World-Class Pianist to Play with ELHS Wind Ensemble

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 8:30 am
Lucas Walters

Above: Ralph Votapek in a photograph from MSU.

The East Lansing High School Wind Ensemble will perform “Rhapsody in Blue” with Ralph Votapek, an East Lansing resident with a highly distinguished career. The concert will take place this Friday, April 27, at 7:30pm in the East Lansing High School auditorium and is free and open to the public.

“Rhapsody in Blue” was written in 1924 by George Gershwin and features several extended piano solos. “That is probably the only piece in my repertoire that I don’t have to practice hours and hours,” Votapek said of the work.

Votapek taught Piano for 36 years at Michigan State University before retiring. He has also performed with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

“His biggest claim to fame probably was that he won the very first Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which is kind of the most significant piano competition,” David Larzelere, the East Lansing band director, told ELi.

The Wind Ensemble is playing with Votapek simply because Larzelere contacted him. “I just called him out of the blue and asked him if he was available and interested in playing with the band,” Larzelere said.

Larzelere reached out because “I think it’s a great opportunity to be able to perform with such a world-class musician and a world-class artist, and a great opportunity for our school to be able to feature such a talented pianist.”

Below: Votapek and Larzelere at rehearsal last week

Votapek says he is looking forward to the concert, a sentiment shared by ELHS senior Cade Dembski, who as the group’s First Chair clarinetist will be playing the piece’s well-known opening clarinet line.

“I’m super excited for that concert, kind of obviously for me,” Dembski tells ELi. “I have a rather fun role in that, because the ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ solo is sort of famous, and I get the opportunity to perform the solo.” Next fall, Dembski will attend MSU to study clarinet with Professor Mingzhe Wang.

Larzelere’s main hope for the concert is that individuals from the community unrelated to performers in the band will show up. “I just encourage people to come. One of my dreams at East Lansing is to get people to come and enjoy our concerts not necessarily because they have a kid in it but because they are high quality.”

“This is one of those concerts that I think that everybody will enjoy coming to just because of the level of musicianship,” Larzelere said.


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