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North American Indian Cello Project

began in 2006 thanks to a grant from the First Nations Composers Initiative project supported through the Ford Foundation's Indigenous Knowledge, Expressive Culture Suinine commissioned works, to commission original works by Native American composers.  


TIO'S MOVEMENT ONE cello suite 

Featuring the music of Dawn Avery, Ty Defoe, Raven Chacon, & Tio Bicenti

video from live show at Montgomery College, with MC Faculty and Staff

Pieces are performed by composer, cellist, vocalist, educator, GRAMMY and NAMA nominated performer Dawn Avery who has worked with musical luminaries Pavarotti, Sting, Glass, Cage, Cale, Shenandoah, and Nakai.  World music artist, she creates a contemporary soundscape from electronica, pop and classical elements.  Her sultry vocals and soaring cello lines reflect a deep spirituality rooted in her Native American heritage.  Dawn Avery's Mohawk name is Ieriho:kwats and she wears the turtle clan. Committed to Indigenous language and cultural preservation as a musician, educator and participant of Longhouse ceremonies, she leads workshops and produces projects as part of the Native Composer’s Project and Longboat’s Idawadadi Project, with residential school survivors.  She’s currently touring multi-media projects with guitarist/ producer, Larry Mitchell -  50 Shades of Red and Love Songs for a Changing World, featuring downtempo music.  Their recent Off-Broadway production and recording with Heather Henson (Jim Henson legacy), Crane on Earth, in Sky, won two Global Music Awards.  In addition, her music can be heard in award-winning Native films including:  The Smithsonian’s “Always Becoming” by Nora Naranjo-Morse and “Don’t Get Sick After June: Indian Health Care” by Rich/Heape Films, Court Innovation’s “Pallayup,” “Dos Almas” by Villegas, and "Rohati:io Raising the Word,” by Ellingson.She commissions and records new works by Native composers as part of the North American Indian Cello Project.  Dawn Avery is a professor at Montgomery College in Maryland and holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology with primary research on the application of Indigenous theory on Native Classical Composers and their music.


Works commissioned by Dawn Avery for the North American Indian Cello Project:

  • Cello Chili by Brent Michael Davids (Mohican)

  • Táágo Dez’a by Raven Chacon Navajo Dine)

  • Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello by Juantio Becenti (Navajo Dine)

  • Prelude by Tim Archambault (Kichespirini)

  • Dances by Ron Warren (Echota Tsalagi)

  • Kachina Suite by Louis Ballard (Quawpaw)

  • Decolonization by Dawn Avery (Mohawk heritage)

  • Musings at Dawn by RC Nakai (Navajo-Ute)I

  • Indigenous Indigena by RC Nakai (Navajo Ute)

  • Four Directions by Alan Lechusza (Luiseño/Maidu),

  • Vision Quest by George Quincy (Choctaw)

  • Upcoming Commission for composition by Trevor Reed (Navajo)


music by Native Classical Composers

featuring R.C. Nakai and Dawn Avery 

To read more about the Native Classical movement, compositions, and composers, you can see the PhD dissertation entitled “NATIVE CLASSICAL: MUSICAL MODERNITIES, INDIGENOUS RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES, AND A KANIENKÉHA (MOHAWK) CONCEPT OF NON:WA (NOW)” written in 2014 by Dr. Dawn Avery, “Tékeni – Two Worlds, Many Borders: A Look at Classical Native Music through Indigenous Eyes” by Dawn Ieriho:kwats Avery in the journal MusicCultures (Vol. 39, No. 1, 2012), and as a chapter in the upcoming publication by Wesleyan University Press in a book titled Music and Modernity among First Peoples of North America, edited by Victoria Levine and Dylan Robinson.

A hard copy of a 6 minute educational demo CD and an 11 minute demo DVD of the first NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN CELLO PROJECT is available upon request.

video from live show at Montgomery College, with MC Faculty and Staff

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