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Award-winning flutist, botanic garden offer series of shows

Local Native American flutist and songwriter Steve Rushingwind won his third Native American Music Award October 12 at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino in New York, and will celebrate with four shows beginning tonight at Claremont’s Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

“It felt great,” the 58-year-old Pomona resident said of his recent “Nammy” win. “I was sitting way in the back and I was still eating my meal and when they called name I was still eating my chicken! I was very excited.”

Mr. Rushingwind won for best instrumental recording, “Rushingwind, Keeper of Secrets: Native Flute.” His other two Nammys were for best new age recording, “Among the Ancients,” in 2013, and “Bridge” in 2014, both by Rushingwind and Mucklow.

The flutist appears next Friday and Saturday, December 7 and 8, and the following weekend, December 14 and 15, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Garden’s Luminaria Nights event.

Mr. Rushingwind’s latest Nammy win was extra sweet as it was his first as a solo artist, with his previous pair coming for collaborations with Mr. Mucklow.

“That was really nice,” he said. “In the Native America world it’s a small community compared to the Grammys, but we do get a lot of feedback from people, groups and casinos [as a result of the award]. And when you’re performing anywhere where there’s a Native population, it just helps to solidify who you are and where you’re coming from. It’s a nice thing to have.”

He’s won several other regional awards—three New Mexico Music Award, Indian Summer Music Awards, and others—but the Nammy is the highest profile such trophy available in the Native American music market.

“I liken it to, I own the restaurant, and I won best food of the year,” he said. “Because it attracts people to come to my restaurant, eat food and enjoy it. I don’t look at it as something for my ego; it’s more for helping to draw people to my music. That’s how I view awards.”

The Native American Music Awards and Association began in 1998 with the aim of recognizing Native artists who were falling through the cracks of established organizations such as the Grammys, American Music Awards, MTV Awards and the like. The organization and awards show have both grown substantially over the years, with yearly submissions for consideration now exceeding 200 recordings, and the show’s international audience expanding steadily. 

Also expanding its reach is the site of Mr. Rushingwind’s upcoming shows, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. The local horticultural resource’s current exhibition is Origami in the Garden 2, which is up through April 14. It features large-scale metal origami sculptures, each of which having originated with a single piece of folded paper created by some of the world’s most noted origami artists.

Beginning next weekend, luminaria-lit paths will guide visitors through the illuminated sculptures of the exhibition, with live music throughout the evening as Luminaria Nights kicks off.

And on Sunday, December 9, Claremont residents get in free at RSABG as part of its ongoing Second Sundays program, sponsored by Claremont’s Community Based Organization grant program.

In addition, Claremonters can enjoy free docent tours and family folding stations, where children and families can fold their own origami creations. Stations are hosted by the Pacific Ocean Paperfolders. Guests must show driver’s license or valid ID with Claremont zip code for free entry.

Awards are nice, but unlike a Oscar or a Grammy, which can boost an artist’s profile and have a major impact on his or her fees, a Nammy award provides something less financially tangible, but perhaps just a valuable: the fuel to keep going. “That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “It gives you confirmation that you’re on the right track and you’re doing the right thing.”

A Grammy Award would be something else altogether. “Rushingwind, Keeper of Secrets: Native Flute” is being considered for a Grammy nomination this year in the best new age album category. “Sapient,” by Steve Chesne, on which Mr. Rushingwind is featured on three tracks, is also a contender in the same category.

It’s a long shot that one or both will be nominated, Mr. Rushingwind said, but you’ve got to have hope. The Grammy Foundation will announce its 2018 nominees next Friday, December 7.

“You never know,” Mr. Rushingwind said.

Mr. Rushingwind will appear next Friday and Saturday, December 7 and 8, and the following weekend, December 14 and 15, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at RSABG’s Luminaria Nights event.

On December 7 he appears with Minyo Station, and on December 8, 14 and 15 he returns with Yuki Yasuda. The Garden is located at 1500 N. College Ave., Claremont. More info is at rsabg.org or (909) 625-8767.

To learn more about Mr. Rushingwind’s music, visit  stevenrushingwindmusic.com. “Rushingwind, Keeper of Secrets: Native Flute,” is available at Amazon.

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com