Cherokee National Youth Choir

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Cherokee National Youth Choir

In 2000, Principal Chief Chadwick Smith saw a need to preserve the Cherokee language and to find a way to get youth involved. He got the idea to start a youth choir. A year later, the choir was in need of a new director and an administrative assistant. Fluent Cherokee speaker and tribal member Kathy Sierra was asked to step-in until a director was found. Mary Kay Henderson, a member of the Cherokee Nation, applied for the position and was chosen as director. Principal Chief Chadwick Smith was excited to have a new direction for the choir and hoped Mary Kay would take them to the next level.

The choir has grown to 50 members ranging from 6th to 12th grades. All members are required to be citizens of the Cherokee Nation but are not required to be fluent Cherokee speakers. In 2002, the Cherokee National Children’s Choir released their first album with Rita Coolidge, a member of the Cherokee Nation and Grammy(R) Award-winning singer. The choir won the ‘Best Gospel/ Christian Recording’ from the 5th Annual Native American Music Awards for their first album titled, Voices of the Creator’s Children. Since then, the choir has been nominated for numerous awards from a variety of Native American music award organizations, and has won many of those nominations.

In 2004, the Cherokee National Youth Choir traveled to Washington, D.C., to perform at the opening ceremony for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. While in D.C., the choir was asked to perform for the President of the United States at the White House.

Written by Tobias Grant.

Interviews conducted and edited by Tobias Grant.