The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 19, 2011

'Dakota Music Tour' coming to Mankato

MANKATO — When the Mankato Symphony Orchestra teamed up with the Santee Dakota Maza Kute Drummers to prepare for a Sunday concert in Mankato, a challenge presented itself.

 “The Maza Kute group learned music in the traditional Dakota way, so they don’t read sheet music and don’t think in traditional 4/4 timing,” said Sara Buechmann, executive director of the symphony.

Composer Brent Michael Davids (Mohican) and symphony director Kenneth Freed worked to blend the two styles.

“Brent taught them by ear, by repetition,” Buechmann said. “It’s just a different way of learning and thinking about music.”

The “Dakota Music Tour” will come to Mankato Sunday. It is a musical response to the Dakota-American battles of 1862 that resulted in 38 Dakota men being hanged in Mankato.

Davids is a renowned composer and musician with a 35-year career. He’s received many awards, including from the Rockefeller Foundation, Joffrey Ballet, National Symphony Orchestra, Bush Foundation, McKnight Foundation, and others.

His compositions have been played at venues from the Kennedy Center to “A Prairie Home Companion.”

The music mixes traditional Native American music with typical European classical music. “It’s a very unique music,” Buechmann said.

She said a highlight of the concert will be the finale. “It’s a symphonic depiction of a powwow,” which will feature Native American dancers, drummers and traditional powwow announcer.   

Davids and Freed knew each other as musicians in the Twin Cities and Davids hired Freed and some symphony members to perform music he’d composed for an animated film, “Valor’s Kids.”

The production will feature Santee Dakota Maza Kute Drummers, Chickasaw/Choctaw actor, musician Cochise Anderson, and Manny Laureano, who is the principal trumpet of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Following the concert, Roger Trudell, chairman of the Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska, will lead a community chat with the audience.

The tour will perform in three other communities: Estebo Performing Arts Center, Redwood Valley High School, Redwood Falls, May 28; Prairie Edge Casino, Upper Sioux Community, Granite Falls, May 29; and Winona-Dakota Connection 2011, Unity Park, Winona, June 4.

A documentary video also will be produced by Flandreau Santee Dakota filmmaker Syd Beane.

Besides Trudell, the Dakota scholars who will lead community chats include Mankato’s Dave Larsen, Dakota educator and elder, former tribal chairman of the Lower Sioux Community, tribal historian, and descendant of Chief Wapahasa; and Melvin Houston (Santee Sioux Nation of Nebraska spokesman on Minnesota Indian affairs).

Funding has been provided by the “Arts Tour Minnesota,” a new program of the  Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment of the Minnesota Constitution.

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