Talent, devotion to piano key for grad student’s success, future

Winning a regional contest is just the start for this student, whose professor sings his praise.

by Lily Langerud

As a child, Andrew Staupe quit piano lessons because he didn’t want to practice. Now he puts in seven hours a day in hopes of starting a career as a professional pianist.

The 21-year-old piano performance graduate student took first place in the 2006 WAMSO Young Artist Competition, a regional contest sponsored by the WAMSO-Minnesota Orchestra Volunteer Association.

“It felt eerily similar to getting a Grammy or something,” Staupe said of the $8,500 in awards from the first-place finish and other awards that also include performances with the Minnesota Orchestra and at a New York radio station.

Staupe has studied with Lydia Artymiw, University Distinguished McKnight Professor, for the past four years and is her second student to win the award. She described him as a well-rounded musician with a curiosity about everything that “makes him very different from the virtuoso prodigy who will sit in a practice room for 10 hours a day.”

Staupe said he chose to study at the University in part because of Artymiw.

“I am who I am because of her,” he said. “She said all that music requires is everything and I’m living proof of that.”

Homeschooled since sixth grade, Staupe has had a variety of interests, including acting with the Guthrie Theater to golf caddying and pingpong. Artymiw attributed Staupe’s talents in part to the freedom in his education.

“When you’re homeschooled, there are no boundaries and I think that’s one of the reasons Andrew developed this memory and this appetite for learning,” she said.

Staupe has perfect pitch ” the ability to identify a note immediately upon hearing it ” and can learn a concerto piece in a week, something that Artymiw said would take a talented student at least three months.

“He’s very self-confident, but also very humble,” Artymiw said.

Confidence on the stage has never been a problem, but being nervous is an essential part of a performance because of the energy it provides, Staupe said.

As a sophomore at the University, Staupe won the opportunity to play with the University Symphony and got sick an hour before the show.

“I remember wanting to die ” not because I was nervous, but because I was ill,” he said.

After the performance and a solo encore, Staupe was sick for two weeks.

“I realize I can do anything in performance if I can do that,” he said.

University sophomore Seth Jorgensen, Staupe’s friend and former roommate, said the two became friends when they lived together in a scholarship house.

He remembered Staupe giving him his tickets to a Dave Brubeck concert because he knew Jorgensen was a bigger jazz fan. Jorgensen, a saxophonist, said Staupe collected movies for a while and enjoys normal college student activities.

“He’s not just a music geek,” Jorgensen said.

Outside his classes, Staupe teaches private piano lessons to kids at St. Joseph School of Music in St. Paul.

He said his ultimate goal is to perform professionally and get a professorship at a major university.

“I couldn’t see myself doing anything other than music,” he said.