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TAHS alumnus strives to use music to support humanitarian efforts and create change

Dana LeVan is an alumnus of Tea Area High School and currently working toward her masters in percussion performance at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

She is looking for help in funding a kickstarter project — Raising Lakota Voices: A Recital Featuring Indigenous Composer. The project is a recital that will feature music written by pupils from a composition program on Lakota reservations, as well as a composition by their teacher.

“I plan to help publish and record these works so that other percussionists can purchase and perform them,” LeVan said. “This way, these pieces could become a revenue source for the students to financially aid themselves through their education.”

LeVan outlines the reasoning and goals for her music project on her kickstarter project page.

“Many musicians, and humanitarians in general, are making efforts to raise up historically underrepresented populations in music, education, politics, and society,” LeVan said. “One of the populations in need of support is the Lakota population in South Dakota. It could be argued that Native American music is the only true form of American music because it had no influence from other continents’ traditions. While progressive musicians have made strong attempts to play music by Latino, black, and Asian composers and pay homage to these populations, Native American composers still fall behind in representation in music classrooms. Indigenous Americans make up 5% of the United States population, but only .1% of musicians in professional orchestras. My hope is that by supporting Lakota composers and commissions, musicians can slowly start to give more attention to raising Indigenous voices in music alongside Black and Latino voices.”

According to statistics the Lakota reservations are some of the poorest communities in the nation. Allen County, found on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation, has the lowest per capita income in the United States. The True Sioux Hope foundation shares jarring statistics about Pine Ridge: There is a 70% high school dropout rate. Life expectancy on the reservation is 47 years for men and 52 years for women. Teen suicide rate is 150 times higher than the U.S. national average. The infant mortality rate is the highest on this continent and 300 percent higher than the U.S. national average.

LeVan adds, “The solutions to issues on the Lakota reservations are not easy or clear. However, the Lakota Music Project has been making a difference in the lives of young Lakota musicians one individual at a time. This project will perpetuate and support the positive opportunities currently offered to students who participate in the Lakota Music Project.”

Already, LeVan has reached out to the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra’s Lakota Music Project composition teachers. There are three teachers who instruct the students and are part of the Lakota Music Project. LeVan reports that these teachers are excited about the project and will assess and contact students who they believe are capable of high school/collegiate level compositions and work with them to create percussion set-ups and write these works pending funding.

“I plan to set a due date for the composers so I can begin to prepare the pieces and find the necessary musicians to perform pieces for more than one performer. The funding will go towards commissioning the composers, paying their teachers, and paying for any necessary travel to and from the reservation,” LeVan said.

In addition to participating in ensembles at UNO, LeVan freelances for ensembles throughout Omaha and Lincoln. LeVan strives to use music to support humanitarian efforts and create change in addition to entertainment. LeVan graduated Summa Cum Laude from Augustana University with a degree in Music Education.

To contribute to her kickstarter project Raising Lakota Voices: A Recital Featuring Indigenous Composer, visit:


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