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SRHS Welcomes Honored Guest to Music Program

Salt River beat Heritage-Laveen 58-15 in the home opener on November 30.

On January 27, during third period at Salt River High School, several classes of students sat in the auditorium to listen to special guest speaker Ray Carlos Nakai deliver a workshop on his music.

MusicaNova Orchestra of Scottsdale sponsored the workshop. Nakai was their guest soloist for a weekend concert, performing Spirit Horses by Arizona State University composition professor James DeMars.

“The workshop was for our band, choir, piano and drama students,” said Rhonda Bowen, SRHS band director. “The students enjoyed hearing about Mr. Nakai’s musical training from youth to professional and how he started to play the Native flute after returning from military service.”

Nakai shared information on some of his upcoming concert performances and talked about the flutes that he plays and his music. The students also enjoyed hearing about the music of various Indian tribes and how that related to the music. Nakai performs on a variety of Native flutes.

Salt River High Schools band, choir, piano and drama students take a group picture with Ray Carlos Nakai during a workshop held in the schools auditorium.
Photo courtesy of Salt River High School
“It was an awesome opportunity to have one of the most prolific and regarded Native American musicians share his knowledge and experiences with our students,” said Bowen. Also at the workshop were other speakers who discussed their love of music and where they fit in the music world.

Nakai talked about a variation on a chant from the Zuni’ Pueblo in New Mexico; in some places they call it “the sunrise song” and to other people it’s a chant. He said he started writing music while he was in the military. He had only a piece of paper and a pencil, and he would remember the pitches and choral arrangements he heard and copy them down. With practice, he eventually become very good at his music.

“Go somewhere in the world; don’t just stay here in Arizona. Go travel and listen to different types of music,” said Nakai to the students. “Get away form this place and go see what the world is all about.”

Nakai is from the Navajo and Ute tribes and is a premier performer of the Native American flute, which he began to play in the early 1980s. Nakai is a platinum-selling recording artist who has sold more than 4.3 million albums for Canyon Records.