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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Chickasaw Youth Ensemble; Kids Make A Splash At Arrowhead Stadium
by Chickasaw Times

Kansas City, MO. – When 18 young Chickasaws sang about bombs bursting in air, their music director felt a few buttons bursting from his vest.

"I am so proud of them," director Phillip Berryhill said. "They did a great job."

The Chickasaw Youth Ensemble had sung the national anthem before a huge NFL crowd October 25 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Ensemble was featured during pregame activities as the Kansas City Chiefs prepared to host the Pittsburgh Steelers in a key matchup.

"We (the ensemble) may be scattered throughout the territory, but when Chickasaws come together, they are like family," Mr. Berryhill said. "The experienced singers help and encourage the younger members and when it's time to perform, they perform as one."

The girls in the ensemble "were singing constantly. On the trip up, on the trip back home, in the hotel, in restaurants … everywhere we were together," Mr. Berryhill said.

For the second year in a row, Chickasaws were invited to sing at a Chiefs' gridiron contest. It looks as if it will become an annual trek north to perform The Star-Spangled Banner, Mr. Berryhill said, and the girls will stay prepared.

Chickasaws have performed the nation's song for the Chiefs, who pay tribute to Native Americans each October to celebrate Native American Heritage Month.

In 2014, eight Chickasaw youth joined nationally-acclaimed Chickasaw songstress Tabitha Fair to perform before approximately 80,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium. When the ensemble was invited to perform this year, it was going to be without Ms. Fair. She is on tour with Rascal Flatts singing harmony and backup for the Grammy Award-winning band.

Let's Add Some Boys
Mr. Berryhill said he wanted to include an element heretofore missing in the ensemble – male singers.

"We have a quality program with young people who are very talented," he said. "Next year, I'd like to take a few of my male students."

Such a move would give the song greater depth with deeper voices blending with those of his immensely talented female students.

If Facebook "likes" and "comments" are any indication, the Chickasaw Youth Ensemble knocked it out of the park on a brilliantly crisp autumn afternoon.

"The girls were praised for their performance on social media, particularly on Facebook," Mr. Berryhill said. "The praise was deserved. The girls earned it by staying focused and disciplined."

The ensemble performs whenever it is presented the opportunity

"We sing every chance we get," he said. "We'll sing this holiday season at Christmas parties and Gov. Anoatubby honored us by requesting we perform at his inauguration in October."

Combing The Hinterlands
Ensemble singers reside throughout the Chickasaw Nation and getting them all together for regular rehearsals can be challenging.

The 18 members who sang in Kansas City represented communities across the Chickasaw Nation.

The ensemble includes nine girls from Ada, Eryn Anoatubby, Alyssa James, Bailee McCurdy, Gabrielle Padilla, Micah Postoak, Faithlyn Seawright, Haley Shaw, Izy Wilkerson and Mazzi Wycle; three from Ardmore, Deanna DeValve, Madisen Moore and Makenna Moore; and several others including Daryn Berryhill, of Wetumka; Taylor Harrison, of Allen; Mackenzie Geisler, of Little Axe; Melissa Herman, of Midwest City; Cora Moldenhauer, of Maud and Melissa and Markita McCarty, of Stonewall.

"The positive aspect of our ‘problem,' if you want to call it a problem, is many of these young ladies are veterans of the group," Mr. Berryhill said. "They are ready to help the girls who are just starting out. As I work with these students, I am constantly discovering very talented youngsters whose voices, inflections, intonation and skill are varied. We can use them in many different ways and in very different genres of vocal music."

Mr. Berryhill also has a secondary theory about why the Kansas City Chiefs professional football franchise invites Chickasaws to perform annually.

"It doesn't hurt that each time the Chickasaw Youth Ensemble sings in Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs have been victorious on the field," he observed with a lighthearted chuckle.

"We're their good luck charm."

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