The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Cello performer, Gaylyn Foto, creates backbone for Abilene performance

After the revelation she had at around 17 years old, Gaylyn Foto decided she wanted to switch from pure classical performances to a classical crossover style.

Gaylyn Foto does vocals and plays cello as apart of the quintet group Abilene. (Ashanti Thomas)

Before she turned 17, she was trained with the works of classical music legends including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach and Johannes Brahms.

She said she felt “stuck” with the genre for a while until one day she realized that there is a “whole world out there” to discover as far as music.

“I started listening to some of these other composers’ pieces and seeing what they were doing with the class,” Foto said. “I was like ‘OK, that’s the world I want to dabble in.’”

She eventually joined the band Abilene, which was formed in 2020, as one its five members.

Abilene performed Saturday night at the Doudna Fine Arts Center in the Recital Hall with special guest Chloë Agnew, a singer, songwriter and actress from Dublin Ireland.

Abilene’s five members are Foto on cello, Joshua Spacht on piano, Ashton Fineout on violin, Nikki Eoute on violin, and Zach Sprowls on synthesizers.

Chloë Agnew applauds Abilene after she is done performing the song “Waves” with the group. (Ashanti Thomas)

All the members live in different areas including Dallas, Greenville, South Carolina and Washington, and they practice for about six hours per day.

Whenever the group has a performance, they all regroup in Nashville.

Foto is from a small town in Baton Rouge, with a population of around 2,000, so coming to a smaller community like Eastern is no surprise for her.

Stella Riley and Sam Ashley hug and talk to Chloë Agnew after the Abilene show. “The music overall shared so much emotion,” Ashley said about the performance. (Ashanti Thomas)

“Anytime we’re going to a small town, I love it,” Foto said. “…In fact, I would say the smaller towns make me just breathe and actually enjoy the content more.”

Foto began studying music at 3 years old and grew up playing with her sisters.

Although comparisons were made between the two of them, they always encouraged each other.

Foto said they made the best memories singing and playing music together.

“For the most part I would say we were blessed to be able to do it together and encourage each other on,” Foto said.

Stella Riley talks to members of Abilene after the show at their signing table. (Ashanti Thomas)

On Saturday, Foto’s performance on the cello allowed other instruments to build from her instrumentation, while also adding their own weight and showing their importance.

Foto described each instrument as a part of body and said each instrument is “unique and vital.”

“It’s just like the little pieces of art that you don’t even think about on the human body, just kind of the way it related to a band,” Foto said. “Everyone’s contributing their giftings too, so not only their instrumental, but like their actual gifting strengths, and you kind of balance each other out.”

The emotions shown by the band were captivating. The passion of the composition was gripping. It gave off the same spirit and energy as a movie soundtrack, which is one of the things that inspires Foto.

One genre of music that Foto listens to is country, but she often finds her inspiration in not listening to anything.

“I just think there’s so much power and underestimated volume in silence,” Foto said.

Foto thinks that there is power in music as well. Everyone goes through things and being able to express that through sound is a way to change that possible negative mindset to creativity.

When the band finished performing, they received a standing ovation.

One of the attendees was Charlotte Hedberg, a junior studio art and vocal performance major.

After the performance, Gaylyn Foto talks to fans. (Ashanti Thomas)

Hedberg thought the performance was “amazing” and was interested to see Agnew.

As a vocal performance major, Hedberg saw some things in the performance that she could use.

“[Agnew] had really impressive breath support to support some of those long notes, and I was also just interested in the other singers, like how she was holding her balance to support the notes and everything,” Hedberg said.

Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or tat [email protected].


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About the Contributors
Cam'ron Hardy
Cam'ron Hardy, News Editor
Cam'ron is a junior journalism major. He previously served news editor and campus editor at The News. 
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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