GV music program brings in Grammy award-winning artist


GVL / Sydney Lim

Omari Seaberry, Staff Writer

On Oct. 27, Grand Valley State University hosted a music concert entitled “Free Play 48” that featured multiple Grammy-winning cellist Nick Photinos. This was a one-hour concert of recent music parented by Photinos himself. 

The event was part of Photinos’ week-long residency at GVSU in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance. This was the 48th show of the Free Play series and it runs about two to three times a year. The event works to bring new music and artists to the audience and students. 

“I aim for people to enjoy the music, and carefully select a repertoire that creates a good flow in concert,” Photinos said. 

The Free Play events are a long-running series of music events curated by GVSU’s faculty. For his set, Photinos performed his own pieces that consist entirely of cello and electronics. He performed one work with six students from GVSU’s New Music Ensemble. 

The Free Play producer, Bill Ryan, founded the program in 2005. His role involves booking guest artists and arranging events during that guest’s visit.

Ryan was ecstatic to invite Photinos, a familiar acquaintance. The two of them are very familiar with each other’s work, working together in the past. Photinos also has history with the GVSU community. 

“This is his third visit to campus to work with our students,” Ryan said. 

Photinos’ career in music began developing at a young age, and he ended up playing the cello after first experimenting with other instruments.  

“I initially wanted to start playing the violin at six, but when I first put one under my chin, it hurt like hell,” Photinos said. “So then they gave me a cello and I felt right at home. I do play some electric – and very occasionally – some acoustic bass.”

Photinos originally visited GVSU with the musical group Eighth Blackbird, a group he played with for 24 years. It was not until 2017 that he started visiting as a soloist. 

“I first came here in 2017, and working with Bill’s students is always a joy, so I know it’s going to be a great experience,” Photinos said. 

Additionally, Photinos is part of CelloFest, working with student composers and performers and performing at multiple locations on and off campus. He said that he is “extremely honored” to be a part of this program.