Jānis Zirnis was born in 1944 in Staicele, northern Latvia and studied at Staicele elementary school, then at Alfreds Kalniņš Cēsis Music School. Already at that time, the young artist's interests were broad – he learned to play the trumpet, clarinet, saxophone, and percussion instruments in the Cēsis Symphony Orchestra, according to information in the digital archive of the National Library of Latvia.
He went on to lead various choirs as conductor, steadily buiding up a reputation with both amateur and professional ensembles. At the same time, he was assistant to the chief conductor and second conductor of the Latvian Radio Symphony Orchestra (1980–1984), as well as chief choirmaster (1987–1989) and conductor (1989–2004) of the Latvian National Opera.
He passed on his knowledge to future conductors by working at the Jāzeps Vītolas Academy of Music of Latvia (since 1977), where he was a teacher and head of the Department of Music Pedagogy (1984–1987), as well as conductor of the training choir and student symphony orchestra.
Jānis Zirnis appeared at several Latvian Song Festivals and was awarded with the Letter of Appreciation of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Latvia in 2004 and the Order of Three Stars in 2008.
Our condolences to his friends, family and colleagues.