Meet the Cellists and Bass

Sarah Biber
Cellist, Sarah Biber, has played across the United States, Australia and China. In recent collaborations with dance, she has been featured with the Paul Taylor Dance Company performing solo Bach for the company’s first performance with period instruments; with Cherylyn Lavagnino Dance at the premiere of Treize en Jeu" an evocative 45 minute ballet for 13 dancers set to Franz Schubert’s Trio in E Flat Major. Sarah earned her doctorate from Stony Brook University after double-degree studies at Oberlin Conservatory and College and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. While in Australia, Sarah performed in the Opera House with the Sydney Symphony under numerous conductors including Gianluigi Gelmetti and Vladmir Ashkenazy. Sarah has attended or been a fellow at numerous festivals, including Tanglewood, Mannes Beethoven Institute, and the International Baroque Institute at Longy and the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute. Sarah is passionate about her role as an educator and owes gratitude to her own teachers Peter Rejto and Catharina Meints. As cellist of Kentucky's premiere period ensemble, she collaborated in a performance of a Vivaldi Concerto, called "Passionate and insightful" and aired on NPR's Performance Today. Immediately after receiving her doctorate, Sarah was appointed professor of cello at Montana State University. She recently relocated to the Capitol Hill neighborhood of DC where she teaches group classes with the support of the Capitol Hill Foundation and Classics for Kids, a Boston based non-profit. 

What's your musical philosophy?
The legendary cellist, Pablo Casals, was asked at age ninety why he continued to practice four or five hours a day. "Why, at your age, do you keep working the fundamentals?" a friend queried. Pablo Casals replied, "Because I think I'm making some progress."

Music reminds me that I am still evolving as a musician and a human being. I recently picked up the viola da gamba and can be found reading (translation: hacking through) renaissance consort music on the bass viol with new friends!

Jonathan Velsey
A native of Washington, D.C., cellist Jonathan Velsey has performed both at home and abroad as an orchestral, solo and chamber musician and has been an active freelancer in the greater Washington area since 1996.  A former Associate Principal cellist of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, he has played with most of the capital region’s orchestras, including the Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax Symphonies.  From 1993 to 95, he played in the Natal Philharmonic Orchestra in Durban, South Africa, also performing in critically acclaimed solo and chamber recitals.  He has been a member of the Adelphi String Quartet, the Rococo Chamber Ensemble and the Friday Morning Music Club.  

Jonathan has a B.A. from Bard College and a Masters in Music from Northwestern University.  His principal teachers include Judith Shiffers, Luis Garcia Renart and Hans Jorgen Jensen.  He has also studied with Carla Rosenberg, Andre Emelianoff, Gary Stucka, Glenn Garlick and David Hardy.  Jonathan is currently teaches orchestra in Arlington, Virginia, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School’s IB program.  He lives in Takoma Park with his wife family.

What's your musical philosophy?
“Music is my way to keep connected to people and to be closer to my community as well as a great stress-buster!  I love living in Takoma Park and hope our new ensemble is able to entertain, educate and engage our unique collection of people!”

David Zelinsky
David grew up in Chicago and started studying cello at age 7.  His main teachers were Joseph Saunders, Dudley Powers, Gabor Reijto and Frank Miller.  He has played with some great conductors, including Leonard Slatkin and Sir Georg Solti.  As a chamber musician, David performed with the Hawthorne String Quartet, and has had coaching fromYo-Yo Ma and members of the Fine Arts and Vermeer Quartets.  As a student, he participated in the Aspen Music Festival, and Interlochen Arts Camp.

In the orchestra at Chicago's Arie Crown Theater, he performed in Broadway touring productions with the likes of Richard Burton (Camelot), Yul Brynner (King and I), Angela Lansbury (Sweeny Todd), and Liza Minelli (in concert).  Locally David plays with the Apollo Chamber Orchestra, Opera Camerata of Washington, the Landon Symphonette and The McLean Orchestra; and in recitals at the Strathmore Mansion, Sumner School Museum, and Dumbarton House.  David lives in Takoma Park.

What is your musical philosophy?

To me, music is the confluence of the two distinct aspects of the human mind: logic and emotion.  The structure of the music captivates us, while the emotion makes us soar.  For performance, there is much to be understood, analyzed and perfected.  If that were all, computers could replace musicians.  But a performance is empty without emotional input, which is easy to recognize but impossible to define.

Tell us about a memorable musical experience

I was an undergraduate at Caltech, which had no music program but had a cooperative arrangement with nearby Occidental College. OC's strength was in composition, not performance, so the orchestra was small and not very good, comprised mostly of science and engineering students from Caltech.  My musical studies were elsewhere, but I played with them out of a sense of obligation.  The composition faculty had connections, and once they got Aaron Copland to visit, and he conducted us in a rehearsal of Appalachian Spring.  Mr. Copland was very gracious, self-deprecating, and funny ("Who wrote all those difficult notes, anyway?") and full of stories.  Playing such iconic music with the man that wrote it was one of the more inspiring experiences I've had.

Jared Cazel 
Jared has an extensive performance career both in the US and abroad. Jared has worked as a professional freelance musician for over ten years in Boston, MA and currently in Washington, DC. During his career he has been a member of the Boston Philharmonic and has regularly performed with the National Philharmonic in Washington, DC. Highlights of his performance career include performing Puccini’s La Boheme under the baton of esteemed Maestro Lorin Maazel in the new opera house in Muscat, Oman. He also got the chance to travel to Hungary to participate in the Crescendo Music Festival. Jared has performed in Carnegie Hall with the chamber orchestra of The Catholic University of America and Boston’s Symphony Hall. He recently received his Master of Music degree from The Catholic University of America in May of 2013. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Music Performance from The Boston Conservatory. His principal teachers include Larry Wolfe, Ben Levy, Ira Gold, and Mark Morton. Jared performs on an exquisite French double bass made in the mid-nineteenth century most likely by the famous luthier Francois Jacques Barbe.

Do you have a musical philosophy?
Music is a relational thing. Most people can find a way to relate to others through music. This in and of itself proves music to be an amazingly powerful force. That is why it is such a pleasure to be involved in the creation and communication of music.

Tell us about a favorite performance
My favorite performance opportunity has to be getting to travel to the Middle East last fall to perform in the Sultan of Oman’s gorgeous new opera house in Muscat, Oman with Lorin Maazel and the Castleton Festival Orchestra. The extravagance of the hall and country was amazing and getting to perform such a beautiful work, Puccini’s La Boheme, with such high caliber artists is second to none. I live for moments like that!

And strangest?
My weirdest performance is probably one that didn’t even involve a double bass. I played a solider in a production of L’elisir d’amore, The Elixir of Love, by Donizetti in Saraspotak, Hungary. It was such on odd feeling having to step into the lights and act, slightly, instead of being hidden in the back of the orchestra. I think the crowd loved us though. You really have to wear a lot of makeup for those things!

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