Zuill Bailey: On a mission to spread the love of classical music across Alaska
As the name suggests, the Sitka Summer Music Festival takes place in the summer. Classical musicians come from all over the world to perform during the month of June. But in the fall and winter, some of them return to Alaska to tour the state.
Zuill Bailey, a Grammy-winning cellist, is the artistic director of the festival. This week, he took a London pianist, Piers Lane, on a tour of Western Alaska.
On Tuesday, they performed in Bethel and took the ice road on the frozen Kuskokwim River to Kwethluk.
On Wednesday, they flew to Nunivak Island in the Bering Sea, where they spent two days at the Nuniwarmuit School in Mekoryuk.
“What’s interesting to me is to take musicians, who are not used to this, and take them to these wonderful places but are kind of adventures,” said Zuill Bailey. “But they’re more than that. They’re meaningful exchanges.”
The two spent Wednesday night camped out in classrooms with sleeping bags.
Lane said he never done that before, let alone drive on a river or fly in a small bush plane.
“It’s wonderful, this journey,” Lane said. “Spreading music and meeting people. It’s a great joy.”
Although the two got in late Thursday night from Mekoryuk, they played a free concert at noon at the Anchorage Museum.
“It feels really good,” Bailey said. “I’m exhausted, but I’m exhausted in a very good way.”
John Leaf, who works downtown, was glad to see the musicians.
“I’ve seen them play before here, and it’s just a joy to listen to them again,” Leaf said. “No record, not anything compares to live music.”
The Sitka Summer Music Festival's winter tour wraps up this weekend with concerts at the University of Alaska Anchorage, which are mostly sold-out. They help support the festival itself, as well as its outreach programs.
Editor’s note: KTVA’s Frontiers program will feature Zuill Bailey’s visit to Mekoryuk on Sunday, Feb. 18 at 4:30 and 10:30 p.m. On KTVA-Channel 11.
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