Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate

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Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate after a concert in Falls Church, Virginia, in 2016

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

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 American Indian 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[citation needed] 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 father, Charles Tate (Chickasaw), 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 Manx 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. By accompanying his father to tribal events, Jerod heard much American Indian 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.[3]

Shortly before Tate 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 tribes from the Northern Plains and Rockies. It premiered at the University of Wyoming in 1992. He found composition to be a way to combine American Indian tradition and classical training.[4] The Colorado Ballet subsequently performed this ballet 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."[4]

After this, he returned to the Cleveland Institute of Music 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, saying he was ”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 Dr. Bill Burkhardt held a convention in Boulder, Colorado about and with American Indian composers, who have made innovations by 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, implemented the First Nations Composers Initiative (FNCI). FNCI has commissioned several works from North American Indian composers. FNCI is no longer active. The American Composers Forum itself has commissioned three large-scale works from Tate.

Tate's works have been commissioned and performed by the National Symphony Orchestra, The San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus, The Detroit Symphony, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Ballet, Canterbury Choral Society, among others.[4] 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 American Indians: feathers, horses, etc.[3]

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 American Indian 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 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.[5]

In a program on American Indian classical music and composers, NPR noted that some tribes have funded education programs and other initiatives for young composers.[4] Tate is among musicians who have developed institutions for the performance and composition of music by American Indians. 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 recording from the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, entitled Tobachi, was released in 2013. The third CD recording, entitled Taloowa' Chokma'si', was released in 2016. All three recordings were recorded, produced, and released on the Grammy Award-winning label, Azica Records.

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.[citation needed] 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 Composer-Mentor of the 2012 Essentially Choral program supported by the Jerome Foundation.[6]

In 2011 Tate joined the Bass School of Music at Oklahoma City University as an adjunct instructor of orchestration.[7]


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]


Commissioned works[edit]

  • Muscogee Hymn Suite for Solo Baritone, Children's Chorus and Orchestra - Tulsa Symphony (2016)
  • Standing Bear: A Ponca Indian Cantata for Solo Baritone, Piano and String Sextet - Hidegard Center for the Arts (2015)
  • Misha’ Sipokni' (The Old Ground) Oratorio for Orchestra, Chorus, Children's Chorus, Baritone, Tenor and Soprano – Canterbury Choral Society (2015)
  • Oka’ Aya’sha’ (The Water Place) for Chorus, Woodwinds and Percussion – University of Chicago/Canterbury Choral Society (2014)
  • Pisachi (You See), (2013), for String Quartet, commissioned by ETHEL for ETHEL's Documerica, premiered at BAM's Next Wave Festival 2013
  • Waktégli Olówaŋ (Victory Songs) for Baritone Solo and Orchestra – South Dakota Symphony (2012)
  • Visions of a Child (A Pueblo Lullaby) for Chorus – Santa Fe Desert Chorale (2012)
  • Theme music for To the Wonder – Directed by Terrence Malick (2012)
  • Taloowa’ Chipota (Children’s Songs) for Youth Choir – American Composers Forum ChoralQuest Program (2011)
  • À Bec Quintet (2009), Woodwind Quintet composed for R. Carlos Nakai, premiered at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.[5]
  • Shakamaxon for String Orchestra – Philadelphia Classical Symphony (2007)
  • Nitoshi’ Imali, Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra – Joyce Foundation (2006)
  • Lowak Shoppala’ (Fire and Light) (2006), for Orchestra, Children's Chorus, Baritone, Soprano and Narrators - American Composers Forum Continental Harmony Project[7]
  • Film score for Indian Country Diaries: A Seat at the Drum – Native American Public Telecommunications/Adanvdo Productions, Lincoln, NE (2005)
  • Worth of the Soul: A Tribute to American Indian Warriors for Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Chorus – Matthew Inkster/Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA (2004)
  • Tracing Mississippi, Concerto for Flute and Orchestra – Christine Bailey, Principal Flute of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (2002)
  • Iholba' (The Vision) for Solo Flute, Orchestra and Chorus – National Symphony Orchestra (1999)
  • Dream World for Woodwinds, Percussion and Narrator – New Jersey Chamber Music Society (1997)
  • Garfish Song for Chorus and Piano – The Dale Warland Singers, Minneapolis, MN (1997)
  • Diva Ojibway, Operetta Score – Native Earth Performing Arts Society, Toronto, ON (1994)
  • Film score for First Americans Journal – Native American Television, Minneapolis, MN (1994)
  • Iyaaknasha’ for Double Bass and Orchestra – James VanDemark, double bass faculty, Eastman School of Music (1993)
  • Winter Moons, Ballet Score – Patricia Tate/University of Wyoming (1991)

Other chamber works[edit]

  • Taloa' Hiloha (Thunder Song) for Solo Timpani Premiered May 7, 1997
  • Inchokkillissa for Guitar and Percussion Premiered April 24, 1994
  • Oktibihah for Solo Timpani, Strings and Piano Premiered 1994

Film and media[edit]

  • To the Wonder – Terence Mallick (2012)
  • Spider Brings Fire – Chickasaw Nation (2010)
  • Meeting in the Center with Respect – Fort Collins Museum (2009)
  • Indian Country Diaries: A Seat at the Drum – Native American Public Telecommunications/Adanvdo Productions (2005)
  • American Composer Forum – promotional DVD (2003)
  • First Americans Journal – Native American Television (1994)


  • 2016 - New Music USA Composer-in-Residence with South Dakota Symphony Orchestra.
  • 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 - 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: Azica 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 Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate (October 17, 2008). "Native Composer: Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate". NewMusicBox (Interview). Interviewed by Frank J. Oteri (published April 1, 2009). (includes video)
  3. ^ a b Jerod Tate Profile and Videos, American Composers Forum, Chickasaw Arts and Humanities, Chickasaw.TV
  4. ^ a b c d Felix Contreras, "American Indian Composers Go Classical", All Things Considered, NPR, 1 January 2009, accessed 9 March 2015
  5. ^ a b "Jerod Tate", Native Digest, 2009
  6. ^ "Jerod Tate's Emmy Award for 'The Science of Composing' ", Jerome Foundation, 15 August 2011, accessed 9 March 2015
  7. ^ a b "Faculty and Staff", Music Dept., Oklahoma City University

External links[edit]