As a period instrument performer, Jeri-Lou Zike is concertmaster of the Haymarket Opera Company, where she also manages the orchestra. Other musical credits include concertmaster of the University of Chicago Rockefeller Chapel Concerts and Chicago Bach Ensemble, as well as performances with His Majestie’s Clerkes, Kansas City Music Consort, Baroque Band and Music of the Baroque’s first period instrument concert. She also has, ever since their inception, performed with City Musick and Basically Bach, two fine period instrument orchestras in Chicago.
Hear Jeri-Lou in our upcoming production of Marais' Ariane et Bachus!
How did you get started in music?
My mother was my piano teacher. All five children in my family had to take piano lessons, starting at age 3. It was free, and my mother knew it would be a good way to learn discipline early in life. We had no choice until we hit 16. She was smart, as she knew none of us would quit after that.
How did you come to play your instrument?
Since three of my older siblings would practice at the prime hours of the day and we only had one piano, I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get in my 45 minutes of practicing. After attending an orchestra concert when I was 11 and hearing a female violin soloist play, I requested to switch instruments, figuring I could practice anytime I wanted. I was wrong; my mother made me practice both instruments.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a musician?
I want to do it all. In music, it is not possible to do it all and do it all well.
Do you have a favorite performer?
I love professional contemporary dancers. I truly think the combination of musician and athlete is so amazing.
What are a few of your favorite books about music?
I'm obsessed with the New Grove Music Dictionary of Music and Musicians. I just grab one of the 20 volumes and start reading. I could do it for hours, aimlessly. I love the biographies of the musicians and composers.
What else are you reading?
I'm reading through The Bible in one year, starting January, 2017. I also am reading several biographies on famous athletes, and I never stop reading my triathlon magazines.
Who are your favorite 17th- and 18th-century composers?
Heinrich Biber rocks my world and I love playing late Haydn and early Beethoven. If I’m just listening, it’s Bach all the way.
If you were stranded on a desert island, is there one piece of music you would like to have with you?
Bach’s B Minor Mass.
What drew you to early music and period instrument performance?
In my early studies, I never felt comfortable adding vibrato to early works of music, and my violin teachers were disgusted with me. I would play Mozart in orchestra and felt the need to hold my bow higher away from the frog; I had no idea why. I was drawn to listening to the Nikolaus Harnoncourt recordings of the Bach Cantatas. Once I did my reading, I knew playing a period instrument was what I needed to do. I yearned for that sound.
How many instruments do you own?
I own four violins: An outdoor cheap violin, my period violin, my Italian violin that I play at modern pitch and my electric violin. I also own a viola and a keyboard.
Which one do you play the most?
My David Tecchler violin, Tarisio 1721.
What are the main differences between your period instrument and its modern version?
Both my period instrument and my "modern" instrument are from the same region and about the same year. My period instrument is set up as it was in the 1700s. It has a short fingerboard, a wide neck, and no chin rest. The bridge is simple, and gut strings make for a warm, lovely sound. My modern instrument is still very old, but the setup has been changed with a contemporary long fingerboard and shaved-down neck.
What do you love about HOC?
Since its inception, HOC has captured my heart. Truly reaching for excellence on all levels of music, staging, lights and dramatic gestures, the artists of Haymarket Opera Company are first class and amazing people to boot!
Do you have a favorite rehearsal or concert memory from a past HOC event?
My favorite memory of HOC is watching Craig Trompeter warm up and wave his arms in a four beat pattern in the corner of the pit before coming out to conduct his first opera in September of 2016. My dear friend, who plays gamba and cello, is now conducting his own opera company from a podium. He and I made the decision (that he needed to conduct it from the podium with a baton instead of leading from the cello) just after we finished swimming over a mile in Lake Michigan. Within months he learned how to conduct and was brilliant.
What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not making music?
Swim, bike and run, walk and move outside!
How would you describe the relationship between you and your instrument?
Love/hate. I love my bow. I love my right hand tasks. I don't like the left hand duties of violin. I love musicians and making music.
Who are your musical heroes?
Monica Huggett, period violin master performer and teacher. For me she transformed the strict rules of what the early teachings of period instrument playing used to be. And Iestyn Davies, countertenor. I have yet to hear a better voice than his, and I do listen to his sound to help me create gestures with my bow, imitating his voice.
What music do you listen to most often?
Right at this moment, I 'm listening to Palestrina as I do my computer work. I listen to 1970's pop music on my shuffle as I run many miles, preferring the Carpenters, Beatles, Beach Boys, Doobie Brothers, and the band Chicago.
If you had not been a musician what do you think you would have done instead?
CEO of some company. I love business, sales, and taking care of employees.