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Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Committee Chair

Ellen Elder

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Michael Bunchman

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Edward Hafer

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Elizabeth Moak

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Douglas Rust

Committee Member 5 School



Sandpainting is an art form that exists among the Navajo and Pueblo

Indians and is valued for religious reasons due to its connection with healing ailing individuals. Originally, the sacred sandpaintings were not allowed to be used or created outside of a healing ceremony, because, similar to a musical performance, they only existed during the ritual itself.

Connor Chee (b. 1987) is a Navajo pianist and composer renowned for

fusing classical piano training with his Native American heritage. Chee composed Sandpaintings for Piano in 2021 (revised in 2022), which is based on sandpainting from Navajo culture.

This document discusses Navajo folk elements in Sandpaintings for

Piano. This document includes a brief biography of Connor Chee and an overview of his compositional style. The sandpainting ritual will be discussed as well as the use of Navajo folk elements in the piece, and how the composition is influenced by Navajo chant, culture, and life practices. Additionally, the author’s interviews with Connor Chee provide more insight regarding this work. Through this document, I hope to champion a wonderful work by a Native American composer that deserves recognition and performance.

Available for download on Friday, May 30, 2025