Listen: Connor Chee's 'Unbroken' pays tribute to Navajo Code Talkers of WWII

Navajo composer Connor Chee is known for combining his classical piano training with his Native American heritage.Courtesy of the artist

Connor Chee - Unbroken (in 4 movements)


November 17, 2022

YourClassical recognizes the need to expand the classical music canon by adding the work of living composers to our airwaves and music streams. As part of a project to record more music by composers of color and women, we recently commissioned Navajo pianist Connor Chee to write Unbroken: Music for the Navajo Code Talkers.

Chee started piano lessons at 6 and at 12 won a gold medal in the World Piano Competition’s Young Artist Division, earning him his first performance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. He won first prize in the 2016 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, and three of his albums of original pieces and piano transcriptions of Navajo music have earned awards.

The Navajo Piano won best instrumental recording at the 16th Annual Native American Music Awards, and his piece “Beginnings” won best new age song. He also was nominated for best new artist and record of the year.

Connor has made a career of his passion by telling the stories of his Native American heritage through classical piano. His music speaks to every aspect of Navajo life, from simple songs that are sung every day, to sacred pieces that are sung privately and music for celebration and powwows.

Connor said he had thought about writing a piece about the Navajo code talkers for some time, and that this commission offered the perfect opportunity. Unbroken pays tribute to Navajo soldiers who created a secret code within the Navajo language that played a big role in America’s victory in World War II. Unbroken also is a way for Connor to honor the service and sacrifice of all veterans.


Listen to Unbroken: Music for the Navajo Code Talkers using the player at the top of this story.

Movement I - 0:00
Movement II - 2:36
Movement III - 5:58
Movement IV - 9:01

Video Credits

Editing: Scott Blankenship
Stock footage: Vecteezy