When they bought the 60-room mansion known as Joye Cottage in 1989, award-winning authors Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith gave little thought to what the final disposition of the property might be. After all, as chronicled in their delightful memoir “On a Street Called Easy, In a Cottage Called Joye,” both men were totally engrossed in the challenge of renovating the grand estate which had been empty for almost a decade.
After some deliberation, however, they finally settled on a plan. “Music and art have given us such great joy – in both senses,” Naifeh and Smith asserted. “By helping Juilliard in its mission to train musicians and artists and spread the joy to future generations, we can give back a thousand-fold.”
Thus, they decided to deed their home to the music school founded in New York City in 1905, and in thoughtful anticipation of that eventual bequest, they envisioned launching an annual Aiken-based festival during which students, faculty and alumni of Julliard perform at various locations in Aiken and hold master classes in the local schools.
That first festival was in 2009, and each year since then, the programming has become more and more elaborate. This year, in celebration of its fifth anniversary, Juilliard in Aiken is hosting 14 events in seven days. Nearly all are open to the public, and half of them are free.
Here are some of the most notable events offered without admission charge. At 2 p.m. on Sunday at St. Mary Help of Christians Catholic Church is a free concert by two musical ensembles: the Pisticci Trio and the Yang Dugan Duo. The trio is composed of Fabioldi Kim on the violin, Jocelin Pan on the viola and Patrick McGuire on the cello. The duo features violinist Charles Yang, whom the Boston Globe heralded as a classical musician “with the charisma of a rock star,” and pianist Peter Dugan.
Later that same day, at 6 p.m., organist Paul Jacobs will be giving a free recital at St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church. Chair of the organ department at Juilliard, Jacobs performs all over the world; the Chicago Tribune once called him “one of the most supremely gifted organists of his generation.” Jacobs appears again at the same venue at 1 p.m. on Monday.
Another free concert – this one featuring the Triptych Percussion Ensemble – is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Second Baptist Church. As its name implies, this three-person ensemble – Ian Sullivan, Mike Truesdell and Sam Budish – specialize in works from a variety of cultures but all featuring drums, rattles and other percussion instruments.
The free concert involving perhaps the largest number of performers is Thursday at noon at First Presbyterian Church. At that time, assorted vocalists will perform to the accompaniment of Juiliard415, a chamber ensemble composed of two oboists, two flutists, three violinists, one cellist and one keyboard artist.
Rounding out the week’s free performances is an appearance by the Juilliard Jazz Artist Diploma Ensemble as part of an after-hours show at the Willcox at 9 p.m. on Thursday. If you have already attended a jazz night at the Willcox, that venue’s regular Thursday night programming, you should enjoy this opportunity to extend the music-listening experience until later in the evening.
In addition to this assortment of events at no charge to the public, this year’s festival also features a number of ticketed programs: dramatic performances at the URS Center for the Performing Arts on Monday and Tuesday, a concert and tea on the lawn of the Green Boundary Club on Wednesday with a performance of the Jazz Artist Diploma Ensemble under the tent that same night; a recital by piano duo Anderson and Roe at the Etherredge Center on Thursday, and a gala fifth anniversary celebration concert at the Etherredge Center on March 15.
For more information on all of these events, visit www.JuilliardinAiken.com; you can also contact specific venues for reservations. Tickets for a number of the programs are available at the URS Center Box Office at 803-648-1438.
A recipient of the prestigious Carolina Trustee Professorship in 2008, Dr. Tom Mack holds the G.L. Toole Chair at USC Aiken. His new book “Hidden History of Aiken County” (Charleston, SC and London, UK: The History Press) is available at local retail outlets and online.
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