The Daily Gamecock

Zuill Bailey, USC symphony orchestra celebrate first concert of the season

Zuill Bailey, winner of the 2017 Grammy for Best Solo Classical Performance, performed his award-winning piece, “Tales of Hemingway,” at the Koger Center for the Arts on Sept. 28. Written by composer Michael Daugherty in collaboration with Bailey, the four-part piece salutes different works by the late author Ernest Hemingway.

The Thursday night concert kicked off this year’s performance season by “celebrating the future of classical music and how special it is,” Bailey said.

In addition to commemorating the season, it was also a unique chance for audience members to see and celebrate the award-winning piece with Bailey. 

“It’s been a very, very special year,” Bailey said. “We’re celebrating the piece that the world celebrated by giving it a Grammy … and to bring that to a place which I really do consider very much like home … is gonna be a great, great celebration.”

Bailey first performed in Columbia in 1991 — 26 years ago. 

Bailey’s performance seemed to fully captivate the audience, leaving nothing but dead silence and the occasional cough to be heard between movements. His artistic expression was not displayed just through the notes he played. His audible breathing that moved with the music perfectly mirrored each piece’s mood swings and made Bailey as much a part of the show as his cello.

“It tells its own story, and that story, each of us, individually, at whatever point in our lives we are in, can feel it could be our own story on some level," Bailey said. “I am kind of this interpreter and/or projector of what’s coming off the page."

Following Bailey’s solo and a 20-minute intermission, the USC symphony orchestra, led by interim conductor Scott Weiss, performed Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D minor. According to David Kirkland Garner, assistant professor of composition and theory at the USC School of Music, “these two pieces, though written almost eighty years apart … create engaging narratives through memorable melodies and characters that evolve and transform.”

Watching and listening as a sea of bows moved in synchrony, Weiss was the commander of a musical army, able to control its every move with the jerks and sways of his arms.

“The orchestra here, I have to say, is magnificent," Bailey said. "They sound absolutely wonderful, and Scott, the conductor, has done a masterful job to prepare these young artists with a new language, a new voice of new music.”

According to Weiss, “There is a disconnect with younger people. They think about classical music and perhaps have a certain conception of what that is.” 

Bailey seeks to do his part to change that. 

“We just have to stop thinking that classical music was something that was 300 years ago, and that right now is why this piece, this celebration on Thursday night, is so important,” he said.

Daugherty’s “Tales of Hemingway” is a younger classical piece with a more contemporary sound than the stereotypical classical music, which Weiss said can intimidate those who know traditional classical. 

“Classical music lovers tend to be a little bit afraid of new music and this is nothing to be afraid of,” Weiss said. 

Very much an advocate for the popularity of classical music in today’s society, Bailey says that classical music is incorporated in our daily exposures to media and entertainment content. The concert was a way for him to rejuvenate the excitement and entertainment that classical music can bring to students and music-listeners of any age.

As for his advice to USC artists and artists everywhere, “The advice is to, you know, look up, wake up, look around you, look at it as a life in music, not just one faceted career. There’s so many ways that music and musicians can have a very fulfilled, successful life in music or with music as a part of it.”

Tickets to this performance and all others this season, with the exception of Bernstein MASS, are free to USC students with the presentation of their CarolinaCard at the Koger Box before 5 p.m. on the day of the concert. The next concert is Oct. 30, with presentation of pieces by Mozart and Beethoven.