By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
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Jonas Tauber, the 26-year-old principal cellist for the Boulder Philharmonic, has some complaints about the marketing of the classics. "I don't think classical music is heard enough in an informal setting," he says. "And usually, it's extremely expensive. I hate that, too."
For these reasons, Tauber doesn't limit his playing to concert halls. Aside from his duties with the philharmonic, Tauber has performed live and in the studio with local acts ranging from the multicultural acoustic instrumentalists in Laughing Hands to new-age keyboardist Rifkin and jazz guitarist Lenny Charles. In addition, he's a regular at Boulder-area coffeehouses, where he performs solo and as part of eclectic ensembles.
Tauber likes the challenge. When a highbrow crowd pays big bucks to hear a classical concert, he explains, "they're gonna feel some kind of obligation to shut up" during the show. But in the java joints where he often plies his trade these days, Tauber says, "they don't listen to you unless you're really on. And to bring that to that context, where people can hear it live instead of hearing it on a stereo and stuff like that, I think that's really important."
The journey that brought Tauber to Boulder has been a long one. Born in Switzerland, he began learning cello and piano at age four. He subsequently relocated to America, and earned a bachelor's degree in performance from New York City's Eastman School of Music in 1990. This led to a semiprofessional summer position playing operatic scores for the annual Castle Festival in Heidelberg, Germany.
For Tauber, that job was not a dream come true. "That lifestyle drove me nuts," he says. To regain his sanity, he went home to his mother's place in Sacramento, California, and didn't touch his cello for two and a half years. Instead, he took engineering and premed courses at a local college.
Tauber moved to Boulder last year to study aerospace engineering at the University of Colorado, but, he says, "I sort of had a collapse and realized I wasn't human anymore. So I started playing again."
On his first audition in three years, he nabbed the Boulder Philharmonic gig. Shortly thereafter he attended a show by local acoustic rockers Chris and Maggie that launched his extracurricular career. "I was blown away by their performance," he says--so much so, in fact, that he convinced the pair that he should accompany them at an upcoming CD-release party.
Around this time, Tauber turned up for the first time at the West End Tavern's now-defunct all-comers night. He says he was seeking a laid-back crowd for whom he wouldn't feel pressured to be in top form. Nonetheless, he admits that his first step on stage was nerve-racking. "All these singer-songwriters came up--and then there's this goofball with a cello," he recalls. "But I started playing, and holy shit. You could have heard a pin drop."
Since then, Tauber notes, "things have just kind of exploded on their own." This summer he plans to release an as-yet-untitled new-age jazz album featuring electric cello, possibly to be followed by a collection of jazz standards performed on acoustic cello with bass accompaniment. And his recent appearance on a disc recorded by local didgeridoo virtuoso Patrick Walsh may land the cellist an invitation to join Walsh at next summer's WOMAD (World of Music, Art and Dance) festival.
In the meantime, Tauber says he is "practicing my butt off" under the tutelage of Jurgen DeLemos, principal cellist with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and has begun experimenting with avant-garde classical composition. He's still playing live, too: He hits the Trident Cafe's makeshift stage every other Sunday night. "And once in a while," he continues, "I'll play all six of the Bach suites in the evening at the Caffe Mars."
Thus far, most of Tauber's coffeehouse listeners seem to approve--even if they didn't order suites with their espresso.