Winner of the 2014 Global Music Awards Silver Medal for their album Grieg & Prokofiev*, Helen Z. Altenbach (she/they/them) has been a tenured member of the LA Opera Orchestra since 2010. Born to a musical family in China, Helen (neé Xiaodan Zheng 郑晓丹) is one of eight professional cellists on their paternal side. Helen studied piano and cello in Russia between the ages of 9-14 and immigrated to New York City with their family in 1998. As Xiaodan, she graduated from The Juilliard School Pre-College Division and obtained a Bachelor of Music degree from USC’s Thornton School of Music. Helen attended the Itzhak Perlman Music Program, Tanglewood Music Center, Verbier Music Festival, Pacific Music Festival, and the Perlman Chamber Music Program. Helen’s primary cello teachers were Ron Leonard, André Emelianoff, Alexei Seleznev, and her father James Zheng, a touring cellist with the Shen Yun Performing Arts.
Helen’s awards include the Juilliard Honor Strings Competition, Juilliard Concerto Competition, the ASCAP Foundation Ira Gershwin award, Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society Young Artists Award, first prize at the Great Neck Young Artist Competition in both Solo and Chamber Music categories, and second prize at Corpus Christi Young Artists Competition. While at USC, Helen was a scholarship recipient of the Richard and Mika Hadar Foundation, the Getty Foundation, and a recipient of a fine cello on loan from the Colburn Foundation.
Helen held a tenured Principal Cello position with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra between 2009-2011 prior to joining the LA Opera in 2010. During the summers, Helen performs with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra- a division of the LA Philharmonic Association, of which she is both a tenured cellist and a contract negotiation committee member. Helen received a Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in 2022 from Capella University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Business Psychology with an interest in consulting with Arts organizations. Helen lives in Los Angeles with their Swiss-born spouse and shelter-rescued cats.
*Grieg & Prokofiev (2013) with Xiao-Dan Zheng, cello, and Clara Yang, piano. Albany Records. TROY1485