Jennifer Z

Jennifer Zeibarth, Principal Cellist

jenniferOne day, Jennifer made what could have been a catastrophic mistake without even realizing it: She put down her cello. But let’s back up a bit.

Jennifer was born in Calgary, Canada. Her family left when she was four because her mother didn’t like the cold winters—they went to Boulder, Colorado (for mild winters?!). She started playing piano at age six because her dad played a little. In fourth grade, music lessons were offered and she was determined to play violin and absolutely nothing, nothing, would change her mind. Until she went to a cello concert. “It was Lynn Harrell playing Rococo Variations—I was totally hooked,” she says. “From then on, it was cello.” (Some may remember Harrell as the cellist who fought Delta Airlines for his cello seat frequent flyer miles.)

However, Jennifer’s first cello teacher was a trumpet player, so she played trombone parts on a cello in the school band. Yep. Typical public school teaching, she says. Private lessons began after a year or so, and soon she was playing in the Boulder Youth Symphony and the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.

Jennifer then went to Carlton College in Minnesota (sensing a cold winter theme here) as a math major, and played in the orchestra as well. She also ventured into early music, playing viol de gamba, an instrument developed in the mid-late 15th century and used primarily in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Although it’s played upright like a cello, it’s actually more similar to a guitar, with six (sometimes seven) fretted stings tuned in fourths with a third in the middle—and a convex bow rather than the modern concave cello and violin bows.

Jennifer went on to the Math doctoral program at Carlton, and that was when she made her near catastrophic mistake. Getting a doctorate in theoretical math (group cohomology) is extremely draining and time consuming and her cello took the hit; almost unconsciously it just didn’t get played for quite a few years. Six months before finishing her PhD, Jennifer went to a symphony concert. “Halfway through I literally started crying and I knew if I didn’t pick up my cello, I wouldn’t play again.”

When she went to Indiana’s Earlham College to teach math, the cello came back into her life (but, we’re still talking snow in the winter). While there, Jennifer played in the college orchestra and in an ensemble that played both Klezmer and Swedish music.

She and her husband moved to the Bay Area (finally, mild winters) and she changed careers to transportation planning. She discovered Prometheus online—“first rehearsal was the ‘New World’ Symphony and I decided this is the orchestra for me.” She’s been our principal cellist for about seven years now. Her only regret is missing playing the Mahler 5th because her daughter Laurel, now five, was born three weeks early, right before the concert. “She’s talking about getting a cello of her own,” Jennifer says with pride. Cello: The Next Generation—Prometheus will be waiting!

~Joyce Vollmer

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