Perhaps the only common denominator among Spokane, El Paso and Anchorage is Zuill Bailey. The artistic director of Northwest BachFest calls each city home at some point during the year.
“But Spokane is where my heart is,” Bailey said while calling from Phoenix. “I contemplated what home means over the pandemic. I do believe home is where your people are, and, after getting to know the people of Spokane over the years, it’s where I want to be.”
Bailey, 49, will be back in Spokane for BachFest on Saturday and Sunday at the Barrister Winery. The cellist will perform with the Arianna String Quartet.
“I’m very excited about this weekend’s performances,” Bailey said. “We’ll be adding a new flavor, a new repertoire. It’ll be a special evening. The Arianna String Quartet are a lovely group of people who were in residence at the University of Missouri in St. Louis.”
The quartet, which includes violinist John McGrosso, violist Joanna Mendoza and cellist Kurt Baldwin, will be performing the works of Beethoven, Schubert and Klein. The second violinist will be named soon. “I’m looking forward to the performances since we have a lot to celebrate,” Bailey said. “Live performance is coming back. We’ll have some concerts in the book, and we’re going to be presenting them safely.
“This is my 10th anniversary as artistic director of the Northwest BachFest, and I feel so much positivity and hope in the air.”
Bailey has an array of eclectic events on tap. “All Chopin: The Romance and Drama of Chopin” is slated for March 19 at Barrister Winery, and a cello-piano event is scheduled for the following day. The 2017 triple Grammy winner is planning an event in May featuring violinist Chee Yun at Barrister Winery.
“We’ll be doing solos, duos and trios,” Bailey said. “It’ll be an extraordinary event. We’re coming back with a bang.”
Bailey has made an indelible mark in Spokane by connecting with children in local schools introducing young students to the works of Bach.
“It all started with Bach,” Bailey said. “He inspired Beethoven and Handel. Children need to know about his work. When I visit schools in Spokane, I assume they don’t know what Bach means.
“Even though he is the alpha and omega, I don’t speak down to the kids. I tell them about my passion, and I show them how passionate I am. I try to make classic music relatable.”
Children have the opportunity to see and hear Bailey’s historic 1693 Matteo Gofriller cello, which was crafted in 1693.
“Bach was only 8 years old when my cello was made,” Bailey said. “It’s an amazing instrument, which is a treasure for any cello player. I get a kick out of playing my cello in schools. I love telling my stories. I can’t wait to share how I feel about music with them because it’s contagious.”
So is Bailey’s affection for Spokane.
“It’s a city that takes care of itself,” Bailey said. “I love that it’s not reliant on another city. Spokane is an oasis in Washington state.
“I love that people there take such good care of the arts and have a sense of ownership. Spokane is one of those cities in which it’s like having dinner with friends, and you don’t want to leave because you don’t want the conversation to stop. It’s addicting. I can’t wait to get back and play music. When I return to Spokane for BachFest, there will be this rally of humanity driven by music. Can anything be better than that?”