By: Alexa Shabinsky By: Alexa Shabinsky | October 15, 2021 | People
Miami-native Jacomo Bairos has been creating a new narrative in music and a new sound for 21st-century orchestras. Nu Deco Ensemble, which Barios founded with composer, arranger and producer Sam Hyken, combines classic music, R&B and jazz to create a sound that is both unique and mesmerizing.
Sam Hyken and Jacomo Bairos
Bairos has quite a musical background as a graduate from both The Juilliard School and Peabody Institute, as well as being a part of many world-class orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops.
Barios and the Neu Deco Ensemble team have officially announced their 2021-2022 Miami concert season at The Bandshell and Adrienne Arsht Center, featuring many noteworthy guests. The concert series is set to kick off on November 5, with special guest Anthony Hamilton. More special guests throughout this concert series include Masego, Robert Glasper, JP Saxe and Madison Cunningham. Tickets for this series are officially on sale and can be purchased here.
In light of his recent announcement, we sat down with Barios to learn all about his creative process, the future of Nu Deco and much more.
See also: A Look Inside Mantra's First Ever Solo Exhibit
What inspired your Nu Deco Ensemble?
Nu Deco was born out of a love for the traditions of classical and contemporary symphonic music. The orchestra is the ultimate vehicle for artistic expression, our Miami community where I grew up, and the incredible diversity of musicians and artists we wish to support here in Miami. We wanted to create a fresh and bold perspective of what the modern orchestral institution can mean and be for its community. Combining all the stylistic and inspirational elements of music we admire and love, including instruments of both the acoustic and electronic world as well as the technology of the 21 st century. We hoped to create a hybrid-model symphonic-based orchestra that defines a new sound and spirit that can lead us into the future of what classical music can ultimately be.
Nu Deco Ensemble has created a new noise in the music industry, what is your creative process?
Our goal is to be as relevant as we can be, in every way possible. Relevancy in music programs, relevancy with our guest artists, relevant experiences for our audiences and youth members of Nu Deco NXT (our new youth ensemble!) and reflect what is current, while speaking to society today. All while combining our love and respect of the traditional with our unbridled excitement and interest with the modern. This is the foundation where Sam Hyken and I as Artistic Directors start our concert and season programming. We take a long time researching, listening, reaching out to composers, doing our due diligence on guests and venues, and coming up with an overall story arc to every program. We aim to take our listeners on a journey and the narrative of each concert we curate is incredibly important. These all impact our programming which we take many weeks to do. Our goal is to always present the highest quality of music and collaborations while elevating and empowering the music of eclectic living composers, world-class guest artists, our talented musicians of the ensemble and ultimately taking our audiences on a journey they will never forget!
You’ve had many talented collaborations, who is your dream collaborator?
This is so hard to say as we have been so fortunate to collaborate with many of our dream guests such as Wyclef Jean, Robert Glasper, Jacob Collier, and so many incredible and talented people. Moving forward, I personally would like to collaborate with someone like Quincy Jones, Jamie Fox, Lizzo, Ledisi, or even Billie Ellish! However, we do feel so lucky that we are at a point where guest artists we now reach out to, are really interested and excited to have their music fully fleshed out into full technicolor with our hybrid ensemble. Most of our guest artists tell us that the videos they saw, or our albums they have heard, got them interested and intrigued with what we are trying to do, and made them excited about a potential collaboration. In fact, we can not wait to announce the new season as there are some guest artists who have never performed with an orchestra before, and the orchestral world was not something that was ever thought about previously. They expressed to us how excited they are to hear what a collaboration together would sound like!
Having grown up in South Florida, is there anything in particular in the area that has shaped you as an artist? Do you come back often?
I currently live in Miami, and I am a proud product of Homestead Florida and the public music education I was so blessed to receive. My first middle school band Director told me anything was possible. My High School band director, who ended up being my mentor for 30 years, encouraged me to push myself, to try on different musical hats that were not comfortable, and to always be extra prepared for every rehearsal and practice. When I switched to conducting, he then mentored me again in new ways as a professional adult. Growing up in the Redlands, with the beauty of the sunsets and wide-open spaces around me, I always dreamed of far-off places. I loved where I lived and had the best childhood, however, I was always somewhere else in my mind. I think my curiosity and wanting to explore the world lead me to have adventures around the globe that informed and sparked my curiosity even more. Having returned to my roots to begin the Nu Deco Journey, with the wisdom and expertise gained from my world travels and musical experiences, I have learned to appreciate even more my upbringing amongst the sunsets and farmlands of the Redlands. Especially since my neighbors, family friends and workers on my parent’s farm were migrants and immigrants. The compassion and nurturing my mother gave to ALL people, has led me to want to share that compassion and nurturing through music with my community in Miami and down south in Homestead and Florida City.
What do you think was the most pinnacle moment in your career thus far?
I have 2 moments.. One was when Kishi Bashi collaborated with us in December of our second season in 2016. The other was when I had the opportunity to conduct the famed Boston Pops. When Kishi Bashi came to us we did not know what to expect, while we certainly loved his music, song-writing and the unique way he infused jazz-violin, indie-pop flavors and the traditions of classical music together. We had no idea how this collaboration would turn out, however, what ended up happening is that he showed us who we could truly be, as well, he understood who we were as an ensemble, even before we did! His unique combination of music-making and his deep classical/jazz background allowed us to flourish under his guidance. In the rehearsals and concerts, we learned through his artistry and collaboration, that we can perform in, and partake in any music genre or style so long as we held true to our authentic voices and keeping quality at the forefront of everything we do. Boston Pops was a dream of mine since I was 12 years old! When I told my mother that I wanted to be a musician (I played the Tuba professional until I was 30!) she went out and bought me every orchestra recording she thought would be inspiring to me, and of course, she bought several recordings of the Boston Pops. I was hooked from the first listen, and told her that night I was going to be in the Boston Pops one day! While I didn't make it as a tuba player, I ultimately was invited to conduct them at Symphony Hall in Boston on an amazing program of genre-bending music that included music by my best friend and musical partner at Nu Deco Sam Hyken. Having so many of my Portuguese family in the area and childhood friends came to support me, it is one of the most cherished expertise of my life.
You’re a Chopra-certified meditation teacher, what does that practice mean to you?
I began a more spiritual inward journey 7 years after the loss of both my parents. I was lost, scared, angry and of course full of grief and questions about life. I realized I simply didn't have the tools to help cope and reconcile not only their losses, but understand “who I am” after their departure. It was a very difficult period of my life, and someone recommended yoga to me. Through yoga, the asanas and pranayama (breathing) techniques learned, I slowly began a journey that was more inward related, ultimately beginning what I now realize was a mental health, well being, mindful and emotional healing journey which has over time, changed my life for the immeasurable better. The changes that occurred and the growth which happened subsequently was profound and I realized it became a new calling and passion for me to share with others. Today, young people are dealing with so much around them, from the external world which can influence them dramatically and in very powerful and negative ways. My goal is to help others see that they can create more silence and inward reflection and awareness for themselves so that they can hold a remote control to their well-being. This practice is a central core to my values and daily life, and bringing what I learned to the young members of Nu Deco NXT has been so incredibly rewarding for us. To present these new skills to them, and give them tools to help control their own personal well being while they also search for themselves and who they are and wish to be as artists and humans, has been a transformational experience not only for them but most certainly also for us. The comments we received by implementing these mindfulness and wellness practices from the students has shown us how powerfully it affects their lives, and we have made this a core component of our education initiatives.
What is next for you?
Well, this summer was busy in that we have released 3 albums over the last couple of months and have 2 more on the way before Christmas. We released live recordings of concerts with jazz pianist/Aaron Parks, Blues/Rock duo Larkin Poe, which features the previously unreleased Mad as a Hatter, and a collaboration with Luke James we recorded last February that was sponsored by Patron and was a benefit in partnership with the NAACP for black-owned business hurt by the pandemic in Atlanta. We are putting the final touches on the season, and are about to announce our 7th “in-person” Live season, which will feature an array of incredible guest artists and music. Personally speaking, I will be making some debuts with new orchestras in Europe and developing more our podcast Nu Deco “Unfiltered”.
Keep up to date with Barios and Nu Deco's new songs and performances on their official website, nu-deco.org.
Photography by: Courtesy Nu Deco Ensemble