John Zirbel has been Principal Horn of Orchestre symphonique de Montréal since 1979. A native of Janesville, Wisconsin, he began playing the horn at age nine. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin, where he studied with John Barrows and Douglas Hill. Mr. Zirbel enjoys teaching and mentoring talented young horn players both at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music and at the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he serves as Principal Horn of the Aspen Festival Orchestra.
As a soloist, Mr. Zirbel was a prize winner at the 1981 Grand Concours international de cor in Liège and has performed all the major horn concerti with the OSM. He especially enjoys bringing to life new works composed for him: in 2001 he gave the premiere of Sérénade héroïque, a horn concerto written for him by Quebec composer Jacques Hétu. In 2015 he premiered Cor et âme, a wonderful new work for horn and orchestra by Denis Gougeon.