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Miami University Symphony Orchestra film selected for the International Diversity Film Festival

“The Curious Happenings of Chokfi and Kokopelli” features a composition by Native American composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate

International diversity film festival and laurels
Research and Innovation

Miami University Symphony Orchestra film selected for the International Diversity Film Festival

“The Curious Happenings of Chokfi and Kokopelli,” a film created by the Miami University Symphony Orchestra, was showcased at the 2022 International Diversity Film Festival, Aug. 25-27.

The festival recognizes and showcases narrative and documentary features and shorts, including web episodes. It encourages the promotion of diversity and inclusion, allowing creators to be recognized globally for their achievements in film. Selections are judged by award-winning independent filmmakers working in the industry. Finalists are invited to attend the festival, network, and screen their work. 

“The Curious Happenings of Chokfi and Kokopelli” is part of the nine-episode online concert series — “We Gather Together in Music: A Concert Series of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion” — created by the Miami University Symphony Orchestra (MUSO) during the spring 2021 semester.

At that time, Miami was holding courses remotely or in a hybrid format due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ricardo Averbach, director of orchestral studies, created an alternative orchestra program, where students held weekly sectional rehearsals and full rehearsals virtually. While orchestras across the country had been searching for alternative ways to remain functional during the pandemic the MUSO not only continued to function regularly, but also became a model of resiliency, Averbach said.

The idea for the ambitious online concert series project, “We Gather Together in Music” started when members of the orchestra student board approached Averbach with the desire to perform music by composers of underrepresented groups.

“When we decided to create a web series of concerts with (support from) the Performing Arts Series, I never thought that we might be the only college in the country that kept a regular weekly schedule of rehearsals and performances that happened remotely, online, throughout the semester and during the pandemic," he said. 

"What makes it more meaningful is that we used this web series to address issues of diversity and inclusion in our orchestra program, involving all the programs of the College of Creative Arts,” Averbach said. 

View a behind-the-scenes video compilation of the "We Gather Together in Music" project at the end of the story, below.  

"The Curious Happenings of Chofki and Kokopelli

"The Curious Happenings of Chokfi and Kokopelli"

The episode selected for the festival, “The Curious Happenings of Chokfi and Kokopelli,” was filmed by Peter Rothschild Averbach, a junior Computer Science and East Asian Languages and Cultures double major and Film Studies co-major, and Averbach's son. 

"Working on the film was an incredible experience," Rothschild Averbach said. "There were several challenges as filming was completed during one of the strongest waves of COVID. I am thankful for the amazing cooperation between the Miami Orchestra and Dance Theatre, as well as the opportunity to produce a film about Native American culture."

The film begins with an interview with the Native American classical composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate, a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, followed by a performance of his composition “Chokfi, Sarcasm for String Orchestra and Percussion."

The musical performance is followed by "The Journey," a dance choreographed by Lana Kay Rosenberg, associate professor of Sport Leadership and Management, and performed by members of Dance Theatre. It features "Kokopelli" for solo flute, composed by Katherine Hoover and perfomed by Samantha Goes '17, master's degree student in flute perfomance and a winner of Miami's 2021 Concerto Competition. It was inspired by Kokopelli, a prehistoric Native American deity depicted frequently in petroglyphs, estimated to be over a thousand years old. He is generally depicted as a hunchback flute player in a dancing pose with a festive crest on his head.

Upon completion of the "We Gather together in Music" series, Diane Fellows, associate professor of Architecture and Interior Design and collaborator on episode nine, suggested submitting the work to film festivals, Averbach said. 

The International Diversity Film Festival jury noted the "Curious Happenings of Chofki and Kokopelli" was “amazing… Your film went above and beyond, and we're proud to enter it into the official International Diversity Film Festival catalog, where the credit will remain permanently to showcase your achievement.”

Averbach said, "It is very exciting to learn that our work received recognition in an international festival that went way beyond the limits of our campus!" 

The film was also a semi-finalist at the London International Web & Shorts Film Festival.

The nine-part series can be viewed on the Performing Arts Series YouTube We Gather Together in Music playlist

Watch the MUSO live at Hall Auditorium this fall

  • 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15: Daniel Pearl World Music Days Concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Mozart’s Overture to the opera “Abduction from the Seraglio.” 
  • 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20: Family Movie Night  featuring Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” and music from the soundtrack of popular movies such as “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Coco,” “Cinema Paradiso,” “An American in Paris,” and “Mission Impossible.”