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An evening of performance, exhibition, and exploration through art, music, dance, and film

Friday, April 5th, Billings, MT — Join us the “closer | together, moheh | stestove” event. Northern Cheyenne student musicians, dancers, and artists will accompany renowned Los Angeles-based musician and composer Kojiro (Ko) Umezaki for an extraordinary evening of performance, exhibition, and exploration through art, music, dance, and film.

Umezaki is a famed shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese flute) player and composer who performs regularly with Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble. Through the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities’ Turnaround Arts Initiative, Lame Deer School Visual Arts Educator Susan Wolfe, Umezaki, and Silkroad have worked in close partnership since 2012.

In partnership with the Billings Symphony, the April 5th event, part of ArtWalk Downtown Billings, is free, open to the public, and family-friendly. The event will take place at the Billings Symphony headquarters, and outdoors if weather permits.

Participants and contributors hail from Los Angeles, New Mexico, Eastern Montana, Bozeman, Helena, and Billings. The “closer | together, moheh | stestove” music video incorporates K-Pop influences, and imagery shot on location in the Arts District, Little Tokyo and Korea Town neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

Having served in a variety of creative leadership roles, from co-directing and choreographing the music video, to writing lyrics and recording music, to conceptualizing and crafting complex ceramic artworks, Lame Deer students are the heartbeat of these stories. But these young talents are punching above their weight in this polished display of artistry, curiosity, and beauty.

Five years in the making, “closer | together, moheh | stestove” is, above all, an exploration. According to Umezaki, this project “reflects the aspiration that one can be confidently local and global at the same time, and move between and position oneself anywhere within those spaces with confidence and pride.”

Where: Billings Symphony offices, 2820 Second Ave. N. (not at Alberta Bair Theatre)

When: 5pm-8pm, Friday, April 5th


Event Highlights

  • Premiere of an Original Music + Dance Composition: The centerpiece of the evening will be a new piece composed by a diverse ensemble:
    • Ko Umezaki, shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese flute) player and composer. Umezaki has performed regularly with the Silkroad Ensemble (founded by Yo Yo Ma) since 2001.
    • Umezaki will be accompanied by the Morning Star Singers, a percussion and vocal student ensemble from Lame Deer High School, as well as two Northern Cheyenne dancers, dressed in traditional, handmade regalia
    • Student artist-musicians from Lame Deer High School will play one-of-a-kind handmade ceramic whistles, hand-crafted under the guidance of famed multidisciplinary artist, Cannupa Hanska Luger and art educator Susan Wolfe.
    • Luke Minton, is a student violinist from Bozeman High School. Luke regularly plays with for Montana InSite Theatre, including performances at Tippet Rise
  • Art Exhibition: Be the first to view a new collection of new ceramic artwork by Lame Deer High School student artists, under the direction of art educator Susan Wolfe.
  • Film Screening #1: “closer | together, moheh | stestove” (3mins) is a collaborative music video and art film that explores themes of belonging, mutuality, and borders. The video was shot entirely on location in Los Angeles and showcases the filmmaking and songwriting lyrics of students Jenna Sanders and Paris McLean with performers Santesa Rowland, Shandiin Kaline, Kaleb Mason, Burton Tallwhiteman, and Cheyenne Hiwalker in collaboration with Kojiro Umezaki. This original composition was created by a large ensemble of student lyricists, musicians, and vocalists from Lame Deer Jr/Sr High School. In video was co-directed by Pete Tolton and Los Angeles-based choreographer and filmmaker Michelle Sui and produced by Ko Umezaki and Susan Wolfe.
  • Film Screening #2: “First Fire” (15mins) In 2020, Raven Halfmoon (Caddo) and Cannupa Hanska Luger (Mandan/ Hidatsa/ Arikara/Lakota) conceptualized First Fire: an educational and research-based program at The Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts (“The Bray) with the long term goal of constructing a pit firing site on Bray grounds as a dedicated gathering space for Indigenous pit-firing practices and Indigenous-led educational programming. This short documentary, also titled “First Fire,” spotlights the program’s impact, as well as Susan Wolfe and Lame Deer students’ contributions.

Artist Statement from Ko Umezaki

This particular project started right before the pandemic in late 2019. While the original idea of traveling to Seoul with the students from the Lame Deer School to engage with the creative process of K-pop artists in South Korea became virtually impossible to realize, it opened the possibility of situating the work within a more diasporic context, which often blends the local with the global.

One poignant moment that occurred during the week in Southern California may not be represented in the music video premiered at this exhibition: the interactions between Uno, the instructor/owner of a K-pop dance studio in LA County, and Shandin and Burton in their regalia. My learning from those moments was a kind of reinforcement of how we might better exercise greater movement between positioning oneself locally and globally, with confidence and pride, the latter a word I heard Shandiin say a number of times while shooting the video for this work. I’m hoping the music in the video, written and recorded collaboratively with many students from the Lame Deer School over the course of a number of years, also reflects the aspiration that one can be confidently local and global at the same time, and move between and position oneself anywhere within those spaces.

Artist Statement from Pete Tolton

“In creating ‘closer | together, moheh | stestove,’ we embraced the fluidity of belonging, mutuality, and borders. Our process was guided by a spirit of inquiry and flexibility, balancing happy accidents with original intentions. The film invites viewers to a headspace that both grounds and transports, fostering external connection and internal reflection. Witnessing the students take the reins on a busy L.A. street brought me immense joy and incredible hope.”

About the Billings Symphony

Founded as the Billings Symphony Society in May 1951, the organization’s mission is to enrich lives through music.

The Billings Symphony is composed of the Billings Symphony Orchestra, Billings Symphony Chorale, and the Billings Symphony Youth Orchestra, presenting an annual season from September through June featuring a Classic Series, Sukin Series, and a free Family Series that includes the annual tradition of Symphony in the Park.

Each year, the Billings Symphony helps introduce thousands of people throughout south-central and eastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming to music through Explore Music!, education and community engagement programs provided to participants at no cost.

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