by Mel Fenson

A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate a Colorodoan, is a noted American Indian classical composer and pianist. His musical compositions embrace the spirit of American Indian history tempered with a contemporary perspective.

Jerod’s Indian name, Taloa' Ikbi, given to him by his grandmother, Juanita "Little Bird" Tate, is a Chickasaw word for composer. His tribal house name Impichchaachaaha' means "high corn crib" in the Chickasaw language, a word that symbolizes prosperity.

Jerod was exposed to both music and theatre at an early age because his father Charles, was classically trained as a pianist and vocalist, and his mother Patricia was a dance instructor and choreographer.

Jerod composed his first original score Winter Moons based on American Indian stories for a ballet his mother performed in a statewide tour. It was later performed by the Colorado Ballet in 1994 and 1996.

With a full-tuition scholarship as a piano performance major, Jerod received his formal musical training under the direction of Donald J. Isaak at Northwestern University, where he received his B.M. in piano performance. He then continued his musical studies with Elizabeth Pastor and Dr. Donald Erb at the Cleveland Institute of Music, a leading international conservatory, where he earned an M.M. in piano performance and composition.

Jerod’s work has been influenced by Béla Bartók, a Hungarian composer and pianist, who was an ethnomusicologist of his own native culture.

His compositions have been performed by many different orchestras, among which are the National Symphony Orchestra, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Colorado Ballet, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and the Dale Warland Singers.

Jerod holds music commissions from the National Symphony Orchestra, American Composers Forum, Joyce Foundation, the New Jersey Chamber Music Society, Native Earth Performing Arts Society, and Native American Public Telecommunications/Adanvdo Vision.

Jerod emphasizes that as his musical career has evolved, it has become very important to him, “ help American Indians, who have natural abilities in music and classical fine arts, find a voice in classical composition.”

Jerod has composed works based on traditional Chickasaw and other American Indian music. In 1993, James VanDemark of the Eastman School of Music commissioned Iyaaknasha a Concerto for double bass and orchestra. Jerod based this composition on a Chickasaw memorial song which tells the story of an ancient spirit that helps Southeastern Indian doctors.

In 1994, Jerod was commissioned by the Native Earth Performing Arts Society in Toronto to compose the score for an operetta entitled Diva Ojibway. It was the first operetta composed by a North American Indian. It featured Indian music arranged in an operatic fashion, sung in the Ojibway Indian language.

Jerod is currently Composer-in-Residence at the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy, where he teaches composition to American Indian students. In 2004-2005, Jerod served as Composer-in-Residence for the Grand Canyon Music Festival's Native American Composers Apprentice Program, where he has previously taught composition to high school students on the Navajo and Hopi reservations of Arizona. He is also currently composer in residence for Joyce Foundation/American Composers Forum, teaching composition to American Indian students in Minneapolis. He also served as guest composer for the Billings Symphony Orchestra. In 1996 he was selected as Composer In Residence for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts/National Symphony Orchestra American Residency Program in the state of Wyoming.

Jerod says he, “...finds an unyielding source of strength, love and support from his wife Ursula Running Bear and from his grandmother.” He said, they have always encouraged him to continue his vision to contribute Indian influences to classical music composition.

For more information,
visit Jerod's website at:

To watch Jerod's
Joyce Awards Video, visit:



Cover | Contents | Archive | Contact