Southern Utah News Articles
Top Stories for June 17, 2009
Bird films commercial with symphony
People were making beautiful music together June 11 at the Kanab High School Auditorium.
Famed musician Arvel Bird was in town to film a commercial with the Symphony of the Canyons. He wanted to pay tribute to his southern Utah Paiute heritage, as well as Best Friends and this area. He contacted Best Friends in 2008, and inquired about the possibility of doing a benefit concert.
While the symphony''s summer schedule was full, they made plans for a benefit concert next year. But in the meantime, Bird was getting ready to film a commercial and wanted a background symphony for the ad. He first considered the St. George Symphony, and Polis asked, "what about the Symphony of the Canyons based in Kane County?" Arvel Bird (Paiute/Me''tis), a classically-trained violinist, performs and records in diverse genres including blues, jazz, bluegrass, Celtic, Cajun, Western swing, American roots, and Native music.
Bird also is an accomplished mandolin, guitar and Native flute player, as well. An experienced musician who toured the world with Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Ray Price and others for several years, Bird recently has turned his musical focus to his Paiute/Me''tis heritage, and now focuses most of his time on writing, performing, and recording music which reflects that background. He has recorded seven CD''s. His most recent are Arvel Bird Live! (2004), a CD which features his popular stories from his live performances including selections from Animal Totems (2002), a collection of original works which reflect the essential elements of a powerful animal spirit; and Big Chief Quetoos, Paiute Country Fiddle (2003), a collection of Arvel''s original tunes as well as old cowboy songs and traditional fiddle tunes with Indian names. From the age of nine, Bird was given his first violin, (although a trumpet was his first love). The instrument was given to his mother by a violin maker named Joseph Smithbauer. Bird and the violin were soon inseparable! His family recognized his special gift, and were eventually able to provide him with private lessons.
Bird continued to study classically on a music scholarship to ASU. Though his desire was to develop his performance skills, most professors he encountered told him he wasn''t "good enough" and that he should concentrate on teaching. Bird''s response was to leave Arizona, moving to the midwest to study with Paul Roland, a renowned Hungarian violin instructor at the University of Illinois-Champagne/Urbana. Under Roland''s tutelage, Bird gained the technical proficiency and confidence that has served him so well over the years. It was after leaving school in 1973 that Bird found his true musical calling. During this period, Bird devoted hours of each day to improvisational playing, developing the unique style for which he is known today.
As his style developed, Bird was invited to play with many folk, bluegrass, and Celtic musicians. According to Bird, "I was attracted to the wild abandon of fiddle music. Eventually, as I continued performing, a tribal feeling and Celtic style began running through most of my own compositions resonating from deep inside of me." Born to a Mormon inter-racial family in Idaho and raised in Utah and Arizona, Bird was aware of his Indian heritage from an early age, but in early years, that heritage was not mentioned or celebrated. Bird grew up in a hard working, middle-class family and never asked his mother about her Native origins. Bird later became more interested in his background.
In 2000, Bird released the first Native American album that simultaneously launched Singing Wolf Records. This sparked a personal journey to uncover the truth about his Paiute heritage. In the summer of 2001, Bird received documentation previously unknown to him from his mother supporting his bloodline to the Shivwit Paiute tribe in Southern Utah. The discovery had a profound effect on Bird. He made trips to St. George, UT and the Shivwit Paiute reservation where he met half sisters (cousins), searched and studied his genealogy, attended powwows and talked to elders, all the while finding a stronger connection to the underlying core beliefs of Native America and a deeper sense of who he was. Now most of his performances reflect and honor his Native American heritage through his music and stories.
Bird''s interaction with the Symphony of the Canyons for the commercial, was appreciated by the symphony members as well. “It was a regular rehearsal day for the orchestra, but with everyone dressed up and ready for a television commercial, it turned out to be an exciting evening," said Board Chairman Tonny ven der Leeden. "Arvel Bird, his video crew and support staff were terrific for the orchestra to work with, and we’re hopeful that he will be back in Kanab later this year and early next year for some live performances with our orchestra.”
“This represents the opening of new opportunities for the symphony in that Arvel is completing a score for a seven-part symphony which hopefully would premier at a concert with the Symphony of the Canyons next year," said ven der Leeden. "Because Arvel’s grandparents and great-grand parents were Paiutes from the St. George area, it is especially important for him to perform his new work in this area.”
The Symphony of the Canyons received $4,000 in thanks from Bird for its participation. Following the commercial, the crew went to Angels Landing at Best Friends film to Bird story-telling. Much of the footage is planned for use in a documentary that will tell the story of Bird coming back to his roots in southern Utah, leading up to a planned next spring concert at Best Friends.
Wendy Dunham, his publicist is in conversations with Best Friends about the possibility of a concert at Best Friends in Spring 2110, and possible additional performances in Kanab.
The Tribal Music Suite; Journey of a Pauite, They played two movements in the suite. A lone of copy in the national commercial will give Symphony of the Canyons national recognition and exposure.