The evolution of eclectic, electric cellist Jami Sieber
November 17, 2008 · Updated 4:22 PM
Sieber returns to the Collective Visions
‘Concerts in the Gallery’ Series Nov. 21.
It almost seems like there’s nothing that Jami Sieber hasn’t done with her music.
From a classical orchestra upbringing to self-discovery in a folk duo to playing a then-unheard-of electric cello in a mid-80s prog-rock-band and onto the demanding post of making a living as a solo cellist, it seems she’s done just about everything possible with four strings and a bow.
In the past three years alone, her ambient and atmospheric cello compositions have been used as the soundtrack for live theater as well as film scores; they’ve been licensed as background music for a new non-violent video game, and matched with spoken word as well as dance troupes.
All of which is pretty impressive in that Sieber has been at this — breaking ground, bridging gaps and opening minds through music — for decades.
“I love opening up worlds with the cello,” Sieber said. “I feel like it’s a very versatile instrument that hasn’t quite been appreciated to its full potential.”
Growing up in a house of music in Minneapolis, Minn., Sieber picked up the cello at age 7. She said she was drawn to it by ear. Her dad was, and still is at age 83, a conductor. Her mom, a singer. And her older sister was already playing the violin.
“For us, it was never whether you wanted to play an instrument, it was what instrument do you want to play,” Sieber recalls.
For some reason, rather than choosing a lead instrument — like the violin or the trumpet, the flute, or even clarinet, instruments which typically carry the melody in music — Sieber was drawn to the soft, supple sound of the cello.
Five solo albums and 40-some-odd years later, it seems obvious.
The strings have not only been a steady occupation for Sieber, they’ve also provided a venue for her to connect with the greater world on her own unique level.
“I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing and mind-blowing doors opening for me,” Sieber said, noting a chance to play with the Thai Elephant Orchestra among a long list of amazing experiences.
In her youth, she was first chair cellist in prestigious children’s orchestras of Minneapolis. But she found she didn’t fit into that competitive quest for first chair. She just loved to play; she didn’t care where she sat.
“I didn’t want to compete, I just loved the instrument, loved the experience,” she said.
Of course, once she left the orchestra, there weren’t many other venues for a cellist. So she left it all behind, even quit playing for a while to wonder around the East Coast on a path of self-discovery. That path led Sieber west, to Seattle and to nursing school. But just being in the Northwest seemed to re-invoke the artist within her, only in a different incarnation.
A guitarist named Charlie Murphy prodded her to pick up the cello again.
Only not to join the orchestra, instead, the two formed a touring folk duo which then evolved into a full-on prog/rock band in the early 90s called Rumors of the Big Wave.
“Playing with (Murphy) was like a crash course in improvising,” Sieber noted. “I started really exploring the edges and realizing, ‘Hey I’m playing off the page, I can do whatever I want.”
In Rumors of the Big Wave, Sieber really began to explore just what the cello could be capable of, but all too often she found herself not being able play loud enough to match the rock band. And, of course, she couldn’t simply “turn up” her traditional acoustic cello.
Enter: the enigmatic electric cello.
SEE JAMI SIEBER AND HER ELECTRIC CELLO at the next session of the CVG Concerts in the Gallery series at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 21 at Collective Visions, 331 Pacific Ave. in Bremerton. Tickets are $14 adv/$17 dos. Info: www.jamisieber.com, www.collectivevisions.com.