Monday, June 7, 2010
Click here to be taken to El Paso Inc's website where you can see the original article:
At age 4, Zuill Bailey began playing the cello. He chose to make it a career when he was 12.
Since then, Bailey, who is now 38, has built an impressive résumé. But whether he is in Australia, France, Spain, Israel or Hong Kong, or rubbing shoulders with conductors like Itzhak Perlman, Alan Gilbert and James DePriest, El Paso Pro-Musica’s artistic director takes his love for El Paso with him the more than 200 days he is on the road every year.
“I brag about El Paso wherever I go. People are very curious about El Paso. People assume I live in Manhattan, Paris or some other place where I guess people ‘should’ live, but I think people should live in El Paso,” Bailey said.
He has appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in New York City’s Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall and the 92nd Street Y.
When his CD “Bach Cello Suites” was released in February, it immediately soared to the top of the Classical Billboard Charts.
A Julliard graduate, Bailey is also a professor of cello at the University of Texas at El Paso. And in addition to heading up Pro-Musica’s Chamber Festival here, he directs the Sitka Summer Music Festival and Series in Alaska.
Some of his appearances are less conventional. He has performed for TV show soundtracks and portrayed a murderous cello-playing inmate on the HBO prison series “Oz.” This weekend, he is a guest on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and he has his own YouTube channel.
Bailey, who has two young sons, spoke with El Paso Inc. on the condition that no questions about his personal life would be asked.
He sat down with El Paso Inc. in the backyard of his cottage-like home in Kern Place and talked about Pro-Musica’s next season, El Paso’s renaissance, and how you perform centuries-old music that isn’t written down.
Q: Has your CD “Bach Cello Suites” been successful?
It’s being celebrated and I love it. I love it because it took me 10 years to get it ready. The fact that people are enjoying the blood, sweat and tears I put into this process is the greatest joy one could have.
Q: How did it take 10 years?
There is no manuscript. The only thing that exists of the music is the view of the people who heard it played during Bach’s lifetime. So I had to take all the historic documents and come up with a decision that represents Bach and me.
I always say you have to know where you’ve been to know where you are going, so I researched every possible means of interpreting Bach, then started applying it slowly and developed my own interpretation of the suites. Then I had to document my reasoning and prepare to stand behind my decisions. I am asked every day why I did something the way I did in that recording.
Q: What piece of music do you enjoy playing most?
I used to say that it was whatever I was playing at the time because variety is so important in music, and there is so much great variety in music, but I think it has to be the “Bach Cello Suites.”
Bach took what was not really viewed as a solo instrument in 1717 and wrote pieces for the cello that sort of encompassed everything that music needed. I can actually sit in my house and play by myself music that is complete, that is the most fulfilling, the most individual, the most satisfying.
There is really no other composer who has ever taken the cello and made something like that without the use of many, many instruments.
Q: What can we expect from the next Pro-Musica season?
Next season we plan to bring the world to El Paso. Over the past year, I have traveled to a great extent to different countries and continents, and I have started to realize even more that we have never really focused on the diversity that Pro-Musica has brought to El Paso.
This season we have musicians from Australia featuring the didgeridoo, we have a quartet from Holland, we have musicians from Russia and England, from Korea, from Armenia.
Q: Chamber music is generally thought of as more intimate and designed for a smaller setting, and some see Pro-Musica and the festival as narrowly focused. Are you trying to change that perception?
The festival will always be primarily classical chamber music. But people don’t always realize how prevalent the use of classical music and instruments is in soundtracks, in popular music, in rock-and-roll.
Because of that, I decided a few years ago that we could showcase these instruments and classical chamber music but not always in the same cookie cutter way.
I am not held by the boundaries and barriers of trying to keep things in a chamber atmosphere, but I do want to keep it very personal. This kind of music, you need to be up close to experience.
Q: How much do you practice?
So far it has been 34 years of practice. A couple years ago I stopped thinking about it as practicing because it is what I do all the time. Practice now doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at my cello.
Living life, experiencing life and reading all make my music making, better and broader. I can play the cello. It hasn’t been just about the cello for a while. It’s about bringing something deep and meaningful to the music.
Q: What impact do you strive to make through your music?
Since I lead such a nomadic life, I think about that a lot while I am traveling. I always seek that one moment in a concert where I feel like everyone is breathing together and everyone has forgotten where they are – including myself.
That is the power of music. My hope is that the music I play brings the kind of happiness and magic to people’s lives that it brings to mine.
Q: What is your schedule like?
In the past several months, I have been to Texas, California, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Alaska, Wyoming and Utah. I played in Mexico, Israel and Spain.
Q: What performance was the most notable?
Doing televised performances with Itzhak Perlman and the Israel Philharmonic in March.
Q: What else have you done to bring classical music to TV?
The whole idea of television for me is glorified outreach. I would say that every scenario I have been in on television has been different, but each has brought the idea of what I do, the cello, and my love of it to people without playing it down. Whether it’s on HBO’s “Oz,” where I was able to perform all the works I would do at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall or the Kennedy Center, or playing the soundtrack to the TV show “Homicide,” I was able to reach people who don’t necessarily frequent concert halls but might now.
Q: Do you like to play any other instruments?
No, just the cello. The love affair began very quickly and was very singular, very focused.
Q: What do you think about while you play?
All the thought is done in the practice room. You do all of your work before, so you can then be inspired and be free in concert.
Q: Growing up in Northern Virginia, did you ever dream of playing at the Kennedy Center?
It was the place where I went each week as a child and witnessed all of my heroes perform. I have subsequently been there many times, and each time it brings back a flood of memories. Sometimes dreams do come true.
Q: How did you decide to become a musician?
I decided to be a musician at 12-years-old. Someone told me at the time that if you can find something that you absolutely love to do and find a way to survive doing it, then you will never work a day in your life.
I thought about that at 12, and there was only one thing that I did that was not work – play the cello. I grew up in a very culturally rich area, the Northern Virginia-D.C. area, my parents are both musicians, my sister is a violinist. Music was something that was all around us and we did as a family.
I did take it for granted, because I assumed that every community had this kind of cultural treasure surrounding them.
Q: Does El Paso have that sort of cultural treasure?
That is exactly why I am here. About a decade after leaving home and traveling, I began feeling a void of not being able to make the kind of difference that others made in me as a young person. Fate played its card, and I was asked to help develop and be a part of the arts and culture here.
I felt that it was my turn to give back, and I take great responsibility in that. I would have never guessed that I would be so lucky to meet such an incredible city as El Paso. I would have never dreamed it would have brought me such happiness or I would be here 10 years later.
Q: Are the arts beginning to blossom here?
El Paso is in a renaissance. More than we ever have, organizations are working together. We’ve got the opera, the symphony, the youth symphony, El Paso Pro-Musica, the museums. Everybody is holding hands, and we’re all looking at making our city an even better place.
People have to understand how rare that is. The world is being brought to El Paso. The world is noticing and feeling the impact of El Paso, and I hope I am a small part of that.
Q: Pro-Musica recently held its annual soiree fund-raiser. How did that go?
It was a great success. Pro-Musica is really an organization that brings people together socially, musically and culturally. There is such support of what we do.
Even in the midst of all the things that are happening in the world, it is a very positive time for us here in El Paso. We need to be celebrating. That’s what I want to do, and that is what I am doing.
Posted by Sitka at 11:59 AM