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Premiere of Pa I sha

November 7 @ 6:30 pm - 7:45 pm CST


In partnership with the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian and Evanston Township High School District 202, the Bach & Beethoven Experience (BBE) will premiere a new musical work called The Story of Pa I Sha, composed by BBE’s Artistic Director Brandi Berry Benson.

This premiere will take place on Tuesday, November 7 at 6:30pm in the Upstairs Theatre of Evanston Township High School. The performance is free and open to the public with a seating capacity of 350.

The Story of Pa I Sha is a musical work composed by Brandi Berry Benson, Artistic Director of the Bach & Beethoven Experience (BBE), and is inspired by her 4th great grandmother Pa I Sha. In partnership with the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian and Evanston Township High School, the BBE will premiere this work on November 7 at 6:30pm as part of Native American Heritage month. Using melodies from the Chickasaw Nation, the instrumentation of this work will feature Rachael Youngman (Choctaw) as narrator and vocalist, Leighann Daihl Ragusa on traverso and Native American flute, violinist Brandi Berry Benson, violist Kiyoe Matsuura, cello, and percussion. The narration will be mostly in English, but will include some Chickasaw language in telling three major stories from Brandi’s Chickasaw heritage. 

About the Program

As a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, Artistic Director Brandi Berry Benson grew up looking at her great-great-great-great grandmother Pa I Sha’s portrait, which hung in her living room. Every time she gazed at her, she saw a woman of immense strength who carried the Chickasaw reputation of “unconquered and unconquerable.” This musical work is inspired by Pa I Sha and will highlight three major stories from Brandi’s Chickasaw heritage. 

The first story is about Pa I Sha herself, who was full-blood Chickasaw and walked the Trail of Tears (or, more correctly, called The Removal by the Chickasaw tribe) in 1837 from her home in Mississippi to her new nation in Oklahoma as part of the Indian Removal Act. In Oklahoma, she married her husband, another full-blood Chickasaw, who also walked this trail. The second story is about Pa I Sha’s daughter, Mary, who was also full-blood Chickasaw, but married an Englishman who served as a soldier in the Civil War. Because interracial marriages with the tribe were taboo at the time, they were forced to live in a railroad tent outside of town with their nine children. Their children and grandchildren were discriminated against to the point that some did not declare their full degree of Indian blood, or in some cases, dropped their indigenous identity altogether when required to register. Pa I Sha’s great grandson, Earnest, is the last of Brandi’s relatives on the Dawes Rolls from Indian Territory. He was born in Indian territory before Oklahoma became a state in 1906. The third story is about how Brandi’s great grandfather Earnest met her great grandmother, Elvera. She had come to Texas from Illinois on a train when she was 12 years old around Christmastime. Her parents had told her that there would be no presents that year, but that they would still celebrate Jesus’ birth. When they arrived, her family was invited to dinner by the people of the town and were given presents after all. The girls were given corn husk dolls, and the boys were given whittled animals that were made for them. After Earnest moved to the Texas panhandle, he met and married Sarah, who gave birth to Brandi’s maternal grandfather. 

For more information about this program, please contact: info@mitchellmuseum.org | (847) 475-1030 | www.mitchellmuseum.org/events/


November 7
6:30 pm - 7:45 pm CST


Mitchell Museum of the American Indian
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Evanston Township Highschool
1600 Dodge Ave
Evanston, IL 60201 United States
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