A classical guitarist from Kykotsmovi

When I was younger I studied classical guitar with Tom Sheeley at Northern Arizona University. I had dreams of becoming a professional Spanish classical guitarist, but that aspiration never came to be. Below is an article about a sixteen year old Hopi guitarist named Malcolm Mowa from Kykotsmovi. One of his compositions titled “Aerial Ice” was recently aired on National Public Radio. I am looking forward to hearing more about this Hopi musician in the future.

The story and photo are courtesy of Stan Bindell and the Navajo-Hopi Observer (NHO). Many thanks to Wells Mahkee Jr., Managing Editor of NHO, for granting me permission to republish this story on my blog. Here is the link to the original source: http://navajohopiobserver.com/main.asp?SectionID=74&subsectionID=111&articleID=12247

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert

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Hopi student’s music hits national airwaves

Stan Bindell, The Observer

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

POLACCA, Ariz. – A Hopi High School music student has hit the national airwaves. Malcolm Mowa had his musical composition, “Aerial Ice,” performed on National Public Radio. He wrote the piece, which was performed by Ethel, a four-string quartet.

Mowa, a 16-year old junior, said Ethel performed great and he was excited about having his piece aired nationally. He initially wrote the piece as part of the Grand Canyon Music Festival when artist in residence Raven Chacone came to Hopi High and taught six students how to compose.

Mowa learned about his piece being aired nationally when it was announced over the school’s intercom. “It motivates me to want to do more with music,” he said.

“I want to go to school for music composition and guitar.” He also wants to learn to play the piano. Mowa said his parents were excited and happy about his composition being aired nationally.

“Everybody wants to hear it, but nobody knows when it was played,” he said. Thomas Irwin, band teacher at Hopi High, was equally ecstatic about Mowa’s piece getting national airtime.

“It was great, cool,” he said. “There are new people at NPR working on programming.”

The new programming allows the top high school students from throughout the nation to have their pieces aired. One of Irwin’s former students at Monument Valley High School received a $10,000 endowment for his work.

Irwin said he hopes Mowa stays serious about his musical work because he can major in guitar or composition, and scholarships are available to him.

“I’m confident he can get scholarships,” Irwin said. “He’s a great example of what can happen when kids apply themselves. Chances are we’ll get more success stories.”

Irwin said Mowa’s fellow students were happy for him, although some teased him about his success.

Mowa said “Aerial Ice” was a happy tune about how he felt at the time. It’s classical music and it’s just instrumental; there are no words. He added that he likes classical music better than hip hop or rap.

“It’s better than a lot of the music that’s out there. It’s mellow, nice – not bad stuff,” he said.

Mowa likes alternative rock, classic rock and pop music.

Mowa is also part of the Hopi High guitar class, which recently performed at the Hopi Cultural Center and other places in the community.

“It was weird because we were playing off to the side while people were eating, but people were happy we were playing. They would put down their food and listen,” he said. Mowa, who also plays baseball, maintains a B average and hopes to get a music scholarship to college. He is the son of Uberta and Clifton Mowa from Kykotsmovi.

Navajo-Hopi Observer

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1 Response to “A classical guitarist from Kykotsmovi”


  1. 1 marijo moore February 9, 2010 at 10:29 am

    Wonderful news! Way to go, Mowa!!!!


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Copyright Notice

© Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS, 2009-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert and BEYOND THE MESAS with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About the author

Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe from the village of Upper Moencopi in northeastern Arizona. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of History and a Dean's Fellow and Conrad Humanities Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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