Flute Music Unites Leech Lake CommunityAug 15th, 2001 | By agraham | Category: 13-1: Honoring Our Students & Alumni, Tribal College News
Tribal colleges serve the communities in which they exist, not only as educational models, but they also bring the community together for one common purpose. A special musical/educational/cultural event on the Leech Lake Reservation in Cass Lake, MN, in February 2001serves as a perfect example.
Three years ago, Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC) music director Jon Romer and former dean of instruction Jamie Robertson (now interim president) started planning a music program that emphasized indigenous instruments. One year later, the communications department developed a four-semester interdisciplinary communications curriculum that includes reading, public speaking, performing, critical thinking, and writing combined with the rigorous academic and artistic disciplines already offered at the college.
By the fall of 2000, the college and other schools on the reservation had purchased over 287 flutes. Ken Light, designer and maker of the resin flutes, expressed interest in visiting Leech Lake with his good friend and well-known flute player R. Carlos Nakai. He offered to teach a three-day educational seminar on the historical/cultural perspective, physics, structure, performance techniques, and science of Native American flutes.
Excited by the opportunity for the whole community, Romer began contacting others on the reservation. With the help of the Leech Lake Educational Division, Romer was able to coordinate efforts with the Cass Lake-Bena High School, the Bug-o-nay-ge-shig School (K-12), the Area Learning Source, Leech Lake Youth Services, and the Palace Casino.
For three days, Light and Nakai traveled to the schools giving workshops followed by performances and community feasts. They met with small groups of students, teachers, parents, and interested community members. A final performance was held at the Palace Casino with over 500 in attendance. The week went so well that Ken Light planned to return to instruct educators interested in teaching flute.