Tag Archives: music

Jacqueline Wilson | Classical Native

Jacqueline Wilson Highlights

Some highlights from my conversation with Jacqueline Wilson:

“The thing classical music and being Native have in common is reassuring people we are not obsolete.”

“Even if what you do is unorthodox, or unexpected or outside of the box, what you do and who you are is important and you should share it with other people.”

Classical Music in Indian Country

In Indian Country, we often discuss being “traditional,” but in today’s episode, we get to hear someone who is “classical” while also being indigenous. That person is Jacqueline Wilson, a “classical Native”

Jacqueline Wilson is Yakama.

Jacqueline Wilson

Jacqueline Wilson, Yakama

She is an Assistant Professor at Southeast Missouri State University and is a professional bassoonist. She also is the creator of the website Molto Native Music, which promotes Native musicians in classical music.

I really enjoy finding people that I can have a conversation where I learn not only about their own experience, but to learn about things I have very little exposure to, and this is one of those shows.

Jacqueline started playing the bassoon after a high school teacher suggested that the instrument may be a way for her to earn a scholarship to attend college. She started learning the instrument, and before long she enrolled at Eastern Washington University. But her first semester, she took an F in her orchestra class. Her professor essentially told her she didn’t belong.

That statement fired a spark within her, and she spent several months practicing several hours each day. The very next semester, she earned an A with the same professor. That spark carried her to Boston University for her Master’s, and to the University of Iowa for her Ph.D. She is now a professor and professional musician. Quite the journey from her first semester of college

After sharing her personal journey, where we dove into many topics, Jacqueline entertained some of my “101” questions about classical music. She shared some tips about what to listen for when listening to music (repetition and musical tension i.e. dissonance).

Native Music

Jacqueline shared some Native musicians to check out, and they are great.

Connor Chee (Navajo) Navajo Vocable 9

Juantio Becenti (Navajo) Divertimento No. 4 for Piano Quartet

I’m so happy that she shared these pieces with me, I’m fascinated already and look forward to learning more about Natives doing their thing in this space. Have a listen.


Natives in Tech | Erin Spiceland

Erin Spiceland’s challenge to NextGen Natives: “Google “[Natives in] tech…; and see Native people in every field, no matter how much of a walled garden exists. They did it, you can do it.”

One of the goals for NextGen Native is to connect Native people across a variety of professions, and to tell the story of these people to place their experience in context i.e. being Native person in the 21st century. Perhaps no one best exemplifies this to date than Erin Spiceland.

Erin Spiceland is Choctaw, and grew up in South Georgia. Her family ended up there after her grandfather settled down in the area after serving in the Navy. She is a software engineer  working in for a technology company in Huntsville, AL. If there is one area that every community needs to be part of in 2016, it’s technology.

Natives in tech

Erin Spiceland, one Native in tech

Specifically, preparing people to work in technology by teaching them to code. Erin has worked hard online to promote Natives in tech, and she has done so by example. But even more, in the same conversation Erin talks about the importance of coding, she talks about learning her language, and teaching it to her kids.

Erin’s journey is about more than just coding. Erin lost her mother at a young age after a battle with Leukemia. It was difficult for her to move on after the loss, but she found strength in her faith and realizing that her life did not have to be defined by what she lost.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Math and music: the connections between the two.
  • How Erin wanted music to be a major part of her life and influenced her academic future.
  • The benefit of having a support system that allows someone to challenge themselves.
  • How studying computer science in college is behind the curve when it comes to what actually occurs in the real world.
  • What is an algorithm (never be afraid to ask questions).
  • How Erin ended up at Nodesource.
  • Different resources for learning code: Khan Academy; Code.org; Coursera;
  • Erin’s perspective of being a woman and being a Native person in a technology company. And how she enjoys surprising people when she tells people what she does.
  • Natives in tech, what a variety of Natives are doing in different industries.

I learned a lot from Erin, and she pushed me to understand things just a bit beyond my grasp. In addition to learning my language, I think I’ve been inspired to learn some kind of coding program, too.

For more background, here is Erin’s bio:

Erin Spiceland is a Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Choctaw and Chickasaw classically trained musician living in Huntsville, Alabama. She works as a backend software engineer at NodeSource. When she’s not hard at work writing code, she can be found under a pile of beadwork or practicing the Choctaw language with her two daughters. She also loves kayaking and Star Trek.