By Kristi Kates
Hes been nominated for a Grammy Award (2003, Best Native American
Recording) and has won a Native American Music Award for Group of the
Year (2004.) Hes half Navajo and half Northern Ute. He has
collaborated musically with John Densmore of The Doors as well as with
a plethora of other musicians on his own projects. The flutes that he
makes by hand are known world-wide.
And this is only scratching the surface of Native American musician
Aaron Whites story.
White, whose Blue Stone Project will be performing live in Petoskey at
the Odawa Casino Resort on Tuesday, June 22, says hes been involved
with music his whole life in one form or another; Blue Stone is only
the latest of his musical endeavors.
I started playing Native American music in 1993, White explains, I
started a group called Burning Sky with two other people. We were
pioneers of a new sound - mixing acoustic guitar with Native American
flute and percussion. I played guitar and also some flute in the band;
with the Blue Stone Project, I do the same, but not at the same time.
After Whites first band dissolved in 2004, he became a solo artist,
performing all over the country, everywhere from Denver, Colorado to
New York City.
Anywhere I could gig, White says.
As for working with Densmore, White met The Doors legendary drummer
at an awards show, and their connection continues to this day.
At the show, we talked and ended up exchanging numbers, White
remembers, I was working on a project, so I called him and asked if
he would be interested in working with me. He said yes, and we ended
up doing a workshop and a benefit concert. We have done various
benefits for cultural and environmental awareness, and we are still
collaborating on projects.
Meanwhile, yet another of Whites talents was taking form, one that
would both further express his love of music, and also delve more into
his Native American heritage.
I come from two different tribes, White explains, the Utes are from
the northeastern part of Utah, and the Navajos are from the Four
Corners region of northern Arizona. (This is the only place in the
U.S. where the corners of four states - Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and
Colorado - meet precisely together at one spot.) I started making
Native American flutes 14 years ago, he continues, I wanted to make
my own instruments, and was curious how they worked.
White says that the process of making flutes, while rewarding, is
The old way was to find a good branch, split it in half, hollow the
inside out and make your holes, and put it back together using tree
sap or pine pitch, he explains, now we have modern tools, so we use
good old wood glue.
Whites handcrafted flutes are now purchased by a wide variety of
people around the globe, and have become a favorite collectors item.
White also takes everything that hes learned about the instruments
and shares that information with others.
I give flute lectures at the Enchantment Resort in Arizona, he says,
I talk about the history of the flute and how the instrument has
evolved from the traditional to the contemporary music we hear today.
BLUE STONE LIVE
Today, Whites music has taken the shape of the aforementioned Blue
Stone Project, which White began at the end of 2006. Described as a
rock oriented sound flavored by contemporary Native American life in
America, the bands first eponymous CD was recorded in 2007, and the
trio of experienced musicians has progressed steadily since then.
I met Gary Rasmussen (bass/vocals) and Ed Michaels (drums/hand
percussions/vocals) at a festival in Silverton, Colorado, White
explains, I was on the bill, and they were on a tour with Alvin
Youngblood Hart. They are both very accomplished musicians and have
played with many performers - Gary with Iggy Pop, Fred Sonic Smiths
Sonic Rendezvous Band, Patti Smiths Band, and more; he is a Detroit
homeboy. Ed hails from Minnesota, and he has also been in good
company, working with Roy Rogers Blues Band, Buddy Miles, Marty Balin
(Jefferson Airplane), Derek Trucks - the list goes on and on.
The Blue Stone Project performs mostly originals in their concerts,
plus a few surprises.
We may also play a few songs people may recognize - with a touch of
Blue Stone flavor to them, White says.
Native American culture will be additionally showcased through some of
the concerts other special features.
Our mix of music has a real down-to-earth feel to it, White
continues, and you can expect to be enlightened with stories and
culture as well. I always look forward to playing in Michigan every
year. Its such a beautiful place - especially Up North in Petoskey.
We plan on having a good time.
Aaron White/Blue Stone Project will be performing at the Odawa Casino
on June 22 at 7 p.m. For additional info, visit www.odawacasino.com or
877-442-6464 (toll free) or locally at 231-439-6100. For more info on
Aaron White, visit www.whistlingwind.com; for more info on The Blue
Stone Project, visit