traditional flute music by doc tate

 Old School Flute Music

Sometimes I really like my job. No, not the one I go to each night for a local company but this one. The one where I get to listen to music and share it and my thoughts with you. I usually begin with vague ideas and try to find the music that will tie it together. The results sometimes surprise me.

I started by choosing a music, Native American flute, and wanted to listen to some of the more traditional music just to be a backdrop while I did some research and development of ideas. I wanted to find a direction, something interesting and maybe a little different to offer.

Wikipedia has a short list of Native American flute musicians and I looked for a new artist, preferably one of the older and more traditional. Sonny Nevaquaya caught my eye and the date 1933. OK, this is what I think of as old school. Maybe a poor quality recording but just what I was looking for. dream catcher

I don’t know where I saw 1933 but this guy is way too young. The first song of his I listened to dates from 1846 and that is the old school flute sound I was looking for. I started digging a little deeper in and found a reference to Doc Tate Nevaquaya, Sonny’s dad. He has a great collection of Comanche flute music and in the style I wanted to listen to.

Looking for more of Doc Tate’s music I ran into a problem. Lots of Nevaquaya’s, just a mix of different first names. As it turns out, Doc had 9 children and all his sons are following in his footprints. Besides being a flutist, Doc also painted. His sons are also painters as well as being accomplished flute players.

Along the way looking into this interesting mix of old and new music; Doc Tate stopped being just a flute musician and became someone I wanted to know more about. My vague idea was forgotten, the plan to get the basics of a blog post together was put on hold while I looked into the life of Doc Tate Nevaquaya.

Doc Tate Nevaquaya

Doc Tate Joyce Lee Tate Nevaquaya was born in 1932 and named after Dr. Joyce who delivered him. The nickname Doc was only natural. Doc’s parents died when he was 13 or 14 and he lived with his grandparents, which strengthened his Comanche heritage. While attending Fort Sill Indian School, the name Tate was required to meet the school’s requirements of a Christian name. He attended the University of Wichita (1933-1936) and the University of Oklahoma in Norman (1936-1938).

Doc worked as a teacher, a Methodist lay minister, a lecturer, historian, dancer, singer, and composer. A self-taught artist, he worked in oil, acrylic, watercolor, tempera & prints. In 1958, his art work was featured in the Anadarko American Indian Exposition. If interested in Doc’s artwork, Native Arts of America (no affiliation/no commission for me) have a nice selection of Doc Tate Nevaquaya prints at a very reasonable price.

Doc began playing the flute in 1967 and began performing in the early 1970s. Many of the modern flute musicians give Doc Tate credit as their primary inspiration. He released two recordings, Indian Flute Songs from Comanche Land (1976) and Comanche Flute Music (1979).

The list of Doc’s accomplishments and awards is inspiring and way too much for me to go into. You can see those at:

And (finally) a little of Doc Tate and the Native American flute.

Carrying on the Traditions

And if Doc’s music and artwork is an inspiration to you, remember that his true legacy is in his children. They continue to honor their Father.

  • Tim Nevaquaya Today, he is an award-winning artist and musician. And, with success comes the opportunity to help others. Tim is an acclaimed composer of Native flute music and is a lecturer on art and music. He also is teaching Native flute to eager students. Comanche Nation Festival 4 – Native American Flute
  • Lean ‘Sonny’ Nevaquaya Sonny is a flute player and maker from Oklahoma. In 1993, he recorded his first album entitled “Spirit of the Flute”. His second album, “Viva Kokopelli” was released in 1996. He has also released an album in honor of his father, Doc Tate Nevaquaya “Legend and Legacy”. Sonny has played the flute for 30 years but only began to professionally perform in 1993. Much like his father, Sonny has made his mark and is rated in the top 5 of Native American flutist. 2010 Nevaquaya Flute Retreat


Remember I mentioned a song from 1846? Here is Sonny performing it at the 2011 Nevaquaya Flute Retreat.

Doc Tate Nevaquaya’s legacy lives on. Thru his children and the music he almost single-handedly brought out of the past and into todays world. He remains a bright fire; inspiring present day Native Americans and other Native American flute players to continue to reach their dreams and to enable us to enjoy fantastic music.

Without Doc, we might not have Tom Ware, Kevin Locke, Carlos Nokia and countless others. We might not have a thriving and growing music genre. Doc has shown us all that Life’s Journey can never be taken for granted and should be lived to it’s greatest potential.

For more of Doc’s, Tim’s, Sonny’s and Calvert’s music, (and other great Flute music) visit my Native American music page.

For me, the more traditional flute music brings a wonderful feeling of peace and allows my mind to drift and to be refreased. What do you experience as you listen to the flute?

As always, I welcome your comments, questions and your thoughts.

Walking the Path of Peace,





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