Orchestral / Classical Performances

Bridging Traditions

R. Carlos Nakai, the premier Native American flutist, brings a unique artistry to performances in the symphonic and chamber music traditions. His melding of the Native American flute (with a limited number of notes and non-well-tempered scale) with European classical music, requires an artistry that understands two disparate musical traditions while mastering the technical demands of both.

Nakai serves as an effective ambassador in reaching new concert audiences, consistently drawing capacity (or near capacity) houses. Because of a successful career in other genres of music, Nakai a ten time Grammy® nominee, has many fans following him into the concert hall including Native Americans who are often first time concert-goers.

Nakai is also an excellent guest artist for university-level ensembles providing an ethnic experience of educational, cultural, and artistic value to students. He is adept at master classes, residencies, and lectures that focus on culture as well as traditional flute performance, theory, and composition. He is an articulate and often iconoclastic speaker who will challenge his listeners to think in new ways.

Nakai’s artistic aspirations have always included classical music performance. This desire, somewhat unusual within the Native American community, was born of Nakai’s education in music theory and trumpet performance. His trumpet playing ended when his embouchure was permanently damaged in a car accident. In the early 1980s he began playing the traditional flute, and a new career was born.

Unique performer, cultural ambassador, educator, and lecturer with an iconoclastic view: R. Carlos Nakai successfully bridges the distance between the musical traditions of Native America and classical music.

Selected Performances

R. Carlos Nakai has appeared with the following orchestras:


  • Gold Coast (CA) Chamber Players, Cultural Crossroads, chamber works


  • Oracle (AZ) Piano Society, chamber works


  • Idaho  Falls (ID) Symphony, (Thomas Heuser, conductor)


  • Abiquiu (NM) Chamber Music Festival, Chaco:  Journey of the Spirit (Gary Gackstatter, conductor)
  • University of Missouri St. Louis, Chaco:  Journey of the Spirit (Gary Gackstatter, conductor)
  • Ft. Collins (CO) Symphony, (Wes Kenny, music director)


  • Northern Kentucky University Philharmonic, Cincinnati, OH, (Amy Gillingham, conductor)
  • Verde Valley (AZ) Sinfonietta , (Kevin Kozacek, conductor)
  • Tallahassee  (FL) Symphony Orchestra,  (Darko Butorac, conductor)
  • Hudson Valley (NY) Philharmonic, (Randy Fleischer, conductor)
  • Glacier (MT) Symphony, ( John Zoltek, conductor)
  • Musica Nova (AZ) Chamber Orchestra, DeMars chamber works


  • Gulf Coast Symphony, (MS)
  • St. Louis Community College, (MO)  Chaco Project, (Gary Gackstatter, conductor and composer)


  • Missoula (MT) Symphony, (Darko Butorac, conductor)
  • Phoenix (AZ) Chorale, (Charles Bruffy, director)


  • Glacier (MT) Symphony, (John Zoltek, conductor)
  • Thunder Bay (ON) Symphony, (Arthur Post, conductor)


  • Tucson Symphony Orchestra (George Hanson, conductor)
  • James DeMars’ Desert Solitude, world premiere
  • Abiuqiu (NM) Chamber Music Festival, (Ruth Lomon, composer)
  • Madison (GA) Chamber Music Festival
  • Chamber Music Sedona (AZ), DeMars’ Tarot


  • Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Punta Gorda, Florida
  • University of Utah Philharmonic (Robert Baldwin, conductor)
  • Amelia Island (FL) Chamber Music Festival


  • Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, World Premiere, A Bec Quintet  (Jerod Tate, composer)
  • Phoenix Boys Choir,  (James DeMars, composer)
  • Guadalupe Festival Orchestra & Chorus (James DeMars, conductor)
  • Redlands Symphony (Co Nguyen, conductor)
  • Bloomsburg University Orchestra (Mark Jelinek, conductor)


  • Philadelphia Orchestra (conductor)
  • Buffalo Symphony Orchestra (Robert Franz, conductor)
  • Guadalupe Festival Orchestra & Chorus (James DeMars, conductor)
  • Philadelphia Sinfonia (Gary White, conductor)


  • Chicago Sinfonietta (Paul Freeman, conductor)
  • Winona Cmmunity Orchestra (Paul Hoch, conductor)


  • Omaha Symphony (Victor Yampolsky, conductor)
  • Cabrillo (California) Music Festival (Marin Alsop, conductor)
  • Bozeman (Montana) Symphony (Arthur Post, conductor)


  • Reno Chamber Orchestra (Barry Jekowsky, conductor)
  • Northwest Chamber Orchestra (conductor)
  • Oshkosh (Wisconsin) Symphony (William LaRue, conductor)
  • San Juan (Colorado & New Mexico) Symphony (Arthur Post, conductor)
  • Flagstaff Symphony (Randall Fleischer, conductor)


  • Chicago Sinfonietta (Paul Freeman, conductor)


  • Wuppertal (Germany) Orchestra (George Hanson, conductor)


  • Arizona State University Orchestra (Timothy Russell, conductor)


  • Pro Musica (Ohio) Chamber Orchestra (Timothy Russell, conductor)
  • Hudson Valley Philharmonic Symphony (Randall Fleischer, conductor)


  • Anchorage Symphony (George Hanson, conductor)


  • Tucson Symphony (Robert Bernhardt, conductor)
  • Saskatoon (Canada) Symphony


  • California Symphony (Barry Jekowsky, conductor)


  • Phoenix Symphony (James Sedares, conductor)


  • French Bicentennial Festival (Arizona) Orchestra (James DeMars, conductor)


  • Nouveau West (Arizona) Chamber Orchestra (Terry Williams, conductor)