Composer Jerod Tate Scores Chamber Music America (CMA) Commission

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

Published August 12, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY — The nation’s top national network for commissioned musical compositions has tapped Emmy-winning Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate to compose a clarinet and piano piece.

More than $800,000 was awarded nationally to composers to create musical works by Chamber Music America (CMA) through four grant programs. The funding provides key support for creation, performance and presentation of small ensemble works through CMA’s community engagement and audience-building initiatives, the organization said.

“Being commissioned by CMA is a real validation to all composers and ensembles who were chosen,” said Tate. The Chickasaw artist will compose the piece for the Meraki Chamber Players, a Washington, D.C. ensemble.

CMA commissions are very competitive, Tate observed. “CMA is the most highly-funded and most prestigious organization granting commissions to composers on a national level. It is an honor to be selected.” CMA is based in New York City, but selects composers to write for ensemble groups throughout America.

Performances of Tate’s composition will be premiered in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Tate also is investigating the possibility of bringing the ensemble to Oklahoma to perform. Christina Giacona, a clarinetist and Native flute player who teaches Native American music at the University of Oklahoma, has performed Tate’s music in the past. He also would like for the ensemble to perform at Oklahoma City University (OCU).

Tate’s music, along with works from another Oklahoma composer – Jamie Whitmarsh – could be performed if Tate’s wishes come to fruition. Whitmarsh has composed for the Washington, D.C. ensemble before. He is not Native American, but serves as an adjunct music professor at OCU and is affiliated with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.

“We’d be the cowboy and Indian of the group,” Tate said with a laugh.

Tate is just beginning to compose the work. It will be performed in autumn 2019.

“I normally don’t have all this on my plate at once so I’m learning a new time discipline,” Tate joked.

The new task only adds to the list of three additional compositions Tate is working on for performances next year.

Tate revels in what he calls the “athletic duo” of piano and clarinet. “I like the athletic drama the two instruments can do together.”

For inspiration, Tate is looking no further than his own Oklahoma City home where his 4-year-old son, Heloha – a Chickasaw word for “thunder” – keeps his parents hopping.

“The third movement of the piece came to me while my son and I were at a playground in Ardmore. I’m pretty sure this composition will be dedicated to him. Heloha’s energy, tenacity and exuberance are thrilling his father, who turned 50 in July. “I am late to fatherhood and my son amazes me. He is into astrophysics, he loves symphonic music, Choctaw hymns, the visual arts and pow wow dancing,” Tate said laughing.

From the playground experience with Heloha, Tate already has the first and third titles to the movements he will compose for the Washington, D.C. ensemble. “The concept for the piece will be physical actions,” he said. There will be Chickasaw titles and themes. The first movement will be titled “Abaawaa” and the third “Malili.”

Abaawaa is Chickasaw for “soaring” and Malili means “running.”

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