Pianist delights Aiken audience

Staff photo by Christina Cleveland Around 50 people welcome renowned pianist Gil Sullivan at the Aiken Center for the Arts Saturday. The solo performance marked his third appearance in Aiken.

During his third appearance in Aiken, Australian pianist Gil Sullivan took an audience on a musical journey across Europe – performing pieces from Germany and Russia during a solo at the Aiken Center for the Arts Saturday night.

“There will be seat belts provided,” the pianist said to laughs before starting his performance.

Sullivan performed pieces from composers that included Bach, Mozart, Haydn and Rachmaninov and told a bit of their history ahead of each piece. The program was split into two parts with a brief intermission.

A native of southern Australia, Sullivan has been in Aiken twice before in 2008 and 2011. He has also performed around the U.S., Europe and Asia at venues such as Carnegie Hall, The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and the Melbourne Recital Centre in Australia.

Having him back in Aiken, however, has been a treat.

“It’s been fabulous,” said Mary Coleman, Aiken Center for the Arts’ executive director. “He is such a neat person; he’s very people oriented. He’s so talented, but he’s just a kind, gentle soul.”

Around 50 guests attended Saturday’s event and were delighted to hear the musician.

Joshua Harrison, University of South Carolina Aiken senior and music student, decided to see Sullivan for the first time after a recommendation from one of his instructors.

For someone who currently is studying piano, the opportunity to see Sullivan was special, he said.

“This is kind of like an aspiration of mine,” Harrison said. “I’ve seen plenty of pianists during my time at USCA, but seeing a world renowned pianist – someone who has actually been around the globe performing – this is a first.”

Tobitha Vousman came to the performance with her 17-year-old son, Caleb, who has also been studying the instrument for around a year. He and his mother both were both able to experience firsts on Saturday.

“It’s my first piano concert,” Tobitha Vousman said. “We’ve never been to a concert like this before. We’re excited.”

For some, like Terry Michalske, who enjoyed the performance with fellow members of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the program was also another reason to support the arts center.

“We’re supporters of the Aiken Center for the Arts and we actually learned tonight what a fabulous, historical center this is for classical pianists,” he said. “ ... Many people like Gil Sullivan come here for that very reason. There’s an attachment to Aiken and its history, and what a fabulous way to do that here.”

Sullivan is currently on a U.S. tour and will head to Washington, D.C., after leaving Aiken, according to Coleman, but before he takes off, he is set to visit two assisted living facilities and several schools this week.

Christina Cleveland is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaNCleve.

Stephanie Turner contributed to this story.

Christina Cleveland is a reporter with the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since October 2015. A native of Seneca, South Carolina, she holds a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.