Musician Profile: Jonathan Reed and Olga Ziabrikova

Meet two GRSMA musicians who grew up on opposite sides of the planet yet have so much in common.

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JONATHAN REED

 

GRSMA: What led you to a career in music? Do you play any other instruments?

JR: I began Suzuki piano lessons at 5 years old after coming up to my parents one day saying, "I want to play the piano". They immediately set me up with a Suzuki piano teacher in town and the rest is history! Not quite. I never took to the piano like bass but did enjoy learning the fundamentals of music theory and practicing scales/arpeggios for some weird reason. I'm convinced my sense of pitch comes from my piano lesson days, as solid intonation is a given on a regularly tuned piano. I remember a lot of classical music radio playing around the house as well as smooth jazz. When it was time to pick instruments in fifth grade, I chose the bass after getting it narrowed down to bass, viola, and trombone. I fell in love with the bass immediately. Creating sound was a nice change of responsibility from striking keys of the piano. I do in fact play other instruments. Currently I play electric bass and bass viol, which is the largest member of the viola da gamba family. With lots of practice I can play piano somewhat competently as well.

 

GRSMA: Where did you grow up, and were you part of a musical family?

JR: I grew up in St Joseph, Michigan, which isn't all that far from Grand Rapids. My mom is a cellist, teacher, and arts administrator, and my dad was my orchestra teacher from fifth grade through high school! He's a trumpet player professionally, amateur classical guitarist, and now leads the Lake Effect Jazz Band which is active during the summer months. They both played in the Southwest Michigan Symphony for many decades and met there. My mom was also my piano accompanist through most of high school until my pieces became too difficult. My brother played cello in his school days and later was lead guitarist/vocals in the rock band Go Radio that had a successful run touring the U.S. and Canada many times over. I guess you could say I come from a musical family.

 

GRSMA: Do you recall when you decided to make music as your profession? Who are among your musical mentors and heroes?

JR: I was 13 years old and had taken bass lessons for a couple of years. I loved practicing, performing, and learning anything on my bass. Playing bass in an orchestra was even better! Making it my career seemed like the next logical step. Little did I know then how long and difficult the journey of a professional orchestral musician is, especially regarding audition taking. I've taken more auditions than I can count ... luckily, I enjoy a challenge. My biggest musical mentor is Timothy Pitts, former section bassist of The Cleveland Orchestra and Principal Bassist with Houston Symphony. I can't say enough good things about him, so I won't write a book here. My other musical mentors are Jack Budrow, my undergrad teacher at Michigan State University, formerly section bassist with Houston Symphony and Principal Bassist of North Carolina Symphony. His passion for the bass, music, and teaching is something I hold dearly to this day.  More recently, I give credit to my mentor and friend Kevin Brown, currently Principal Bass with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, who I've worked with a lot these last few years.

 

GRSMA: Do you have any memorable moments from GRS concerts?

JR: A few performances that stick out to me are Ein Heldenleben, Mahler's Third Symphony, and Brahms First Symphony which included soloist Augustin Hadlich playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. Playing Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben was awesome as bass players practice it so much and rarely perform it. With Mahler's Third, I felt the orchestra came together to produce amazing performances that week that I’ll never forget. And last but certainly not least, for me it doesn't get any better than playing Brahms First and having as your guest soloist Augustin Hadlich playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto. That was my favorite week overall with the GRS.

 

GRSMA: If you weren't an orchestral musician, what career path would you have taken?

JR: I love music too much to change career paths entirely, so it's a toss-up between three professions in the arts world in no order. I'd enjoy aspects of working in arts administration as I'd be working for a cause that's important to me. Working closer to musicians behind the scenes as a stagehand or production manager would also suit me well as they make our jobs as musicians go so much smoother, and I have the utmost respect for them. Lastly, working as a luthier would be fun. Working for myself is something I've always enjoyed as well as working with my hands. Making string instruments and bows full time seems like a great career choice.

 

GRSMA: Tell us about your favorite places in Grand Rapids.

JR: Meijer Gardens is my favorite. When I have some time to kill, I always find myself there. It's always beautiful no matter what season, and I always leave learning something new! I like Lantern Coffee Bar and Lounge a lot too for the coffee, baked goods, and friendly faces, though I don't get there as much as I'd like.

 

GRSMA: Do you have a favorite composer or orchestral piece?

JR: I mentioned it above already, but Brahms' First Symphony is my favorite piece to play. I love the stormy anguished character of it as well as the story behind its 20-year conception. Brahms felt the great weight of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony upon him and feared writing his first symphony for a long time. Brahms was eventually triumphant, and his Symphony No. 1 in C minor was a huge success. My favorite composer is Johann Sebastian Bach, but Brahms, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven are very close. I like the saying, “my favorite pieces and/or composers are whatever I’m currently playing!”

 

GRSMA: What are your hobbies or interests?

JR: I like reading nonfiction a lot, mostly biographies and psychology. When I'm not at the symphony or busy practicing, I like to bring out the bass viol and learn new things. I believe there's an early music group that meets at a church in Grand Rapids on Monday mornings, so I'd like to get involved with that soon. I'm also a tennis fan, so I watch the grand slams whenever I can. Cooking, running, and weightlifting are also other interests of mine.

 

GRSMA: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the Grand Rapids Symphony?

JR: That’s easy! Working with such dedicated and skilled musicians daily is a joy. Not everyone is excited to go to work but I surely am, and that's a testament to my amazing GRS colleagues. 

 

GRSMA: Is there a specific concert that you look forward to the most this season with the GRS?

JR: Like a lot of my colleagues, I am looking forward most to Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in May. The bass part is so much fun to play, and it's all about the cellos and basses in the beginning!

https://www.grsymphony.org/mahlers-resurrection

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OLGA ZIABRIKOVA

 

GRSMA: What led you to a career in music? Do you play any other instruments?

OZ: My parents started me on the violin and piano when I was six years old. I hated practicing violin but loved being on stage and performing. After all, I got to wear beautiful dresses and shoes! So, I stuck with it. Later, I switched to a viola and it became my main instrument. 

 

GRSMA: Where did you grow up, and were you part of a musical family?

OZ: I grew up in Moscow. Both of my parents were engineers. My dad had a beautiful tenor voice. He also played piano and button accordion. Both of my siblings took music lessons on violin, piano, and trumpet. Moscow is a busy and exciting city, where on any given day you have many performances available for many musical tastes. My dad took us to all sorts of shows, including classical music concerts, opera, ballet, etc. So, yes, I was part of a musical family. 

 

GRSMA: Do you recall when you decided to make music as your profession? Who are among your musical mentors and heroes?

OZ: My dad had friends who were musicians. I remember hearing one of them play viola at our home. I loved the sound so much that I decided to switch to viola. My parents and aunt always encouraged me to become a professional musician. I think they were enthralled with the lifestyle: the thrill of a performance, flexible schedule, touring abroad (at the time, musicians were among a small group of citizens who had an opportunity to travel outside of the Soviet Union). So, I started music college at 14 and the rest is history. My college teacher Gelya Dubrova was a big influence on me. She was a kind and generous person, even though at times I felt that she was mean. Later, I realized she only wanted the best for me. Being a classical musician in Russia or anywhere else is very competitive; she was just trying to prepare me to do my best. 

 

GRSMA: Do you have any memorable moments from GRS concerts?

During the pandemic, I had to travel to Moscow for a family emergency. The Grand Rapids Symphony played the first classical program after the lockdown while I was gone. I stayed up until 3:00am Moscow time so I could watch the live stream. I was overwhelmed with emotions and very proud of my colleagues. 

 

GRSMA: If you weren't an orchestral musician, what career path would you have taken?

OZ: I never thought about it. Music has been my life since a very young age, so I can’t imagine it being anything else. Maybe I would have liked to be a clothing or furniture designer.

 

GRSMA: Tell us about your favorite places in Grand Rapids.

OZ: Grand Rapids is a beautiful city. I love all things outdoors, especially White Pine Trail and Reeds Lake.

 

GRSMA: Do you have a favorite composer or orchestral piece?

OZ: I do love Russian music: Rachmaninoff is my favorite. 

 

GRSMA: What are your hobbies or interests?

OZ: I have discovered recently that I enjoy refurbishing and restyling furniture. 

 

GRSMA: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the Grand Rapids Symphony?

OZ: Making music together with my colleagues, especially since coming back from the pandemic shutdown. I am delighted we are playing live again. I also participate in the GRS Music for Health Initiative. As part of this program, symphony musicians provide musical experiences to patients with all sorts of medical issues. To see first hand the joy music brings to people whose life is effected by illness is humbling and very touching. 

 

GRSMA: Is there a specific concert that you look forward to the most this season with the GRS?

OZ: I can’t wait to play Prokofiev’s Cinderellahttps://www.devosperformancehall.com/events/2022/gr-ballet-presents-cinderella