Galician bagpipe master Cristina Pato back in Vail

Caramie Schnell
Galician bagpipe master Cristina Pato is the founder and artistic director of Galician Connection, a forum and multidisciplinary world music festival celebrated at City of Culture of Galicia in Spain.
Xan Padron | Special to the Daily |

Musician Cristina Pato was four years old when she began playing the Galician bagpipes, and five when she started playing the piano and entered the conservatory.

“I have some sort of double life,” said Pato, a doctor of musical arts in collaborative piano (Rutgers University) and a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. “One as a classical pianist and the other as a world music bagpiper, although it all makes sense in jazz for me. I have been always working in the thin line between traditional and classical music.”

Tonight. Pato, an accomplished composer and producer as well as musician, will perform at the International Evenings of Dance II program at the Vail International Dance Festival. Memphis jooker Charles “Lil Buck” Riley will perform an improvisation accompanied by Pato’s traditional Galician music. She’ll also play the piano in tonight’s performance of “Swan Lake” and for the premiere of “Tango Trio.”

It’s Pato’s third time performing at the festival. She took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.

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Vail Daily: What is your favorite memory from any past festival.

Cristina Pato: My first collaboration was in 2011. As a collaborative pianist, I love performing with other people, collaborating and learning from the experience. In the case of dance, it is very interesting, since you are working with many other parameters that sometimes are not that much related to your own. To adjust to the different senses of breathing and feeling music is my favorite challenge. Working with the Martha Graham company, with Richard Siegal or Lil Buck are very beautiful memories. Although I have to confess that watching Christopher Wheeldon’s new choreographies in Vail is a magical and revelatory experience. I never played on those and that made me enjoy them in a very powerful way.

VD: Why did you want to come to Vail?

CP: I like the beautiful and unique mixture of nature, art, beauty and respect that you can breathe in that hall. It is a special moment of my summer tour. My summers are usually full of world music and jazz festivals that I do with my band, and coming to Vail brings me back to my life as a pianist and reminds me how beautiful it is to be the supporting and collaborative musician.

VD: Is there anything you’re looking forward to watching at the festival?

CP: I love every dancer, every move and every moment of Vail, but I have to say that watching the children from Celebrate The Beat, lead by Tracy Strauss, is one of the things I look forward to. Mainly because it reminds me how powerful are the arts to unite people, cultures and perspectives. I had the pleasure to collaborate with them and it is amazing…Projects like Celebrate The Beat, shown at places like the Vail International Dance Festival, completes the circle to me. It is, as Yo Yo Ma would say, “Arts for life sake.”

VD: Any plans for down time while you’re in Vail?

CP: Enjoying my lonely walks around the river is what I will be doing when I am not practicing or rehearsing.

VD: Who is your favorite musician or artist to listen to?

CP: Ay! How much time/space do we have for this interview, because this may be a very long answer! I love listening to Shostakovich, Ella Fitzgerald, Los Ramones, Paquito D’Rivera, Miles Davis, Norah Jones, Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso and a huge, huge list of artists from almost every musical language. I have worked in classical music, pop, rock, Latin jazz and even heavy metal; and I really enjoy every kind of artist if the message is unique and authentic. I think there is music for every moment of your life and music that becomes a moment of your life. Music has a deep power of connecting people, but in my case it also has a deep power of bringing me up or down as needed and depending on the day I have I would answer this question in a complete different way!

VD: Who or what inspires you?

CP: I met the Vail International Dance Festival artistic director Damian Woetzel through Yo Yo Ma, who among other amazing things, is the artistic director of the Silk Road Project. Working with both of them in different environments is a constant inspiration. Both Yo Yo Ma and Damian Woetzel have a powerful compromise with the role of the arts in today’s society. They are some sort of “diplomatic cultural activists” that take their artistry to the service of the society. Watching both of them conducting workshops, leading panels, giving lectures or performing reminds me that talent is a responsibility and as an artist you have to understand how powerful the arts are for our present moment in history. Passion, compromise and empathy inspires me, and they both have it in their bones.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at or 970-748-2984.

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