Little is known of Zelenka's life before 1704. He may have been educated by the Jesuits in Prague. In 1710 he joined the band of Dresden's Hofkapelle as a player of the double-bass. In 1717 Zelenka obtained leave of absence to study with Fux in Vienna (during which time he also taught counterpoint to Quantz). That same year Zelenka accompanied the Elector to Italy where he studied with Lotti. Zelenka's works include Masses, oratorios, motets, Psalms, and other church music. Zelenka is mentioned in a letter (1775) from Carl Philipp Emanuel to Forkel as one whose works his father had regarded highly in his later years.