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A Valpo Life in the Spotlight: Zebulun Barnow

There are so many ways that people use music to express themselves. There is something for every taste. The Blue Man Group is no exception. They have interactive shows all over the country that feature the recognizable blue men delving in performance art of a creative and interesting nature. There is a lot that goes into these shows -much of it behind the scenes. There is the sound crew, makeup and set design, the financial side, advertising, the band, etc.

There is a Valpo local who would agree with me. His name is Zebulun Barnow. Barnow has been a musician for the Blue Man Group for the past eight years. His musical inclinations are quite impressive and admirable which make him this week’s Valpo Life in the Spotlight.

Barnow was born in Marquette, MI to Ben and Alison Barnow. Later on in his childhood his family moved and took him to Chicago, IL where they lived in a Ukie Village. In 1988 he graduated from Oak Park and River Forest High School. Barnow attended college at Columbia College where he studied Music Business and had various jobs as a musician before obtaining his job with the Blue Man Group.

“I have worked with Blue Man Group for over eight years and played the show well over a thousand times. Our show is an amazing and unique experience to be a part of.” Barnow said. “As a musician, Blue Man Group affords an opportunity to play and improvise on a refined level for a diverse and appreciative audience. That’s what many musicians wish for!”

It sounds pretty great.

“It is a great job for many reasons." Barnow said. "One reason is that every performance is different. There is a psychic chemistry between the Blue Men, the band, the crew and the audience that adjusts with all of those inherent social dynamics. Often I realize that I am smiling during the performance as I think, ‘This is really my job!’”

Barnow lives with his wife Amber who is also a musician -a cellist- as well as a cello teacher. She is the principal cellist for the South Shore Orchestra and he often attends their concerts in support of her, the orchestra, and fine music in general. In his free time he digs bicycling and watching the classic police drama, Kojak; he is studying the tabla, which is a membranophone percussion instrument (similar to the bongos); he just finished an album filled with ukulele songs titled “Seven Days Downstairs”; and he’s also working on an opera that will be opening in summer 2013. Barnow is no doubt a busy man.

As a resident of Valparaiso, Barnow enjoys the local scene and the convenient location.

“I like Valparaiso because it is remote enough to feel safe yet connected enough to be convenient and dynamic,” Barnow said. “Whenever I am returning home from Chicago I am so glad to be able to breathe here and be at peace.”

Barnow has high hopes for the future. He’d like to hone his teaching skills and someday have enough students to form a music performance school or program. That is something that I know many of us in Northwest Indiana can get behind.

“I’m always pleasantly surprised that new and interesting projects and people continue to find me. I hope I’ll always be in great music groups, I hope there will always be events to play and I know there will always be opportunities to learn,” Barnow said.

Finally, as is the cherry on top for each Life in the Spotlight piece, are there any words of wisdom that Barnow wishes to leave with us?

“There are so many memes and maxims out there to inspire folks to be at peace and experience the fulfillment that is their reality,” Barnow said. “Seneca wrote, ‘Si judicas, cognosce...’ which means ‘If you judge, inquire...’ and I appreciate the simplicity of that. The world, its inhabitants and their beliefs are worth knowing even if they can’t be understood. Compassion and consideration are important components to any true success. But there’s also something to be said for just putting on some rock and roll real loud and shaking your whole being to it because life ought not be austere to the point of closure or, worse, denial. Frivolous fun is good for what ails us most of the time.”

Nod in agreement, everyone, because he’s right. There’s nothing better than a giving heart and rockin’ out without inhibitions. There is little wonder why Zebulun Barnow is a Valpo Life in the Spotlight.


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