This October saw the culmination of a multi-year partnership between North Carolina Symphony (NCS), based in Raleigh, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians with the world premiere of a work by composer William Brittelle. Cherokee choral students joined the symphony for the performance.
The partnership, which began in 2016, has provided every Cherokee student, preschool through high school, with music education opportunities as NCS musicians have made frequent trips to the western corner of North Carolina. Concurrently, the symphony commissioned Brittelle—who was raised in western North Carolina—to write a work that would reflect Cherokee culture.
As Brittelle spent time learning about the history and culture from tribal leaders and working with the choral students, he found that he wanted the message shared in the new work to be theirs alone. In fall 2017, student leaders at Cherokee Central Schools created a forum for classmates to discuss their thoughts and feelings around Cherokee identity: what it means for them to be Cherokee, how they feel they are viewed by those outside of the culture, and their hopes for the future. Out of that discussion came poetic statements that provided the text of Brittelle’s work, Si Otsedoha (We’re Still Here).
The work was premiered in Raleigh and over the course of a week toured to four other North Carolina cities: Wilmington, Boone, Cullowhee, and Cherokee. Musicians of North Carolina Symphony are members of Local 500 (Raleigh, NC).