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
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
"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,
"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
"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."