Billings Symphony presents ‘Welcome to Indian Country’ to kick off the season – Daily Montanan

Spend an evening celebrating Indigenous culture through contemporary music and storytelling at Welcome to Indian Country on Saturday, August 13, presented by the Billings Symphony. This event kicks off the symphony orchestra’s 2022-2023 season, with 30 events at 13 locations in Billings.

Welcome to Indian Country is a five-piece Indigenous music ensemble joined by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, storyteller and member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. Together they share original compositions, poetry and songs associated with wit, satire and wisdom to honor Indigenous elders and ancestors.

“We all need a good celebration, and music is the language of the soul,” said André Bouchard, producer and director of the show. The outdoor event will open at 4 p.m. at 406 Events Lawn in Red Oxx in East Billings.

The Billings Symphony has also partnered with the Pretty Shield Foundation, which will erect tipis in the traditional Apsáalooke (Crow) style beginning at 5 p.m., with a cultural presentation on the tipi by William Snell, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Tribal Leaders Council and President of the Pretty Shield Foundation.

Welcome to Indian Country begins at 7 p.m. and includes an array of compositions by Native American artists with material written by Priest specifically for performance and based on interviews with performers. The ensemble includes musical director and trumpeter Delbert Anderson (Dineì); violinist and guitarist Nokosee Fields (Osage); vocalist, pianist and guitarist Lyz Jaakola (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior); drummer and percussionist Nicholas Lucero (of Peruvian and Spanish descent); and bassist, singer, composer and songwriter Mali Obomsawin (Odanak First Nation, Canada).

“There’s so much wealth and love that we can share,” said Bouchard, who was born on the Flathead Reservation in western Montana and is of Kootenai/Ojibwe/Pend d’Oreille/Salish descent. “Music is the medium. Storytelling is the medium.

Bouchard is the founder of the non-profit organization Indigenous Performance Productions, based in Olympia, Washington. The organization aims to raise awareness of the prominent role that Indigenous artists play in the development of American music and performing arts.

“We’re thrilled to be in Montana,” Bouchard said. “I have a place in my heart that will always be in Montana.”

Tickets, priced at $40 for adults and $20 for students, or subscription packages are available at or by calling (406) 252-3610. Wood-fired pizzas from Mike Cotta and a full bar will be available at the event.

This project is funded in part by the Montana Arts Council, an agency of the state government, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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