Cello Joe

There aren’t very many singing, rapping, beatboxing, cello players in the world. There’s a particularly funny and funky curious one you should remember and he goes by the name of Cello Joe. Like most cello players, Joseph Abraham Tal Tien-Ru Chang Jr. Senior III esquire (or just Joey for short) started out as a classical cellist. A mild-mannered suburbanite kid from Los Altos, California, Joey began studying the cello at age ten. His first instrument was actually piano which he started at age nine. For the first eight years, there were weekly private lessons and many music summer camps. There were also weekly (four hours long!) youth orchestra rehearsals. And from this fertile classical ground sprang forth a very unusual weed from a crack in the suburbial sidewalk.
Joey discovered playing on the street after eight years of classical training. First, he played his classical repertoire over and over. This practice got old pretty quick. He realized that playing on the street was a great opportunity to begin improvising. After a fair amount of purely instrumental improvisation, he thought that being able to sing and play the cello would be infinitely cool and different and would thus attract more attention and hopefully fill the case with money. Slowly and surely this talent developed. Hip-hop had always been part of Joey’s listening diet and because of this habit, beatboxing naturally began to work its way into his improvisations on the street. University Avenue in Palo Alto California is a pretty ritzy strip.
It’s full of yuppie shopping zombies. There’s also a sizeable homeless population. A homeless man named Carl would listen to Joey playing often. It was he who coined the moniker “CelloJoe.” Joey sang impromptu songs about the glaring disparities right before his eyes in the yuppies and the homeless. Socially conscious and politically active, Joey naturally wove concepts of social and earth justice into his lyrics. Joey auditioned for Berklee College of Music’s World Scholarship Tour in 2000. He was awarded a scholarship and attended Berklee from 2002-2006 and has since performed all over the world including USA, Mexico, Canada, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, France, and Spain. Some of the festivals Joey has performed at include: Burning Man, Lightning in a Bottle, Festival de Liege (Belgium), Singapore Fringe Festival, FUSION (Germany), Rock for People (Czech Republic), Sziget (Hungary), Oregon Country Fair, Symbiosis (CA, USA), Shambala (BC, Canada), RainDance Camp Out, Sanctuary (Strategik SF,) San Francisco Bicycle Music Festival (BMF), BMFs in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, London, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Marseilles, Toulouse, Barcelona, Sheepdawg Human Calendar Festival (Maui), ArtsWells (BC, Canada), Mystic Garden Party (OR, USA), EarthDance (CA, USA), Starwood (NY), FireDance (CA) and many other places.
He has played with Joan Baez, Bryonn Bain, the Cello Madness Congress, Justin Ancheta Band, Gabe Dominguez & SHAKE YOUR PEACE!, Paul Freeman aka Fossil Fool, The Ginger Ninjas, StitchCraft, Amanda Mora, Shamanic Sound Ceremony, Durian Sex Cult, John Henry’s Farm, Amae Love, Clay Chollar, Nicoluminous, Boy Lion, Erma Kyriakos, Rushad Eggleston, the cellist from Tornado Rider, Edan, an internationally acclaimed MC and producer, Roxanne Young, a member of Cirque du Soleil and Barrage, Greg Liszt of The Deadly Gentlemen, and many other notable musicians.
As cellist for the band Incus, he toured nationally and played at over forty venues and festivals all over the country. He went on tour with the El Camino Youth Symphony in Europe twice: once to Italy and Austria and once to England and Scotland. He has recorded on many artist’s CDs including Andi Starr, Callow, Alohi, Concept 6, Rebecca Loebe, Pablo Picker and others. CelloJoe is the world’s first long-distance musical bike touring cellist. He has ridden his bike over 10,000 miles in the US, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia.
In 2007-2008, he rode with the pleasant revolution, a 5,000-mile bike tour from North San Juan, California to Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico. In May 2009, he did a 500-mile bike tour through Utah with SHAKE YOUR PEACE! In August 2009, he rode from Portland, Oregon to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in the Pleasant Revolution Northwest Bicycle Music Festival Tour.
His ride in 2010 was a seven-month odyssey through Europe with the Pleasant Revolution Bicycle Music Tour through England, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, France, and Spain. In addition to being a veritable cello monster, Joey is also very interested in organic farming and has traveled to and worked at organic farms in Canada, the west coast of the U.S. and the island of Maui in Hawaii through the organization WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms or WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms.) He is currently based in Berkeley, CA in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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