Students at three EPISD middle schools embraced the A in STEAM when they welcomed world-renowned cellist and El Paso music mainstay Zuill Bailey to their campuses to talk about the importance of the arts in public education.
Bailey stopped by the school to inspire students from the Young Women’s STEAM Research and Preparatory Academy and Armendariz Middle School.
“As a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) academy, we want to expose our students to the arts. This is the perfect time to give the students some time to relax and listen to amazing music and just be inspired,” said Principal Dr. Cynthia Ontiveros. “It was a perfect opportunity for both schools to join in and celebrate this together. I look forward to many more opportunities like this.”
The gym usually filled with raucous cheering became a place of serenity, as the Grammy award-winning musician stirred the students’ ears with the prelude from Bach’s Suite for Cello No. 1.
“This is something we have been anticipating since January,” Ontiveros said. “Our counselor made connection with Felipa Solis, who is the executive director of El Paso Pro-Musica, to bring Zuill Bailey to our school, so it was just a matter of waiting for him to have some time in his schedule.”
Bailey, who also made a stop at MacArthur Elementary Intermediate, loves playing for the youth.
“With El Paso Pro Musica our mission is to break down borders and bring beautiful music to everyone and use it as a tool for expression and communication,” Bailey said. “I never know exactly what’s going to happen when I play for young people, but I am always amazed by how inspiring the change is.”
He asked students to close their eyes and listen to the music and how it made them feel.
Sixth-grader Alexa Alcantar let the music wash over her.
“When I closed my eyes, I felt really peaceful and relaxed,” she said. “I am a cellist so when I heard he was coming, I was really happy. I hope I can sound like him and play like him and make people feel what he makes people feel.”
Bailey also talked about the mechanics of the cello, showing students the horsehair on his bow and the sleek design of his carbon fiber cello – which is light, compared to the 325-year old Gofriller cello he plays at performances.
“I recognized the techniques he was using,” Alcantar said. “I think it was really helpful what he said about getting a walnut and rolling it on the cello so you can learn to play vibrato.”
Armendariz seventh-grader Jesus Diaz doesn’t play an instrument, but he closed his eyes nonetheless to focus on the mood each song invoked.
“It was pretty impressive. He’s really good,” he said. “The music made me feel both sad and happy.”
Ontiveros hopes the music inspires students from both schools to work hard to accomplish their goals and pursue their passions.
“I want them to learn it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “That’s something he really put an emphasis on when he shared his journey. Practice makes permanent.”
The visits took place Friday, May 11th.