Lakota Music Project: How two cultures came together through music

Lakota Music Project 9The Lakota Music Project is the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra’s flagship Bridging Cultures Program.

First created between 2005 and 2008, the Lakota Music Project addresses racial tension by creating an environment of openness through music.

“So the conversations were deep and rich and the programs we came up with were were meaningful on both sides of the equation. Educational to some degree, but emotionally impactful,” said Music Director Delta David Gier. “Two cultures shaking hands and learning from each other, exploring each other’s musical languages and our hope is to pass on this tradition to the next generation.”

After four years of gathering and collaborating, the tour played its first note in 2009.

The Lakota Music Project concert program features combinations of South Dakota Symphony musicians and Native American musicians each performing music of their heritages.

“And when I first joined the orchestra in 2003, when we went out to Pine Ridge, it was just so clear to me that we needed to be working with students and in others out there rather than playing just classical music for them,” said Jeffrey Paul, Composer and Lakota Music Project Collaborator. “So it kind of began the conversation in that regard. When David Gier got here, he really kind of championed that whole initiative and got a lot of tribal elders involved. And we started collaborating with other musicians, native musicians, from various reservations.”

Lakota Music Project 3More than just an outreach program, the engagement developed over time through sharing stories and songs. The musicians hope to progress cultural understanding.

“We play over 500 years worth of music and we are stewards of this art form and we hope to pass it on better than we found it. So that was the initial point of connection. What does it actually mean or look like to become friends with somebody who is totally different from you? Who thinks totally different from you? You know, it’s it’s this this is, I would say, the essence of Lakota Music Project,” Gier said.

The Lakota Music Project celebrates 16 years of bridging cultures, fostering friendships and community, listening and learning, exchanging ideas, and creating new musical works.

“For me, I want to make music with all kinds of people, no matter who they are, because I think music really helps us breed compassion and understanding and relate to one another. It’s one of the most amazing forms of language,” Paul said.

During the last decade, the Lakota Music Project has evolved and grown, adding instruments and musicians.

Lakota Music Project music can be found on all streaming platforms.

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