On its surface the only real change the Joye in Aiken festival, which takes place March 5-11 and was formerly known as Juilliard in Aiken, seems to have undergone is its name. The programming, which features the finest in young performers, all with ties to the legendary Juilliard School in New York, seems similar and boasts some familiar favorites among the new faces.
So do the venues, with the Etherredge Center at University of South Carolina Aiken, the Aiken Community Playhouse and Aiken-area churches hosting performances. Even the mission, which combines performances with educational outreach opportunities, seems unaltered.
But a closer examination reveals something new, in terms of attitude, programming and reach. That’s where Joye differs from Juilliard. The Juilliard festival was something very specific and focused. Its mission was finite. It was very much about building and fostering a relationship between the school and the community.
Joye is about expounding on and expanding those possibilities.
You see, as fascinating and fertile as Juilliard is – and believe me, its reputation is not for naught – the organizers of this event have clearly come to realize that the artistic world available to them is far larger than just the students, faculty and alumni of that illustrious institution. And while that relation has drawn, and will continue to draw, dividends for both the festival and the community it calls home, limiting focus almost always means limiting appeal.
By rebranding Juilliard in Aiken as Joye in Aiken – the new name refers to Joye Cottage, the festival’s spiritual home and the actual home of the event’s founders, Steven Naifeh and the late Gregory White Smith – the opportunities are endless.
Certainly Juilliard, an institution important to Naifeh and Smith, will continue to play an important role in the booking and curation of the event. Certainly the community of Aiken, where the performances have traditionally been held, will prove the primary beneficiary of this extraordinary act of goodwill. But as Joye, it can become something even more significant, more diverse and more capable of drawing audiences and introducing them to world class performances.
Already we are seeing the first signs. Venues, for instance, have spread to Augusta with an organ concert taking place at Sacred Heart Cultural Center. My suspicion is that, in years to come, we will see still more satellite performances. And while this year’s crop of performers remains relatively Juilliard-centric, festival organizers have already stated that it’s important to look for performers that adhere to the demanding criteria set by the school, but who may have studied elsewhere.
One of my fondest memories of covering the day-to-day of arts in the area was the evening I was allowed to spend at an intimate concert at Joye Cottage. It was the evening before the official opening of the inaugural event and a small group of organizers, donors and volunteers had gathered for a sneak peek at what the festival had to offer. And while the music was wonderful and the audience properly captivated, I’m not sure anyone present had any idea of what this event could, and would, become. That was seven years ago; seven years of evolution and outstanding performance.
This year, the festival takes its next important step and once again the future is unwritten. Unwritten, but not uncertain. I feel sure that as Joye in Aiken, the festival will continue to entertain, educate and enlighten not only the community of Aiken, but the entire region.
And that is a reason to be joyful.
2016 JOYE IN AIKEN
The Joye in Aiken festival is March 5-11. Find more details and purchase tickets online at joyeinaiken.com.
PAUL JACOBS, ORGAN RECITAL:
• 8 p.m. Saturday, March 5, St. Thaddeus Episcopal Church, 125 Pendleton St. SW, Aiken; free, open to the public, but limited seating; for reservations, call (803) 648-5497
• 4 p.m. Sunday, March 6, Sacred Heart Cultural Center, 1301 Greene St.; $30, students $10, tickets online or contact Sacred Heart at (706) 826-4700
IMANI WINDS: 3 p.m. Sunday, March 6, St. Mary’s Help of Christians Catholic Church, 138 Fairfield St. SE; $30, students $10, tickets online or call (803) 648-1438
IN THE LAND OF OO-BLA-DEE: THE WORLD OF DIZZY GILLESPIE WITH RILEY MULHERKAR:
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, Second Baptist Church, 425 Hampton Ave. NW, Aiken; free; for reservations, call (803) 644-3994
WILL LIVERMAN, BARITONIST; DANIEL FUNG, COLLABORATIVE PIANIST: 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, Aiken Community Playhouse, 126 Newberry St. SW, Aiken; $25, students $10, tickets online or call (803) 648-1438
SEAN CHEN, PIANIST: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, Aiken Community Playhouse, 126 Newberry St. SW; $25, students $10, online or call (803) 648-1438
MIDDAY MUSIC CONCERT SERIES AND TEA: Noon Thursday, March 10, doors open 11:30 a.m.; featuring Pre-College Chamber Duo: Qing Yu Chen, violinist; Nadia Azzi, pianist, First Presbyterian Church, 224 Barnwell Ave., Aiken; free, seating on first-come-first-served basis
TRUSTEES FEATURED PERFORMER SERIES: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 10, St. John’s United Methodist Church, 104 Newberry St. NW, Aiken; featuring Decoda: Owen Dalby, violin; Meena Bhasin, viola; Claire Bryant, cello; Alicia Lee, clarinet; $25, students $10, tickets online or call (803) 648-1438
RILEY MULHERKAR, JAZZ AFTER HOURS AT THE WILLCOX: 9 p.m. Thursday, March 10, 100 Colleton Ave., Aiken; free
FINALE CONCERT: 8 p.m. Friday, March 11, USC Aiken Etherredge Center, 471 University Parkway; featuring Anderson & Roe Piano Duo, Pre-College Chamber Duo, Sean Chen, Decoda, Special Guest Artists: Accent and Riley Mulherkar with jazz vocalist India Carney; $40, $65, students $10, tickets online or call (803) 641-3305