A casual decision to attend the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy put Lone Grove student Cruise Berry on a short path to a valuable scholarship opportunity.

A casual decision to attend the Chickasaw Summer Arts Academy put Lone Grove student Cruise Berry on a short path to a valuable scholarship opportunity.

Rebecca Lucas, a friend Berry described as a very good actress, asked if he would like to attend the arts academy in the summer of 2007. He decided to attend for the music composition component because there was not much else going on that summer.

In mid December of this year, Berry accepted an $85,600 scholarship to study music composition at Oklahoma City University.

He said it was “exhilarating” to find out he had been offered the scholarship, because he “wasn’t expecting anything, especially in that amount.”

While Berry had been playing trumpet in the band since sixth grade, he said the CSAA is what piqued his interest in music composition.

“That was my first time to try my hand at bothering to write music down and notate it properly,” said Berry. He added, “up to that point, I wasn’t really considering pursuing a music career, or anything post high school having to do with music.”

That experience helped him begin to focus his energy on a possible career in music, but he said an ambivalence began to creep in between 2007 and 2008.

“Like a lot of high school seniors, I was kind of in a quandary as to what to do. Am I going to do accounting? – Oh, that’s boring! – Am I going to be a pro football player, a composer, a doctor, a brain surgeon?” he chuckled.

This summer, after receiving further instruction at CSAA from Jerod Tate, a successful classical composer, Berry firmed up his decision to study music.

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby offered his congratulations to Berry for earning the scholarship.

“This young man is obviously very talented and deserving of this award,” said Gov. Anoatubby. “We are very pleased that the arts academy played a role in helping him make the decision to pursue this opportunity.”

Berry began playing piano in eighth grade. He was self-taught, but very serious.

“I really, really got into it- reading a lot of literature and music theory treatises and history,” he said.
He was playing compositions by Bach, Beethoven and many other classical composers.

Something he said sets him apart from other members of his family, who are more likely to listen to Kenny Chesney or Reba McIntire.

“I’m somewhat of an oddity in my family,” he said with a chuckle, adding “I’m the only person in my family that I know of that does anything remotely musical.”

Because of his size, others thought he would be a natural athlete.

“I didn’t play football. I played basketball,” he said. “I was like six feet tall in the sixth and seventh grade, so it was ‘you’re post.’”

He didn’t really enjoy sports, but he did have a natural affinity for music.

“Once I got my feet wet or my fingers dug into music, I realized it was something I wanted to work at” he said. “It didn’t come easily. I really, really had to work at it. My work ethic and my discipline came naturally.

“I started out very basic, then I taught myself the classics.”

When he made the decision to audition for the scholarship at OCU, he took lessons from Dr. Robert McFadden, a professor at Southeastern Oklahoma University.

“I finally got to take real lessons from a real piano teacher,” said Berry.

Dr. McFadden also helped Berry select pieces to play at the audition. Those included compositions by Bach, Rachmaninoff, and Bartók.

After the audition, Berry interviewed with a composition professor and submitted the two compositions he created during the 2007 and 2008 sessions of the CSAA.

Berry said his experience at the arts academy had also “ignited” an interest in his Chickasaw heritage. He hopes to someday incorporate that heritage into some of his compositions.

“I had a great grandmother I used to get to speak with about my Chickasaw heritage.

I wasn’t interested in it when she was telling me,” he said. “And now that I am, she’s gone. I wasn’t very wise. I was respectful to my elders, but I didn’t listen to what they had to say. I realize now that was a serious bad choice on my part.”