Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

New Concepts, New Connections 

New Concepts, New Connections 

Headshot of Jacomo Bairos

Thanks in part to Jacomo Bairos (GPD ’11, Conducting), Miami is enjoying a major addition to its cultural renaissance. As the co-founder and conductor of Nu Deco Ensemble, a contemporary chamber orchestra, Bairos is helping to make live classical performance more accessible to new audiences at eclectic venues — and enriching the arts scene in South Florida. The ensemble performs mostly sold-out concerts of their reimagined, cross-collaborative music inspired by a breadth of genres, including classical, pop, jazz, world music, hip-hop, and soul.

What’s a typical Nu Deco experience? One concert in a black box-turned-arts space might take its audience on a symphonic journey through the music of Stevie Wonder, Vivaldi, Bernstein, Aretha Franklin, and Daft Punk — performed by an orchestra of at least 30 musicians. Multimedia components might include DJs, hip-hop dancers, and digital visual mapping that’s projected onto screens in coordination with new compositions.

“Nu Deco Ensemble collaborates with sound engineers, digital visual artists, dancers, poets, songwriters — artists you don’t typically see with an orchestra,” says Bairos. One of the ensemble’s collaborators is indie-pop-singer and violinist Kishi Bashi who was commissioned to create and perform Improvisations in EO9066. Through music, field recordings, and visuals that play on five separate screens, the piece explores the 1942 presidential executive order that led to Japanese internment.

“It’s really important to us that we create new concepts,” says Bairos.  “We have a very collaborative process that creates exciting new art, which supports artists in our community.”

Bairos is especially proud of Nu Deco’s commitment to South Florida. The group runs a free concert series at the Seminole Theater in Homestead for area schools. “This is just a couple miles from where I grew up and went to high school,” he says. “No orchestra comes down to this area of Florida, and we are the first major ensemble in 40 years to do so. We perform for these kids, for the immigrant and migrant communities that exist here. We aim to build new audiences for the future.”

“We’re breaking down barriers in classical music,” he says. Having had a career as a tuba player, performing with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, Bairos has worked all over the world, from Shanghai to Spain to Singapore. But he considers Miami his home. “At the end of the day, I’m still a South Florida boy through and through. Being back here in my home creating something from the heart has been a dream.”

Nu Deco Ensemble is in its fourth season and going strong. “We have a very loyal and quickly growing fan base,” says Bairos. The ensemble has strong Peabody connections: orchestra members include Mia Barcia-Colombo (BM ’11, Cello), Gabriel Colby (BM ’10, Trombone), Scott Nadelson (BM ’11, Trumpet), Svet Stoyanov (BM ’03, GPD ’05, Percussion), and Aleksandr “Sasha” Zhuk (GPD ’99, Violin).

“People are really gravitating to our relevant presentations,” says Bairos.

— Christine Grillo