Associate Professor Rolf Gjelsten

AProf Rolf Gjelsten profile picture

Associate Professor, NZ String Quartet School of Music


BMusUniversity of Victoria, MMusCin, PerfCertNorthern Ill, DMARutgers,


  • Artist in Residence - New Zealand String Quartet, Classical Performance - Chamber Music
  • Senior Lecturer, Classical Performance (Strings) - Cello


Dr Rolf Gjelsten grew up in Victoria, Canada, in a Norwegian family of folk dancers. In his teens, he became an accomplished accordionist, winning top prizes two years running in the USA Northwest Accordion Championships, before focussing on cello studies with James Hunter and Janos Starker. In 1975, he was awarded the silver medal in the Canadian National Music Festival (on the cello). At 22 he left Canada for Berlin, Germany, where he won a position in the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

Rolf furthered his cello studies with Zara Nelsova in Cincinnati and chamber music with such eminent groups as the LaSalle, Hungarian, Vermeer, Cleveland and Emerson string quartets. He was a regular participant in both the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Aspen Music Festival. His Vermilion String Quartet won Ensemble of the Year from Downbeat Magazine and was the graduate Quartet-in-Residence for two years with the Vermeer Quartet at the University of Northern Illinois.

As a member of the Laurentian Quartet for almost a decade he toured internationally as well as teaching cello at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. During this time he was also a member of the New York Piano Trio, as well as playing regularly with organ legend Anthony Newman and the Collegium Musicum of New York. He was invited to the Bach Aria Festival in New York on three separate occasions and the Prussia Cove International Musicians' Seminar twice.

In 1990 he continued studies with the great Casals protege Bernard Greenhouse at Rutgers University from where he received his doctoral degree.

Rolf has performed with such eminent artists as Menahem Pressler, Anton Kuerti, Andre LaPlante, Piers Lane, Franco Gulli,Zoltan Szekely, Nobuko Imai, Frans Helmerson, Colin Carr, James Campbell, Gervais de Peyer, and members of the Tokyo and Vermeer String Quartets.

He has enjoyed playing with the New Zealand String Quartet since May 1994, touring at home and abroad, making recordings, teaching at NZSM and giving master classes throughout the world. He became a New Zealand citizen in 1997. In 2014 he was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit for services to music.


New Zealand String Quartet website