Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler ‘95E had a lot of talent to look up to while a student at Eastman. “It was an insane time for cello,” he recalled of his undergraduate years. Several classmates went on to storied careers. Among others was David Ying ‘92E (DMA), the founding cellist of the Ying Quartet; Joseph Johnson ‘95E, principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Brant Taylor ‘93E, who plays with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Amos Yang, the assistant principal with the San Francisco Symphony; and Brandon Vamos ‘92E, the cellist with the Pacifica Quartet.
Additionally, Robert deMaine ‘92E, ‘93E (MM), the current principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, lived just down the hall in the dorms. “I had never heard cello playing like that in my life,” Zeigler remembers of deMaine.
“I found it especially great because I don’t come from a musical family. At the time, I knew nothing about the world of classical music, and looking back, I knew even less than I thought that I knew. And so, Eastman was a really important period for me. It really opened up my world to be surrounded by all these cellists.”
But Zeigler’s name is a fixture in lists of successful Eastman graduates: He was the cellist of the world-renowned Kronos Quartet for eight seasons. Prior, he was a member of the Corigliano Quartet. Ever since leaving Kronos in 2013, he’s carved out a successful solo career of fascinating projects, including some with his wife, composer Paola Prestini, the artistic founder and director of the contemporary music space National Sawdust in Brooklyn. Zeigler is currently the music director of the National Sawdust Ensemble, the in-house ensemble.
Of his time with the Kronos Quartet, he says, “A lot of young string players think ‘I want to be in a quartet like Kronos,’ or ‘I want to be in a band like the Beatles,’ but you’re not thinking about joining the actual Beatles. It was a dream come true.” He says he learned on the job, which included “playing pieces written for Kronos that I literally studied in music history class at Eastman.”
Zeigler returns to Eastman to perform a recital on the Morning Chamber Music Series on Saturday, February 4 at 11 a.m. in Hatch Recital Hall. Included in the concert will be selections from his multimedia album House of Zodiac, a highly celebrated release that features music written by Prestini. The album includes spoken word elements and has an accompanying video installation; some live performance versions include dance choreography. The album is self-described as “a unified exploration of love, loss, trauma, and healing.”
He’ll also pay tribute to the retiring composition faculty member David Liptak by performing Liptak’s Cello Sonata with faculty pianist Marina Lomazov, another classmate of Zeigler’s. And highlighting Zeigler’s interest as a music educator—he currently holds the post of assistant professor of chamber music and innovation at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music— he’ll give the world premiere of four works by current Eastman composition students. Ziegler’s currently involved in discussions over notation and articulations with the featured students as he commits their music into his fingers. Taking direction from composers is not unfamiliar territory for the former Kronos member: He’s played Steve Reich’s Different Trains for Reich’s birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, played John Adams for John Adams, and toured with Philip Glass. He enjoys helping composers bring their ideas to aural life.
“I enjoy working with composers at every stage because we really need each other to get better,” he says of working with the students. “If I’m able to play some role in helping them to develop their compositional voice and their notational language then I feel I’ve done my part.”
Morning Chamber Music with Jeffrey Zeigler, cello
Saturday, February 4 | 11:00 a.m.
Hatch Recital Hall
All Morning Chamber Music events are free and open to the public.
–Written by Anna Reguero, Senior Writer & Editorial Manager