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Tony SingingEagle

As a composer, my strongest desire is for people to hear my music. For only when it is heard for the first time, does it begin to breathe and become alive. But I also recognize the need to say a little bit about myself. So just who is Tony SingingEagle?

At the time of writing these words, I have walked this earth for 70 winters. I count winters, as my Native ancestors did (not years). My grandfather was full blood Oglala Lakota, born around 1900 near Pine Ridge, South Dakota. My halfbreed father did not know much of the ways of our people, but he made sure I knew where I came from. However, it was not until my 33rd winter that I began to fully understand–and embrace–the fact that I was Native. In 1996, I made a personal commitment to learn (and live) the ways of my people, particularly the Lakota spirituality, culture and language. My name in Lakota is Waŋblí Wálowaŋ (SingingEagle) and references the story of a golden eagle who watched over a Lakota camp and cried out when danger was near, in order to protect the people. It was gifted me in a sacred naming ceremony by a Quahadi Comanche elder/medicine man in 1997.

I share all of this because it is who I am. However, what I do–at least, as a musician–is quite different. You see, the music this Lakota boy grew up listening to in 1950's and 60's Memphis, TN was Jazz–not Rock & Roll, not Country & Western, not Pop–but Big Band Jazz. Both of my parents were professional musicians in that style, so naturally, I became interested in learning it. So much so, I wound up getting a Bachelor of Music (in Composition) from Memphis State University while simultaneously attending the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY during the summers. It was there that I studied studio arranging and film scoring under Rayburn Wright and Manny Albam; it was there that I really learned to write music. Mind you, I was never as successful or as well known as those I went to school with (and later worked with). However, I did manage to get quite a few writing gigs, which helped me hone my craft. I ended up as an "arranger for hire" on and off for 50 years.

As I mentioned earlier, things changed in 1996. I was not concentrating so much on what I did, but rather on who I was. Jazz (and most other non-Native music) took a back seat and eventually ended up on the shelf.

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