Chicago Philharmonic Violinist Jeri-Lou Zike

Jeri-Lou ZikeQ. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?

A. I find it incredibly difficult to answer questions like this as the road to becoming a professional musician is such a long and winding journey with so many important people leading and helping me find my way.    I was behind in my studies as a violinist since I started when I was 11.  Most of my colleagues began at age 4.    Music is a language that needs to be learned as young as possible.  However, leadership skills and communication came much more easily to me. Discipline was also key in my family growing up.  Using these skills and playing the catch up game by practicing like a crazy, by my late high school years, blessed with a spirit of being an entrepreneur I began to lead chamber groups and playing weddings, funerals, parties and teaching knowing that I had to pay for my own college and to purchase a better violin.  Through college, out of sheer desperation, music became the way I could pay the bills and I began to find the joy and love of performance. After that, it became a way of life and I never looked back.  It is one of the most grueling difficult career jobs for life, but the joy far surpasses the amount of hours spent and labor so very intense for all of us.

Q. What do you like about the Chicago Philharmonic’s ensemble approach in creating music?
A. The musicians of the Chicago Philharmonic are truly why I am in the orchestra. I have been in this orchestra for over 20 plus years. They are warriors that will fight through horrible snow storms, impossible Chicago road block traffic, and work before and directly after each rehearsal to pack it all in each day to keep their talents at the highest level and take care of their families and home.   I love this fighting spirit and we come together and no matter who is at the podium, each and every musician gives nothing but their very best each day.   Where else can you find this type of dedication and determination but in an orchestra?   Chicago Philharmonic has allowed us an outlet to use our skills to the highest level, and for that I am very grateful.

Q. What new endeavors would you like to see the Chicago Philharmonic pursue in the future?
A. I believe the Chicago Philharmonic has reached a new level of achievement.   The leadership of the orchestra is finding more ways in which the players are able to receive more rehearsals, concerts and appearances. I’m so very pleased to see the “go get em” attitude of the board.  The growth is exciting and their endeavors are being reached!  Chicago Phil is putting more musicians to work now more than ever.  How exciting it is to be on the receiving end of this new push towards excellence!

Q. What are you reading at the moment?
A. I’m a student in all things. I love learning and growing is what jazzes me up!  Reading is how I can learn for free!   I read the Holy Scriptures every morning as it is the foundation in which I live my life.  The Bible is my sword as I go to battle each day to love and serve others.  By mid afternoon, I am reading my sports magazines in between rehearsals and concerts.  I love learning new things from great athletes.  By evening, I’m reading the background history of early operas and history of early music performance practice. Yes…eclectic reading, but it sums up who I am.

Q. What favorite music are you listening to?
A. I love listening to music of the 16th and 17th centuries. It is pure and passionate music that speaks to my soul, both instrumental and vocal.

Q. What do you like to do as a hobby?
A. Hobby?  I rather call it my second life:  racing!  I love swimming in the freezing cold waters of our beautiful Lake Michigan, riding my road bike for as many early hours of the day I can find, and running as far and as fast as my feet will take me.  I love coaching other musicians to find the love of moving their bodies and how beautifully athletics work in a musician’s lifestyle.  Musicians have fierce strong mind determination and focus skills that can directly work into the discipline of racing.  I find nothing more exciting than watching one of my musician colleagues master both worlds.

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