A Trip to Carnegie Hall: “America in Weimar: On the Margins”

Author: Olivia Griffin, junior

This March, the Fordham Honors Program funded a small student group to view Carnegie Hall’s performance of “America in Weimar: On the Margins” by the American Composer’s Orchestra. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, and a student from Oklahoma, I petitioned for this concert trip because of its important representation of contemporary Indigenous Classical music through family friend Jerod Tate’s performance. Two other students, Natalie and Andy, came with me to view the performance, and I’m so grateful I was able to share this unique musical experience with them. 

Olivia, Natalie, and Andy with Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate

The theme of the concert, “America in Weimar,” provided an eclectic and diverse selection of music. The Weimar era, which was roughly 1918 to 1933, revolutionized a new musical style in an “experimental laboratory” of sound that transformed classical music. Black American music influenced the region, particularly by artists like Duke Ellington, who brought jazz into conversation with European classical composers. The first few songs of the concert focused on songs from this era; for example, George Antheil’s A Jazz Symphony, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady and Solitude, and a jazz opera- The Threepenny Opera. After intermission, the concert shifted thematically towards contemporary American music inspired by Weimar. Tonia Ko premiered her piece Her Land, Expanded, which was inspired by Swiss church bells and featured a video of jungle foliage. However, the finale was my favorite performance, as it resonated with my roots in Oklahoma and championing Indigenous culture.

Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, a family friend of mine from Oklahoma, had his New York premiere of “Clans” from his Lowak Shoppala‘ album. Tate is a Chickasaw classical composer who is extremely innovative in his expression of native culture through the Western music tradition. The Washington Post has selected him as “22 for ‘22: Composers and Performers to watch this year” and he is a Cultural Ambassador for the U. S. Department of State. His performance was a reimagined ancestral meeting of the Chickasaw animal clans: Bird (Foshi ̍), Alligator (Acho’chaba’), Squirrel (Fani’), Skunk (Koni), Panther (Kowishto’ Losa’), and Raccoon (Shawi’). Each clan was represented through a model wearing Chickasaw regalia designer Margaret Wheeler’s creations. It was incredible to see Jerod and his son on stage performing, and the audience thought so too as they erupted into a five minute-long standing ovation for him. I was filled with pride at seeing an audience full of fellow natives, including members of the Chickasaw legislature! We mingled with audience members after the show and heard from the organizers of the American Composer’s Orchestra. Overall, it was an honor to represent Fordham at this hub of new culture and music. Thank you to Dr. Meneses and the Fordham administration who made this opportunity possible!