Rolf Gjelsten began cello studies in his native city Victoria, Canada, with James Hunter and Janos Starker at the age of 15. At 22 he became the youngest member of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Rolf returned to North America to study with Zara Nelsova which led to further study with the members of the La Salle, Hungarian, Vermeer, Cleveland and Emerson string quartets.
As a member of the Laurentian Quartet for almost a decade he toured internationally, made five CDs and taught cello at the prestigious Sarah Lawrence College in New York. During this time he was also a member of the New York Piano Trio.
Rolf furthered his studies from 1990 with the great Casals protégé and Beaux Arts Trio cellist Bernhard Greenhouse at Rutgers University, where he received his doctoral degree in cello.
He has performed with such eminent artists as Menahem Pressler, Anton Kuerti, Piers Lane, Tasmin Little, Nobuko Imai and Gervaise de Peyer.
Rolf joined the New Zealand String Quartet in May 1994 and in 2014 he was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for his outstanding services to music in New Zealand.