Darren Thompson is an award-winning Native American flute player and educator from the Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe Reservation in Northern Wisconsin. His talent and hard work have brought him to perform at such venues as the Grand Opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the National Indian Education Association, the National Congress of American Indians and the North American Indigenous Games, America’s largest American Indian cultural festival.
Thompson has released two albums, “The Song of Flower: Native American Songs from Ojibwe Country” and “Between Earth and Sky: Native American Flute Music Recorded in the Black Hills.” His music will appear in the upcoming feature Neither Wolf Nor Dog, set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
In 2016, Darren will be featured as one of the Crazy Horse Memorial’s main performers and as the opening act of Brulé’s summer concert series in the Black Hills of South Dakota, giving him the opportunity to share his music and culture with hundreds of thousands of people.
Thompson is also an organizer for the annual Black Hills Unity Concert each September. In an interview with ICTMN, Thompson discussed his career, meeting Ozzy Osbourne, the Black Hills musical events and why making yourself available is so important in the music industry.
You are making quite an impact in a the competitive music industry, how’d you do it?
I just believe in my music, its intention and enjoy taking it to any organization, business or community that demonstrates support to American Indian people and their culture. Everything else falls into place.
How are things going with the Black Hills Unity Concert?
The Black Hills Unity Concert is a growing event and I’m honored to be a part of it. It is a weekend-long event that not only highlights the talent from Indian Country, but the illegal taking of the Black Hills from the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, and other Indigenous peoples that hold them sacred. So, that in itself is a conversation, but with numbers in the thousands and extensive media coverage, it is a conversation that is long overdue and growing in interest. We are currently organizing efforts to raise funds to host the event and booking acts to fill 3 days of stage time. People can find more about the concert and its intention here.
How did you get to be on a show with Ozzy Osbourne?
In October of 2015, I was the artist in residence at the Crazy Horse Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota and surprisingly during my residency he was scheduled to appear at the Memorial to do some filming with the History Channel and his son Jack.
They filmed his walk through the Indian Museum of North America and that included a conversation and impromptu demonstration of my music and instruments.
Their reactions were pleasant and wanted to know more, of course, about my instruments and what I do. They picked up one of my albums, “The Song of Flower,” and listened to it while filming on their drive up the mountain. I am beyond thrilled that my music has that kind of impact on such a well-renowned family in the arts and entertainment industry.
What’s the toughest thing about the music industry and how can our fellow Native musicians succeed?
The toughest thing about the music industry is to be available. If people want to discuss an opportunity or to collaborate, respond immediately. Another important aspect to getting ahead is keeping things simple. I’ve secured over 160 performances in the summer months without the help of a booking agent or a publicist. No one can sell your music like you can. Believe in your product and others will as well.
What’s to come for you?
Right now, I want to give my all to what is looking like the most exciting summer of my musical career. What will come from that, I have no idea. I am approaching the idea of submitting to the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and lining all my ducks in a row. I figured, why not? Why can’t Native American must be featured on that?
As a Native American flute player, it is my goal to share the history of the instruments not only through stories, but through song and that includes actual instruments that date back to the 1800s and beyond. So, not only do people hear about how long the instrument has been around, they see it and hear it. It puts things into perspective as to how beautiful the instrument is and that I am only a small part of who we are as a people.