Don't call him 'mellow cello'

Cellist Justin Donais - JULIE BUSCH photo
Cellist Justin Donais
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

Justin Donais turns to a new rock repertoire.

Edgy and gritty notes punctuate the bite of the bow hair on the cello�s strings.

The dry elegance of a Bach cello suite, this is not.

Bainbridge High School senior Justin Donais picks up a guitar when he wants to compose something soothing, but �cellos are a lot better for rock, because the strings are tuned in fifths (used frequently in rock),� he said.

Donais will be playing a mix of rock and classical music at his senior cello recital, with his cello partner-in-crime, BHS sophomore Max Aussendorf, at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at Pegasus.

The first half of the program will open with classical pieces such as the yearningly bittersweet �The Swan� by Saint-Saens and a baroque Vivaldi Double concerto for cello with Aussendorf.

Donais and cellist friends will follow up with arrangements of works by the Finnish cello trio rock band Apocalyptica � which performs everything from Mozart to Metallica � and Gideon Freudmann, known for combining electronic looping and other electronic techniques with cello.

He and Aussendorf have been playing duets together for 10 of their 11 years playing cello.

The pair are so in tune with each other that sometimes Donais finds himself almost unconsciously adjusting the fingering he�s using to match Aussendorf�s.

They were introduced to non-classical cello by their teacher, Priscilla Jones. Now inspired by Freudmann, who is known for original tunes and improvisation that draw on genres as diverse as jazz, bluegrass, swing, country and pop, Donais and Aussendorf compose their own tunes.

Donais says he usually starts from a bass line and then may use a looping machine to record a riff that repeats over and over while he layers on a melodic line above it.

No different from most students, �I didn�t want to practice as a kid, didn�t want to do the classical (pieces),� Donais said. �Now it�s more about how to have fun and less about technique.�

The recital is a symbolic closing of his lessons and playing the Suzuki Method under which he learned, Donais says.

Although his tastes swing away from classical these days, he says, �by having that classical technique, it makes it sound better.�

�I believe I�ll be playing cello for the rest of my life,� he said. �I�ve been playing it too long to put it down.�

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