The Lakota Music Project (LMP) was created between 2005 and 2008 through a collaboration between the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (SDSO) and leaders of the Lakota community. It is designed to build bridges between whites and Native Americans, advance cultural understanding, and create an environment of openness and collaboration through the music. The two-hour LMP concert uses the SDSO and special guest artists which have included the Creekside Singers (a Lakota drumming group), Bryan Akipa, cedar flute sololist, and Stephan Bryant, baritone soloist, in a side-by-side setting devised to promote a deeper understanding of these two different, but coexisting cultures, and demonstrate the value of peaceful, positive collaboration. The first half of the program offers musical depictions that compare and contrast each culture’s treatment of experiences common to the human condition – love, war, grief, and celebration. On the second half of the program, the LMP demonstrates the rewards of the two cultures working together through two commissions that were composed for chamber orchestra and Native American drumming group. The project has been called: "Inspiring" "Hopeful" "A Keeper of Tradition"
“Music truly is the universal language. In terms of doing our part in the larger effort to build bridges between white and Lakota cultures in South Dakota, the Lakota Music Project was a very important first step for the orchestra, our audience, the Native American population, and the public. This project ensures the knowledge, significance, and tradition of both symphony orchestra and Lakota music and culture are not lost.” – Delta David Gier, Music Director South Dakota Symphony Orchestra
Two additional commission have been completed. Native American composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. Mr. Tate is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition and is Artistic Director for the Chickasaw Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Tate’s piece, Waktégli Olówaŋ (Victory Songs), is composed in honor of Lloyd Running Bear, Sr. and Lakota warriors. It is based upon the book Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains, by Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohíye S’a). Eastman (1858-1939) was a Santee Sioux physician, writer, lecturer and reformer. His literary output is an outstanding personal account of Sioux history. The song honors five Lakota warriors: Red Cloud, Gall, Two-Strike, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull and features original poetry by the composer. The second piece, Pentatonic Fantasy for Dakota Cedar Flute and Orchestra by Jeffrey Paul, was commissioned by The Sisseton Arts Council who wanted something distinctly Dakota, and since Bryan Akipa (a prominent and extremely accomplished Dakota Flute player) was from the Sisseton reservation, they thought it would be a good collaboration. “I listened to a good deal of Native flute music, especially albums recorded by Bryan Akipa, and experimented with playing some cedar flutes myself, in hopes of getting a good feel for the instrument,” Paul explains his composition process. Akipa, who makes his own flutes and owns several, will switch flutes throughout the work, including one he made specifically for this commission.
Phase I encompassed an inaugural tour in May 2009 to three Indian reservations (Pine Ridge Reservation, Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation, and Rosebud Reservation) and two South Dakota communities (Sioux Falls and Rapid City) followed by performances at the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in January 2010 and at Crazy Horse Memorial on Native Americans’ Day in October 2010. Phase II of the LMP was devised by the LMP Task Force, a group of community leaders, Native American advocates, and SDSO musicians. Activities included collaboration with the South Dakota Humanities Council; deepening of the relationship with Crazy Horse Memorial with a performance in October 2012; a four-site tour to Native American Reservations and traditionally white communities (Pierre, Eagle Butte, Mobridge, and Sisseton); and the world premiere of the first orchestral song cycle, sung in Lakota, by Native American Composer Jerod Tate. Phase II was completed in May 2013. Phase III of the LMP included a new program in Sioux Falls on October 11, 2014 in partnership with the Multicultural Center of Sioux Falls, SD and a performance at Crazy Horse Memorial on Native American Day. The project continues to grow. In 2015, the Lakota Music Project will be a part of the main stage 2015-16 concert season of the SDSO.