Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate

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Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate (Chickasaw, born in Norman, Oklahoma, on July 25, 1968) is a Chickasaw classical composer and pianist.[1] His compositions are inspired by American Indian history and culture.

He has had several commissioned works, which have been performed by major orchestras in Washington, DC; San Francisco, Detroit, and Minneapolis, among others. When the San Francisco Symphony Chorus performed and recorded his work Iholba' in 2008, it was the first time the chorus had sung any work in Chickasaw or any Native American language.[2]

Tate has also worked to develop younger musicians and composers. He is founder and artistic director of the Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival. He was Co-Founder and Composition Instructor for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy. He has served as composer-in-residence. Since 2011 he has been an adjunct instructor on the music faculty of Oklahoma City University.


Jerod Sheffer Impichchaachaaha' Tate[3] was born in 1968 in Norman, Oklahoma, and is an enrolled citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. With both parents involved in music, theatre and dance, he grew up immersed in classical music. His Chickasaw father, Charles Tate, is a classically trained pianist and baritone, who played at home as well as in professional performance. Through his paternal grandmother, Jerod Tate is part of the Shawi clan.[2] His mother, Dr. Patricia Tate, is of Irish descent.[2] She was a professor of dance and a choreographer.[1] His parents recognized and nurtured Jerod's musical talent. His parents were influential in encouraging his work in music, and by accompanying his father to tribal festivals, Jerod heard much Native American music among the peoples of Oklahoma.

His Chickasaw middle name, Impichchaachaaha’, means “high corncrib.” It is his inherited traditional Chickasaw "house name," traditionally used in a manner similar to a European-American surname.[2] A corncrib is a small hut used for the storage of corn and other vegetables. In traditional Chickasaw culture, the corncrib was built high off of the ground on stilts to keep its contents safe from foraging animals.[2]

Tate received his BM in Piano Performance from Northwestern University, where he studied with Dr. Donald J. Isaak. He received his MM in Piano Performance and Composition from the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with Elizabeth Pastor and Dr. Donald Erb.[4]

Shortly after he began his piano studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, his mother Dr. Patricia Tate commissioned his first composition, asking him for a ballet score. He wrote Winter Moons, exploring traditions of the Plains tribes, which premiered at the University of Wyoming in 1992. He found this was a way to combine Native American tradition and classical training.[5] The Colorado Ballet subsequently performed this piece in 1994 and 1996.

Tate later commented about the experience of composing this work: "I didn't mix my identities of being a classically trained musician and being an American Indian. I never saw that there was even a possible relationship between those two until I started composing. And that's when they came together in a way that made me feel just wonderful."[5] After this, he returned to the Cleveland Institute and initiated his second major, in composition, in addition to piano studies. He also worked with his father and others to study Chickasaw music more deeply.[2]

Tate has said an important influence was Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, ”the first ethnomusicologist that was aware of his own folk music; he did it so naturally and so joyfully that I felt the same impulse to do the same thing from where I come from.”[2]


In 1994 American Indian composers held a convention in Boulder, Colorado, and have since worked to highlight their innovations in working with traditional instruments and forms within classical music structure. The American Composers Forum, based in Minneapolis and working to support the composition of new music, has also started a First Nations Initiative. It has commissioned several works from Native American composers, including Tate.

His works have been performed by major orchestras in Washington, DC; San Francisco, Detroit, Winnipeg, Canada; Minnesota, and Buffalo, New York, among others.[5] Tate has said that he works with "sound icons," comparing his use of traditional flutes and drums, to the way that visual artists explore iconic images associated with Native Americans: feathers, horses, etc.[4]

In 2007 the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus performed and recorded his Tracing Mississippi and Iholba', released together in 2008. This was the first time the chorus had sung any work in Chickasaw or in any Native American language. Tate said they took on the challenge just like learning how to sing in any other language.[2]

Tate worked with the noted musician, R. Carlos Nakai, composing À Bec Quintet (2009), a woodwind quintet for him. Nakai premiered it at the Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival.[6]

In a program on Native American classical music and composers, NPR noted that some tribes have funded education programs and other initiatives for young composers.[5] Tate is among musicians who have developed institutions for the performance and composition of music by Native Americans. He is founder and artistic director of the Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival. He was Co-Founder and Composition Instructor for the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy.

In 2009, Tate conceived, coordinated and implemented the CD project Oshtali: Music for String Quartet. The album consists of original compositions by his students from the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy; it is the first professional recording in history of works by young American Indian composers. A second CD project from the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, entitled Tobachi, was released in 2013.

He has also served as composer-in-residence. In 1997, Tate was Composer in Residence for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts/National Symphony Orchestra American Residency Program in the state of Wyoming.[3] In 2004 and 2005, Tate was Composer-in-Residence for the Grand Canyon Music Festival’s Native American Composer Apprentice Project. In 2007, he was Composer-in-Residence for The Joyce Foundation/American Composers Forum, teaching composition to American Indian high school students in Minneapolis. In 2011 Tate was selected as the composer-mentor of the 2012 Essentially Choral program supported by the Jerome Foundation.[7]

In 2011 Tate joined the Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University as an adjunct instructor of music.[8]


In reviewing a 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, The Washington Post said, “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.”[citation needed]


  • Winter Moons (1992), ballet score
  • Tracing Mississippi (2007), flute concerto
  • Iholba’ (The Vision) (2007), for Solo Flute, Orchestra and Chorus
  • Nitoshi’ Imali, Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra (2007)[8]
  • Taloa’ Hiloha, solo timpani[2]
  • À Bec Quintet (2009), woodwind quintet composed for R. Carlos Nakai, premiered at the Sante Fe Chamber Music Festival.[6]
  • Lowak Shoppala’ (Fire and Light) (2009), for orchestra and children’s chorus, commissioned by the American Composers Forum Continental Harmony Project[8]
  • Pisachi (You See), (2013), for string quartet, commissioned by ETHEL for ETHEL's Documerica, premiered at BAM's Next Wave Festival 2013


  • 2011 regional Emmy Award winner for contributions to documentary, The Science of Composing. It was about his residency with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, where he taught composition to seven notable research scientists. Their compositions were performed at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art by members of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
  • 2011, nominated for Native Arts and Cultures Foundation Artist Fellowship
  • 2008, appointed Creativity Ambassador for the State of Oklahoma.
  • 2006, a Joyce Award to commission Nitoshi’ Imali, Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra
  • 2006, Alumni Achievement Award from the Cleveland Institute of Music. has received awards from Meet the Composer and the Percussive Arts Society


  • 2008 - Works by Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate. Includes Tracing Mississippi and Iholba'. Performed by Christine Bailey Davis and Thomas Robertello, flutes, with the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus, dir. Edwin Outwater. Cleveland, Ohio: Thunderbird Records.


  1. ^ a b Karl Gehrke, "American Indian traditions come to classical music", Minnesota Public Radio, 26 October 2007
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i NewMusicBox: "Native Composer: Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate" (April 1, 2009). Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate in conversation with Frank J. Oteri on October 17, 2008. (includes video)
  3. ^ a b "Jerod Tate", ZoomInfo, 19 August 2004
  4. ^ a b Jerod Tate Profile and Videos, American Composers Forum, Chickasaw Arts and Humanities, Chickasaw.TV
  5. ^ a b c d Felix Contreras, "American Indian Composers Go Classical", All Things Considered, NPR, 1 January 2009, accessed 9 March 2015
  6. ^ a b "Jerod Tate", Native Digest, 2009
  7. ^ "Jerod Tate's Emmy Award for 'The Science of Composing' ", Jerome Foundation, 15 August 2011, accessed 9 March 2015
  8. ^ a b c "Faculty and Staff", Music Dept., Oklahoma City University

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