Featured: The Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale to Receive Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

Featured Article:

Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale


May 12, 2021
by Michelle Dawson, Manager of Marketing & Public Relations

The Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale has been approved for a $13,000 Grants for Arts Projects award to support Buffalo Crossing, A Northern Cheyenne Experience: Past, Present, and Future. The Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale’s project is among the more than 1,100 projects across America totaling nearly $27 million that were selected during this second round of Grants for Arts Projects fiscal year 2021 funding.

“As the country and the arts sector begin to imagine returning to a post-pandemic world, the National Endowment for the Arts is proud to announce funding that will help arts organizations such as the Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale reengage fully with partners and audiences,” said NEA Acting Chairman Ann Eilers. “Although the arts have sustained many during the pandemic, the chance to gather with one another and share arts experiences is its own necessity and pleasure.”

“The Billings Symphony is looking forward to a transformative 2021, with plenty of innovation and a focus on diversity in classical music. We will be especially focusing on equity, diversity, and inclusion and by showcasing traditional and contemporary Native American performing artists, we hope local students and under-represented audiences will be impacted and that this alternative perspective on Native American culture will cause any stigma towards Native Americans and lack of appreciation for their traditions and culture to be questioned and realigned,” said Ignacio Barron Viela, BSOC’s Executive Director.

This project will disprove stereotypes of Native Americans and combat anti-Native racism in Billings and the region by promoting a greater understanding of the variety and richness of the culture of Indigenous peoples. This showcase of traditional and contemporary Native American performing artists will have an impact on our local student and vulnerable audiences—providing Native American youths’ white peer’s positive insight into cultures and traditions they might have previously maligned or discredited.

From its inception, this project was designed in collaboration with Native American consultants and artists who provide the inspiration and authentic details for each of the various programs within the “Buffalo Crossing.” This unique project concept aligns with the Billings Symphony Orchestra & Chorale’s mission since 1951 to enrich lives through music.

“Performances will span from traditional dance to a hip-hop/pow-wow fusion, taking place throughout Yellowstone and Big Horn counties. Guest artists will include drummers, singers, dancers, and flutists as well as orchestra musicians. We hope to create a deeper appreciation of Native American culture – past, present, and future.”. “said Ignacio Barron Viela, BSOC’s Executive Director.

Our premier event—an evening concert provided by the BSOC; produced and emceed by Ruben Little Head Sr.—will open with a traditional Northern Cheyenne Buffalo Dance, complete with buffalo heads. This attention to detail will continue as we portray the true essence of traditions passed down from generation to generation, opening the audience’s eyes and minds to the beauty of Native American culture. National champion dancers will demonstrate and illuminate their own style, flair, and rendition of the traditional dance styles of a powwow circle. Performed by both men and women in eye-catching authentic dress, dances will include the Traditional, Grass, Hoop, Fancy, Jingle, Chicken, Fancy-Shawl, and Buffalo dance. Additional concert programming will re-introduce our patrons to Jim Cockey’s Symphony No. 2 Parmly’s Dream, first commissioned and premiered by the BSOC in 2002. The work features traditional Northern Cheyenne flute solos.

Additional small and large performance elements, in partnership with other key organizations, are scheduled to connect the past, present and future of the Buffalo Crossing experience:

  • Northern Cheyenne tribal members will demonstrate the Round Dance, with audience participation, at the annual Billings Harvest Festival, an event organized by the Downtown Billings Alliance.
  • Native American artists Supaman and Bently Spang will perform separate concerts as part of the BSOC’s Sukin Series, a small-venue concert series in downtown Billings.
  • An exhibit (The Northern Cheyenne: “Coming Home”) will be featured at project performances of historical photos and artifacts provided by the Western Heritage Center, a key partner of BSOC for this project.

Outreach and community engagement events at Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch, Lockwood Schools, Lame Deer Public School and Chief Dull Knife Tribal College.

For more information on the projects included in the Arts Endowment grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.