http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgTulsa Youth Opera participant and Cherokee Nation citizen Phillip Bruch sings “Caro Mio Ben” for Aaron Beck, Tulsa Opera’s music and education administrator, during vocal lessons in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Bruch is one of five CN citizens who have been selected to be a part of the Tulsa Youth Opera for its 2017-18 season. Also shown are CN citizens Megan Jacobs, Barbara McAlister and Katelyn Morton. Jacobs and Morton were also selected to be a part of the Tulsa Youth Opera. Bruch, Jacobs and Morton all study under McAlister, who is an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHEONIX
Tulsa Youth Opera participant and Cherokee Nation citizen Phillip Bruch sings “Caro Mio Ben” for Aaron Beck, Tulsa Opera’s music and education administrator, during vocal lessons in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Bruch is one of five CN citizens who have been selected to be a part of the Tulsa Youth Opera for its 2017-18 season. Also shown are CN citizens Megan Jacobs, Barbara McAlister and Katelyn Morton. Jacobs and Morton were also selected to be a part of the Tulsa Youth Opera. Bruch, Jacobs and Morton all study under McAlister, who is an internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHEONIX

5 Cherokees selected for 2017-18 Tulsa Opera season

Former Reporter
08/14/2017 08:15 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Five Cherokee Nation citizens who are students of CN citizen and internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano opera singer Barbara McAlister were recently selected for the Tulsa Opera’s 2017-18 season.

Megan Jacobs, 17; Phillip Bruch, 16; Katelyn Morton, 17; and Haley Hitt, 14, were accepted into the Tulsa Youth Opera, while Steven Osborne, 47, was selected for the Tulsa Opera Chorus.

Aaron Beck, TO music and education administrator, said the TO is “proud” to have a revitalized relationship with the CN, and McAlister is the reason.

“Her long and storied career as a professional opera singer, combined with her love for her homeland and the Cherokee Nation is inspiring an entire new generation of Cherokees to love and respect music,” he said. “They all bring a remarkable work ethic, high level of respect and supreme talent to our organization, which speaks highly of the Cherokee Nation’s investment in the artistic training of its citizens.”

Each year the TYO selects singers ranging from grades third through 12th for a tuition-free training program estimated to cost $6,000 per student. Those selected learn the basics of singing and performing with the TO staff, and at the end of the training year they perform a full-length children’s opera at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center.

“We have about 100 kids audition, and we have about 50 to 60 spots, so it’s pretty competitive. A lot of the kids study privately with people like Barbara, while some don’t at all. But it’s just a lot of fun to work with all of them,” said Beck.

Bruch said he’s excited for the opportunity and grateful for the “push of confidence” McAlister gave him to audition for the TYO.

“Actually, I didn’t know I was signing up for opera. I thought it was vocal lessons. I listened to Megan sing and I thought ‘OK, maybe I should give this a try.’ I honestly didn’t think I could do it at first but Barbara told me ‘you can do it. You have potential, so don’t be nervous.’ She gave me that push of confidence I needed,” he said. “When I found out that I was accepted I was so excited, but I’m still really nervous because I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work. But I just have to push through it.”

In honor of the TO’s 70th anniversary and the TYO’s 20th anniversary, Beck said there are big plans and that the TO is close to revealing the upcoming performances that will include its singers as well as TYO performers.

Beck said Osborne would be with the TOC, which is part of the TO productions.

“The Tulsa Opera Chorus is for people who know how to sing and perform already,” he said. “If you ever seen an opera, its kind of like a musical. A lot of times you’ll have a chorus on stage that plays the townspeople or something. So we have a chorus that is a professional-level ensemble that does our main productions during the year, and so that is what he (Osborne) is going to be in this year.”

Osborne said he became interested in music in high school, but knew he enjoyed opera after his high school music class attended a TO dress rehearsal. He said it was like a “light bulb” turned on, and he knew opera is where he wanted to be.

“I kind of gave up on music at one point, got married, (had) children, and I began working as manager in food and beverage at the Hard Rock (Hotel & Casino Tulsa) for almost 10 years,” he said. “Then I got the opportunity to study with Barbara. Now I am going to be performing. It’s kind of a lifelong dream to be singing with an opera company and to also be signing with the Signature Symphony this year. So I am going to be singing quite a bit. Hopefully for me, this is a jumping off point, kind of a late start but a beginning to bigger things.”

McAlister said with her students’ acceptance into the opera programs, she’s excited and proud that her instructions are helping them reach their goals.

“We have such amazing talent within the Cherokee Nation. I have probably 20 to 22 students just from the Cherokee Nation. They learn to sing in German, Italian, French and Cherokee. They have to memorize all these songs in whatever language it is and know what they’re singing by the time they perform it,” she said. “This year, four auditioned and all four got into the Tulsa Youth Opera from the Cherokee Nation. And Steve is the only Cherokee to audition for the Tulsa Opera Chorus and be accepted, so it’s a great honor for all of them.”

Auditions for the 2018-19 seasons for the TYO and TOC are set for May and June. For more information, visit or email Beck at


07/17/2018 04:15 PM
MUSKOGEE – As of July 14, Cherokee Nation citizen Johnny Tehee, of Vian, was expected to take over as the new chief for the Muskogee Police Department. Tehee has been with the MPD for more than 30 years. For the past 15 years he’s been the deputy chief to Chief Rex Eskridge, who was to retire on July 13. For about 10 years on the force, he’s specialized in investigating child abuse. Before the promotion, Tehee served as the deputy chief of the Investigation Division. Tehee said he believes the most important thing to concentrate on is community relations. He wants the community more involved on what the police are doing, and the police more involved on what the community is doing. “Back about 20 years I ran the Muskogee Police Athletic League, which means all the police officers would coach young kids’ football, baseball and basketball,” Tehee said. “We quit doing that about five or six ago, and I definitely want to get that back in place. I just think it’s a big asset for the community if you have officers involved in young kids’ lives.” In the 1990s, Tehee said Muskogee had a problem with drugs and gangs with the murder rate high going into the 2000s. Since that time, he said the MPD has put more officers on the street and crime rates have gone down. “We went from having double digits homicides to one or two a year. For the most part it’s a matter of keeping things going in the right direction,” Tehee said. He added that he’s “excited and looking forward to the challenges” of being the police chief. “I want to continue to move the Muskogee Police Department forward and carry on the legacy that was created by Chief Eskridge to remain one of the top law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma,” he said. Tehee graduated Vian High School in 1982 before studying criminal justice at Northeastern State University. He also graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He said he’s been a member of First Baptist Church of Muskogee for more than 30 years and has spent years travelling the world on mission trips. He also said he’s been a long-time teacher in the church’s youth department. “Deputy Chief Tehee has the experience, the community relationships and leadership skills needed to be an outstanding chief of police,” Muskogee City Manager Mike Collier said. “He has big shoes to fill, but I know he’s more than capable and will do great things in our community.”
07/10/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Three local Cherokee youths competed in the U.S. Kids Golf – Tulsa Spring Tour held between March and June that consisted of seven tournaments. Kylie Fisher, Edwin Wacoche and Chase Jones also competed in the season-ending Tour Championship at the Cherokee Hills Golf Course at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa on June 10. They received points based on how they finished in each tournament with each player with the most points winning the division. Fisher, of Tahlequah, competed in the Girls 7-Under Division and won all seven tournaments played at Tulsa-area golf courses, plus the championship on June 10 with a score of 36 for nine holes. Wacoche, of Tahlequah, won the Boys 6-under Division and Jones, of Park Hill, won the Boys 10 Division. Fisher also recently won the U.S. Kids Golf Texas State Invitational for girl’s 7-under held June 18-19, by shooting 35 and 35 for a score of 70. The competitors in the tournament played 9 holes each day at the Brookhaven Country Club in Farmers Branch, Texas. “We were surprised she won it. She shot her best score to date in that tournament,” her mother Shauna Fisher, said.
07/03/2018 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Arts Center, in conjunction with the Spider Gallery, will host an art exhibit by local Cherokee artist J. Wade Hannon titled “Returning to the Cherokee Nation: A Selection of Paintings from Before and After” from July 6 to Aug. 3. In 2014, Hannon moved to Tahlequah from Chicago’s south side where he lived and worked. His family was part of the migration out of the Cherokee Nation between 1930 and 1950. The paintings in the show feature works completed in Chicago as well as works finished since relocating to Tahlequah. His work is primarily abstract done in acrylics with items added such as glitter and mica flakes as well as shells and feathers he’s collected. He’s been referred to by some as the “Jackson Pollack of the Cherokee art world.” “Being Cherokee has always been a part of my identity. When I found the opportunity to move to Tahlequah it made perfect sense to me. I have enjoyed the camaraderie with other Indian artists and have grown as an artist and a person being here,” he said. “I started painting in the ninth grade and continued painting off and on until about five or so years ago when I took up the brushes full time.” Hannon earned a doctorate in counseling from the University of Arkansas. He worked in mental health counseling after that until obtaining a position at North Dakota State University in Fargo where he was a professor in the master’s and doctoral programs in counseling. Along the way he fathered two children. A reception, featuring wine, cheese and crackers and other adult beverages will be held at 5:30 p.m. on July 6 in the Cort Mall located downtown. The show will run during the Spider Gallery’s business hours. For more exhibit information, call 918-453-5728. For more information about Hannon, call 539-832-9858 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
06/28/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials honored CN citizen Sammy Houseberg on June 21 with the Medal of Patriotism award for his service in the military. The Medal of Patriotism Awards is given at monthly Tribal Council meetings. Tribal Councilors can nominate a person to receive the award. Houseberg is also a “Remember the Removal” alumni rider who rode in 2016 as a CN Elder Ambassador. He was in town to watch this year’s riders come in the same day he received the patriotism award. Originally from Stilwell, Houseberg has resided in Pearl City, Hawaii, since he was honorably discharged from the Army. During his 22 years of service, he rose in rank from private to first sergeant, armor senior sergeant, platoon sergeant to senior scout/section leader. He also attended Air Assault reconnaissance and surveillance training with his cavalry squadron where he became capable of short notice deployments in support of combat operations all over the world to provide reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence assets to commanders. Houseberg was honorably discharged as an E-8 first sergeant in 1994. He said he was proud to receive the Medal of Patriotism and that it “probably beats all of my other awards.” In addition to the Medal of Patriotism, he earned several decorations, medals and ribbons during his service including an Army Commendation Medal with five Oak Leaf Cluster, an overseas service ribbon, two Purple Hearts with one Oak Leaf Cluster, an Army Service ribbon, a Combat Infantryman’s badge, four overseas service bars, a Bronze Silver Star medal and six Vietnam Campaign medals. “The military was good for me. It got me out to see the world. I got to learn how to work and deal with people. It was good to me. It was fun,” he said. After receiving the award, Houseberg attended the welcome home ceremony for the 2018 RTR bike ride. “The Removal bike ride taught me a lot about my history. I knew nothing about where my family comes from, where they were or anything,” he said. He said he learned his family originated from Georgia and was one of the first families to be removed. He added that he could not express how important it was for him to be back in Oklahoma to see the cyclists come in. “I just feel like a part of them and riding with the RTR you become brothers and sisters when you do that. Kind of like being in the military, once you’ve done it you all get together, and you stay in touch with all the young riders I rode with,” he said.
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/12/2018 08:30 AM
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Cooper Keys is a 4-year-old with a passion for motocross. Born in 2013, Cooper began riding his 2004 Yamaha PW50 in February after finding tri-cycling slow and monotonous. With half a dozen races under his belt on the peewee dirt track at Jandebeur’s Motor Sports Park in Okmulgee, he’s notched five third-place finishes and one second-place finish. Cooper competes in the 50cc shaft drive/air cooled and 50cc beginner divisions and is the only 4-year-old racing against 5-to 7-year-olds. “We got him a starter balance bike when he was about a year and a half old,” CN citizen and Cooper’s mother Emily Keys said. “Balance bikes don’t have pedals or training wheels, so he just kind of pushed himself around until he eventually got to where he could ride around without using his feet.” Emily said Cooper soon began riding down hills, balancing perfectly on the bike that was designed for pushing around the yard. “When he outgrew the balance bike, we got him a bicycle that resembled a dirt bike, which he mastered in no time,” she said. It was around then that Emily and her husband, Justin, began thinking that Cooper’s abilities” weren’t “normal.” Cooper’s agility was only surpassed by his constant request for a real (motorized) dirt bike,” she said. “He was just gung-ho, and would not be quiet about it. My husband had a mini-bike when he was little but only rode it around the field, so we really knew nothing about dirt bikes or the sport,” Emily said. She added that it was eventually her parents who sprang for Cooper’s first dirt bike, as a Christmas present. She said she thought he would just want to ride around the field with it. But that wasn’t the case. Cooper wanted to ride all the time. “We were concerned about him racing at such a young age, so we just started at the bottom, learning everything we could on teaching Cooper how to ride safe and smart. We purchased every piece of safety gear a kid could have. Now the poor (child) looks like (a) mix between an astronaut and the Terminator when he’s all suited up to go,” Emily said. “He’s had some crashes but that hasn’t deterred him in the least.” Cooper’s father and CN citizen Justin Keys said Cooper’s can-do attitude was only one of the qualities he noticed. “It makes me really proud that he has such good sportsmanship and how he strives to make himself better. I mean he’s pushing himself more than anybody. He gets out there with a ride, ride, ride attitude and he never gives up. More than once, I’ve seen him fall down, get up and want to go again. You can’t teach that.” “We don’t want him hurt, and it is scary putting him on such a fast bike, but we’ve done all we can,’ Emily said. “We continue to teach him about safety, and we can’t let our fears get in the way of something he’s that passionate about.”
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/07/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Spectators who attended the Cherokee Nation’s All-Indian Rodeo on June 2 at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds got to see team and calf roping, mutton busting, steer wrestling, trick riding, sharp shooting, calf riding, bronco riding, barrel racing and bull riding. Overall, there were 270 entries to the traditional rodeo, but because of roping team deviations and multiple event entries, the exact number of competitors was unknown. Cherokee Phoenix was there and produced a highlight video of the event. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the list of All-Indian Rodeo 2018 winners