St. Joseph’s drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, helped James keep the beat during one of his songs.
St. Joseph’s drum group, the Chalk Hills Singers, helped James keep the beat during one of his songs.

Since 2004, James and his wife Helen have made the Lakota children at St. Joseph’s Indian School a major part of their life. By establishing several charitable gift annuities, James and Helen have helped ensure Native American children in need will have a safe home-away-from-home at St. Joseph's Indian School ... all while receiving a quality education.

Recently, James was able to share another gift with St. Joseph’s students: music.

As a retired music professor, he has a true passion for the role music plays in life academically, spiritually and culturally. Many years ago, James heard the Native American flute on a visit to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was love at first listen, and James has since dedicated his life and musical talent to learning the culture and style associated with this unique instrument.

“James is self-taught, which is really inspiring,” said Dave, St. Joseph’s art teacher. After spending most of his lifetime teaching and playing the transverse flute, James switched to the Native American flute 15 years ago. While visiting St. Joseph’s Indian School in Chamberlain, South Dakota, James played his Native American flute for the students.

James shows Pearl, a third grader, where to place her fingers on the flute.
James shows Pearl, a third grader, where to place her fingers on the flute.

“Typically, players change the pitch or notes only slightly,” James told students. “Within that subtle change, I heard all of the notes of the western, or chromatic, scale. I challenged myself to learn to be able to express myself as fully on the native flute as I was able to on the transverse flute.”

James shared traditional songs of the Zuni and Nez Perce tribes, and also played basic scales. Questions like “what is music?” and “what does a composer do?” revealed his love of music education.

Wopila tankamany thanks — James, for sharing so many gifts with the Lakota children at St. Joseph’s Indian School!

 

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