Skip to main content

Classical Music Meets Chickasaw Culture

Chickasaw composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate brings his culture to his music.

cu jerod tate
Image: Shevaun Williams

By Shannon Tyler
Spring 2022

As a child, Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate ’90 was surrounded by music, theater and his Chickasaw culture. His father, who is Chickasaw, is a classically trained pianist, and his mother, who is Manx Irish, was a dancer and choreographer. It was little wonder, then, that Tate immersed himself in music. 

The multitalented Tate, now a classical composer, incorporates his Chickasaw heritage into his compositions, blending stories with music to provide listeners with a deep, emotional understanding of his culture. 

“I grew up with an enormous amount of exposure to modern American theater,” says Tate. “The intersection between theater and tribal legends is really beautiful because of the storytelling.” 

In June 2021, Tate released his most recent album, Lowak Shoppala’ (Fire and Light). It takes listeners on a theatrical storytelling journey in eight parts: Each track is a “scene” featuring narration, orchestral music and vocals from a children’s chorus and traditional Chickasaw and classical soloists. 

At Northwestern, Tate studied piano performance and learned to compose. Donald Isaak ’57 MMus, ’63 DMA, former associate professor of performance studies, taught him to view composing a piece of music as if he were an architect building a structure — it should inspire an emotional journey. 

Tate, who was named one of 22 composers and performers to watch in 2022 by The Washington Post, has taught composition to American Indian high schoolers across the country and co-founded the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy in Oklahoma. Now Tate shares his music with the world as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which brings American arts to international audiences. 

Share this Northwestern story with your friends via...

Reader Responses

No one has commented on this page yet.

Submit a Response