Madison, WI cellist Dr. Ben Therrell (pronounced "THAIR-uhl") has genre-crossing experience ranging from classical to jazz, pop, rock, and electro-acoustic. Interested in exploring the boundaries of possibility on the cello, his career has taken him across the US to connect with audiences and musicians in a wide variety of venues: indoor, outdoor, amplified, and acoustic. The title of his doctoral written project (aka "dissertation") is Musical Improvisation as a Path Toward Freedom of Exploration and Discovery of Self Expression.
He has held a chair in the Fayetteville Symphony and has performed with many major orchestras in Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Colorado including the Winston-Salem Symphony, New Mexico Philharmonic, Boulder Symphony and others.
During his doctorate, Ben was the resident cellist for the Rabin String Quartet. During his master's, he was the resident cellist with the Giannini String Quartet. He has also performed with other classically-oriented chamber music organizations such as Chorda Entertainment, the Nelson String Quartet, Desert Song, and Nobility Strings.
Ben has had the distinct opportunity to perform chamber music with wonderful musicians such as Ida Beiler, Kevin Lawrence, Janet Orenstein, Ulrich Eichenauer, Brooks Whitehouse, Dmitri Vorobiev, and Morgan Short.
As a member of the Bolz Collaborative Ensemble, Ben has performed with saxophonist Eddie Barbash (a founding member of the band Stay Human from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) along with the eminent bassist Rufus Reid. Ben's playing can be heard on the album Elegy for an Undiscovered Species by the Johannes Wallmann Jazz Quintet, published on Shifting Paradigm Records.
Ben has always explored adventurous musical projects, and has written many original arrangements for groups he has formed. Ben has also performed new music by acclaimed contemporary composers in the J D Robb Composer’s Symposium and with the Mead Witter Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. Ben's original commissions include the soundtrack to a globally-nominated project in the 2017 NASA Hackathon.
Please send a message via the Contact page for details.
Ben started music the way all great musicians do: by learning recorder in 3rd grade. For some odd reason a beige plastic version of Ode to Joy didn’t really work for him though.
The summer after his 11th birthday, Ben joined a group class of beginning cellists and bassists. After a week or two, Ben’s teacher noticed that he was quickly outpacing the rest of the group. Many of the lessons eventually included one-on-one accelerated instruction. The language of music came more naturally to Ben than it did to those around him and his affinity for it quickly grew.
When his parents realized he was serious about this music thing, his mom sold her saxophone to buy Ben a cello that he still keeps with him today.
He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he studied with Uri Vardi. He earned a Master of Music from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in the studio of Brooks Whitehouse. His primary teachers during his dual Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance and String Pedagogy from the University of New Mexico were David Schepps and Lisa Collins.
As an avid and enthusiastic chamber musician, Ben has received guidance from current or former members of the Emerson, Pro Arte, Brentano, Melos, Mendelssohn, Attacca, and Garth Newell String Quartets, along with other members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Ben's playing and teaching is influenced by noteworthy cellists such as David Finckel, Lynn Harrell, Timothy Eddy, Alan Harris, Anthony Elliott, Rhonda Rider, Parry Karp, Wendy Warner, Antonio Lysy, Sarah Kim, Brant Taylor, Scott Kluksdahl, Alex Ezerman, Andrew Mark, Kim Cook, Jeff Lestrapes, Mark Votapek, and Thomas Mesa.
Dr. Therrell is an enthusiastic and Suzuki-certified cello teacher. Previous positions include faculty at the UNCSA Community Music School, the UNM String Pedagogy Lab School and the New Mexico School of Music. He is currently based out of Madison, WI, where he and his wife Mandy raise their two-year-old daughter. For more information about Ben's teaching studio, visit the Students page.