When pianist Garry Bailey received an email from Victoria, British Columbia, he assumed it was spam. All of Garry’s previous performance bookings had come from inside the U.S., so he ignored the message.
It wasn’t until his son Christopher Bailey, a singer for the vocal trio Tenore, insisted he open the email that Garry learned the booking was for a tour throughout Canada and the U.S. as a pianist for the same group. The tour has been his longest to date, beginning in January and ending in May.
“Most people know me as a teacher, not an artist,” says Garry, who transitioned to performing after teaching for 37 years at Hebron Elementary and Highland Elementary schools. “I began to tour as a professional pianist in 2006 — I would book weekend events and cruises — it wasn’t something people understood.”
Since reigniting his performance career about 10 years ago, Garry’s piano opportunities have included performances all over the world to places like Israel, Australia, Norway, Greece, the U.S., Canada, and throughout the Mediterranean. His most recent opportunity took place at a church in Tralee, County Kerry, Ireland.
“Throughout my career, I have played piano for church congregations, special events, cruises, and accompanied vocal artists in at least 150 churches and venues throughout the world,” says Garry.
Garry, who began playing piano at the age of 7, earned a bachelor’s degree in piano with a vocal minor from the University of Evansville and a master’s degree in piano pedagogy from Columbia University, New York, New York. He and his wife Suzanne have two sons, who both sing; Christopher, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and traveled with Garry on the Tenore tour, and Andrew, who lives in Carmel, Indiana.
During the Tenore tour, Garry shared his talents in 18 different states in the U.S. and three different cities in Canada, playing songs ranging from “Somewhere, Over the Rainbow” to “Be Thou My Vision.”
“I met people in so many walks of life from the drilling and fracking in Texas to the freezing rain in Oklahoma and Kansas, in South Dakota where the fog was down on the ground, and in Annapolis, Maryland, with the view on the water,” says Garry.
While his priority and passion now is performing, he still has not lost his spirit for learning and education. The Tenore tour not only allowed Garry to grow and learn as an artist, but also helped him to learn more about the people and places he visited along the way.
“One of the things I also learned is an appreciation for my home and for my city, and how much people are the same,” he says. “As you would travel around and meet and greet them afterwards, people have the same feelings. They express many of the same things to you.”
What inspired you to make music and piano your career?
Music always has been my passion. I found the best way for me to communicate was through my fingers. I knew early on my college experience would be focused on cultivating my gift of sharing music.
What made you want to take that jump from teaching to performing?
I knew the clock was ticking, and I still had a passion to perform and time to share.
Was the Tenore tour what you expected it would be?
Well, you have to use the life skill of flexibility. Because sometimes your luggage doesn’t make it, or you don’t get to the hotel before the performance. With this length of time, I truly understood the life skill of flexibility and how important it is.
Do you have a favorite piece you love playing or performing?
I love the old standards very much. I like to look at my audience, see what they want, and decide right then. That’s what I love doing — to see what I think they need to hear, what would feed their soul. An 80-year-old gentleman in western Oklahoma came up to me and said with tears in his eyes — because I did “Old Cape Cod” — “That was my father’s favorite piece, and you’ll never know what that meant to me.”
It really was interesting when I would play those old standards prior to the second half of the concert, they would run the piano sound through the house to gather the crowd for the second half of the show. They stopped talking, they sat down, and you knew they were with you. That’s what I love.
What is in your future as a performer?
It’s always nice to get another email.
For more information about Garry Bailey, visit facebook.com/garry.bailey.96.