and dances from the Ute Sun Dance ceremony—rituals that were banned at the time. However, by performing the banned rituals within The Sun Dance Opera, Zitkala-Sa created a space to circumvent the harsh federal regulations and allowed herself and the Ute people the freedom to assert the value of their own beliefs without consequence.

The Sun Dance Opera was performed in several Utah locations under the direction of Zitkala-Sa. After her death in 1938, Hanson took the opera for its New York City debut. The Sun Dance Opera garnered harsh reviews. Furthermore, William F. Hanson went on to claim The Sun Dance Opera as his own, omitting Zitkala-Sa's contribution, then willed The Sun Dance Opera score to Brigham Young University upon his death.

Very little attention was paid to The Sun Dance Opera and it fell into obscurity until Navajo siblings James and Sarah Singer of Salt Lake City, Utah performed musical selections from The Sun Dance Opera for the Native American Research Symposium at Westminster College in 2013 and the Native American Literary Symposium in Minneapolis, MN.