Native American flutist featured with Symphony Orchestra


The Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra's first concert of the year will showcase the talents of renowned Native American flutist R. Carlos Nakai.

As the featured soloist, Nakai will perform "Shaman's Call," "Sonoran Nights" and two original improvisations.

Nakai's story is a colorful one, and his accomplishments are grand.

Nakai is of Navajo-Ute heritage and is considered the world's premiere performer of the Native American flute. Originally a trumpeter, Nakai took up the challenge of mastering the traditional cedar flute after a car accident ruined his embouchure.

Nakai's accomplishments include releasing 41 albums, contributing to major motion pictures, and working with Grammy-winning flutist Paul Horn and Grammy-winning composer Billy Williams. In concert he has performed with more than 15 symphony and chamber orchestras.

He received the Arizona Governor's Arts Award in 1992 and was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2005. Nakai also co-authored the instructional book "The Art of the Native American Flute" along with James DeMars,

Nakai's courageous style is to allow his music to create its own path. Symphony director Peter Rubardt likened Nakai's talent to a cultural bridge that spans the ages.

"This concert, one of the most interesting and intriguing programs I've done in a long time, shows both ends of the Gulf Coast Symphony's range," Rubardt said. "Nakai is a living link to a rich and profound tradition of music that dates back centuries. He has brought that tradition into the 21st century with a wide range of cross-cultural collaborations, finding common ground with many of the world's leading musicians. I'm not completely sure what's going to happen at this concert, but I am sure it will be a fascinating and deeply rewarding experience."

Following intermission, Rubardt will lead the orchestra through Bartok's "Rumanian Folk Dances" and close with Mozart's dynamic, final symphony, "Symphony No. 41 Jupiter."

The concert will be 7 p.m. Saturday at Biloxi's Saenger Theatre.

General admission tickets range from $15 to $45 and are available at the door or by calling 896-4276.

Additionally, two free, one-hour "Words on Music" sessions with Nakai and Rubardt will be offered. The first will be Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center in Moss Point and the second will be Jan. 29 at 11:30 a.m. at the Great Southern Club atop Hancock Bank in downtown Gulfport. Dress for both events is casual and lunch will be available for purchase at the Gulfport event.