Hometown: San Jose, Costa Rica
Artistry: Cellist, Antioch Community Church and First Presbyterian Church; Instructor, Kids’ Orchestra
There are worse ways to experience a first hurricane than huddled at the home of one’s mentor, but that’s exactly how cellist Guillermo Zumbado spent his, sheltering in place with his teacher, longtime LSU music instructor Dennis Parker.
It is strong community such as this that he’s found through his LSU music program and through playing at his church, Antioch Community Church, that has kept the classical musician in Baton Rouge. And he has paid that community and mentorship forward by working with Kids’ Orchestra, teaching youth in north Baton Rouge who may have never even seen some classical instruments before.
“It’s more than just a job,” says the soft-spoken Costa Rican national. “I get to do something for the community that is a need and in another side of Baton Rouge, different from this side I live in around LSU.”
Though his talent is obvious, Zumbado is a late adopter of the cello. The viola dominated his studies as a child, and he even won competitions on that instrument. The switch to cello as he approached college was a dramatic move, and one not too well received at his traditional music school in San Jose. Many cellists begin training at age 5.
“That was a rough season,” Zumbado says. “But I knew in my heart that cello made me happy.”
So the adventurous musician subverted expectations. He has since begun making a name for himself as a cellist here in Baton Rouge, where his faith community and the LSU community keep him pushing forward.
“Being surrounded by people who inspire you is important,” he says. “Falling into too much comparison is so easy though, and that’s the other side of that. Never lose sight of who you are and what you like.”
Last summer, Zumbado toured with a folk band, but he prefers being in the recording studio. His uncanny ability to learn charts and songs almost immediately after first seeing them is a valuable skill when time is money.
“It’s like adrenaline,” he says of adding cello to a band’s song. “I love recording.”
Next, Zumbado is co-founding a new string quartet with plans to perform in a series of non-traditional venues across the state. He is passionate about making classical music much more approachable and connective than orchestras and symphonies can often appear to young people today. And he will continue as a mentor with Kids’ Orchestra.
“I gain so much from those young people, too,” he says. “You have to remain humble and open to learning from everyone, even if they aren’t as technically advanced or are from another discipline. If you’re not open to learning, it’s like you are opaque. Ego is a killer for being creative.”