“There are as many ways to be an American Indian as there are American Indians,” says Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, classical composer and citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, one of 39 federally recognized tribes settled across the state of Oklahoma. “Just like there are 8 billion ways in the world to be a person. There’s incredible diversity in how we are raised and what we’re exposed to.”

Tate’s father, an attorney, judge, and legal counsel whose lifelong service brought him an induction into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame, is also a trained pianist and baritone who used to set the house ringing with selections from Verdi, The Music Man, and whatever else struck his fancy. Tate’s mother, a Nebraskan of Manx Irish stock, taught theater and dance at the University of Wyoming. “I was a theater brat,” Tate says in summary. He was smitten with choreographic originals—Isadora Duncan, Nijinsky and his sister Nijinska, Martha Graham, Bob Fosse, Alvin Ailey—and maybe even more with the musical geniuses to which they gravitated, notably Debussy, Bartók, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich.