America’s top-selling cellist explains how

America’s top-selling cellist explains how


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2015

No cellist sells more classical albums in America than Zuill Bailey.

Week after week on the Nielsen charts, he outsells cellists of far greater pedigree and Carnegie residency.

So how does he do it?

‘For those who don’t know about classical music, it’s my job to take it to them,’ Zuill tells Zsolt Bognar on Living the Classical Life.

Watch here.

Volcano Concert


  • Doug says:

    People in general don’t respond to artistry because they can not recognise it or even know what it is. They do respond to clever marketing and as they say in America, “sex sells.” So the real answer is “yes” classical music as an art form is dead so far as the marketplace is concerned; classical music as a marketing choice, on the other hand, continues to exist through “producers” like Bailey. Once his looks fade, expect the next pretty face to move in.

  • AZ Cowboy says:

    Ouch! Maybe his looks have faded. He isn’t the young, lean pretty boy he was when I first played with him 20 years ago. Over the years he played with us half a dozen times or so. Technically maybe he isn’t a Yo Yo Ma, Rostropovich, or Piatagorsky. But he plays with superb musicianship, is really easy to work with, treats other musicians as buddies unlike some snobbish soloists I’ve had to deal with. Despite his long locks he never used it like Dudamel to impress the women. He is also a real teacher – and again not at a Curtis or Julliard (El Paso, I think?). Sex may sell, but his CDs don’t exploit that in the way that some female cellists do. He is an example of what’s right in classical music and it’s too bad there are more like him.

  • will says:

    Surely you meant to say “it’s too bad there AREN’T more like him”…?

  • Herasmus Bedragon says:

    Because America is a country where gimmicks entertain the ignorant!

  • Fellow cellist says:

    How on earth does he fund his career? How about earning a prestigious principal job in a top notch orchestra? After ten years on the job, then I will take him seriously. Until then he is just one of many fine cellists performing around the globe.

    • Matthias says:

      Ah yes, the unimaginative thinking I see persistently oozing out of today’s conservatories. I know it well

    • Tom Hartley says:

      In the meantime, he’ll have to settle for being taken seriously by all the people who buy his CDs and go to his concerts.

    • May says:

      Didn’t you watch the video? You might gleam something from it, which might even be helpful for your career!

      • V.Lind says:

        I agree. I was at a Master Class given by Richard Margison, and when he addressed the entire student body gathered, after his sessions with three fine young singers, he said to them that they must expect to make their own opportunities as they started out — take every gig, big or small, try to get into church concert and recital series, rent a place and put on their own concerts, etc. There are still more graduates than places in orchestras or choruses, and soloists have a hard row to hoe. This young man seems to get all that.

        And he teaches at Peabody — he is not exactly unknown in the better corridors.

        • Cocello says:

          I think you’re confusing him with Amit Peled

        • The Civility Squadron says:

          I was under the impression that ZB studied at Peabody rather than teaches there. We live in the Mid-Atlantic region and so receive the Peabody magazine and concert schedule. All of the references to the cellist I’ve seen in there show a graduation year following ZB’s name (although I can’t recall which year it is …).

  • David Simpson says:

    Wonderful, wonderful interview. Thanks you so much. It gives me hope.

  • Doug says:

    I should have clarified even further. There are many “musicians” that also don’t understand artistry or woud even be able to recognise it.

  • Chicago Musician says:

    What an articulate young man! I agree with AZ Cowboy that Mr. Bailey “is an example of what’s right in classical music”. He is doing what he loves with all of his passion and energy, and people are responding to that and buying his recordings over those of “cellists of far greater pedigree”. We need more musicians like Mr. Bailey.

  • James McCarty says:

    I grew up in El Paso and am delighted to see how well Mr. Bailey has done. He took over a local musical organization that had been founded by a fellow who was the organist at our church, and it has remained a success. We do indeed need more musicians like Mr. Bailey.

  • Steven Honigberg says:

    It’s nice to hear Zuill speak about his teachers. I often think how lucky I was to have had so many wonderful teachers (Fruh, Miller, Rose, Robbins, Fournier, Gendron, Galimir, Gingold, Mann) and direction from those teachers when I was young man. Keep up the good work and I hope you continue to probe and grow as you age.

  • William Safford says:

    I wonder how many of the people who posted disparaging comments have (a) watched the interview; or (b) heard Zuill Bailey, whether live or on recording.

  • 110 says:

    People, please remove the wax and listen to the sound out of this cello!
    Pure gold!!!!