Haskell Students to Perform with Robert Mirabal at Lied Center of Kansas

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Robert Mirabal, center, performing with ETHEL. Photo by Jennifer Killion.

Robert Mirabal, center, performing with ETHEL. Photo by Jennifer Killion.

Four Haskell Indian Nations University students will join Grammy Award-winning Native American flutist, Robert Mirabal along with progressive string quartet, ETHEL at the Lied Center of Kansas in Lawrence on February 26th.  Dr. Mirna Cabrera, Haskell Chorus Director, has selected Doris Watts, Easton Bark, Marissa Torres, and Deanie Lucero. The Haskell students will be joined by a select group of twelve students from the University of Kansas (KU) Chamber Choir under the direction of Cabrera’s former teacher and the current Director of Choral Activities at KU, Dr. Paul Tucker.

“I’m really proud and excited they picked students from Haskell,” said Lucero, sophomore, one of the Haskell students selected.  “There’s a lot of talented students here that are artistic and they are talented through the arts and I’m glad that we have that chance to show that.”

Cabrera knew about the Mirabal performance through her relationship with the educational branch of the Lied Center.  After learning that a choir would be participating in the Mirabal concert, Cabrera reached out to her former teacher.  Once the sheet music was received, Tucker contacted her with the details.  Sixteen total singers were requested and would be composed of four Haskell students with twelve from KU.

“The criteria with which I selected my students to participate, for the most part, was students who have a good voice but who also know how to work the way I teach them because my teacher (Tucker)  and I both teach very similar,” said Cabrera.

The students selected from both schools have scheduled joint practice sessions outside of class leading up to the concert.

“It’s very challenging music–not all but most of it. It’s a suite, which means it’s a set that encompasses two or three songs and in this case it’s three,” said Cabrera.

Ralph Farris, ETHEL viola player, is the composer of the music.  Cabrera said the choir would be working with the composer on Wednesday before the concert.  According to the ETHEL website, Farris is a founding member, Artistic Director, and a Grammy-nominated arranger. A sound check and rehearsal will be done the afternoon of the concert with Robert Mirabal and any other musicians present.

Mirabal is Pueblo and describes the program “Music of the Sun” that will be presented in Lawrence.

“To me it’s kind of a modern look at what would be considered a musical ceremony and the whole evening is based around celebration of the people of the sun–how we are from traditional times and how we have used the sun as a huge element of our traditions and our cultures and how we are as a people.  It’s a celebration in that and it’s a very, very new way of looking at music and it’s kind of an interesting process. In the past few years of working with different choirs and with the string quartet, it’s one of the most rewarding shows and the most rewarding musical collaborations that I’ve ever done,” said Mirabal.

His collaboration with ETHEL has extended to a new project just completed called “River” based on the honoring of the river and the waters of the world.

“These guys (ETHEL) have a really, really strong sense of home community and understanding and respecting culture through music. I’m really blessed to be with them. You guys are going to hear Native flute and native vocals in a way that you’ve never heard. I get a little chicken-skinned every time I play with them,” said Mirabal.

One of the most popular Native artists today, Mirabal has been successful in other aspects of his illustrious career in addition to music and crafting flutes including writing, storytelling, and painting.  He is excited to come and be part of “young Native minds that are experiencing life to the fullest.” When asked what advice he had for students discovering and cultivating their talents, he said he used to say “read, read anything you possibly can” but this time he says his advice was not just for students but for everyone, including himself.

“Turn your phones off.  Turn the phones off and experience real life because every single day culture dies. Every single day the cultures that come from earth base, other cultures from all over the world who grew up from mouth to ear, to ear to heart, to heart to body, those cultures are dying every single day and I’m not just talking here in the states I’m talking all over the world,” said Mirabal.

Deanie Lucero is also excited that Mirbal is coming to Lawrence.  She says she was first exposed to his music through her father and that she looks up to Mirabal.

“I feel exceedingly blessed to be part of this opportunity.  Performing is something I really love to do whether it’s through singing or acting.  I feel like it’s my release…There’s no limits when you are performing. To be performing with Mirabal, I look up to him because he is a Native artist who has made it really big in the industry and he is not only picking our music as a way to reach out to people, but he is also open-minded to other people and letting them in by fusing the music together so we are all united.  I think that’s pretty cool,” said Lucero.

Lucero is excited but says she isn’t nervous about the performance. “I’m more nervous to meet him (Mirabal) than about performing and the group ETHEL too because they play really great music. It’s really beautiful music.”

Tickets for the show can be purchased by visiting http://lied.ku.edu/events/ethel.shtml or in person at the Lied Center of Kansas box office.