The Depue Brothers | Fat Man
The Depue Brothers | Fat Man
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Ok – everyone’s back in town, and Don Liuzzi was intensely trying to finish his transcription of the complete Rodeo Suite score by Copland for the band in time for rehearsal…. Alas, only about ½ got done, but we inched our way forward enough through the “1/2” to realize that Copland’s full Rodeo Suite will be an incredible addition to the DePue Brothers Band repertoire. That’s how the all-day rehearsal finally got going after spending 90 minutes with schedule books and iPhones, putting in schedules for the rest of 2011 (do join us!).Speaking of our schedule, we have some nice additions – Longwood Gardens on July 31, but you better be a “member” of Longwood just to get in the door!
After Copland , we started a new Alex tune called “Shine” — it’s a total crowd-pleaser/toe-tapper. Outside of some tricky two against three moments, the tune is coming along great. It will be a smash. Next was lunch (turkey clubs anyone?) – thank you dearest Gretchen for those groceries!! After lunch was a very fun rehearsal of Lennon /McCartney’s “Fixin a Hole” – Alex worked out our harmonies – let’s hope we remember them for our final rehearsal on June 10th. Which reminds me: June 10th – or June 7th – we should be on Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia… LIVE! — the date will be determined tomorrow, so stay tuned! We did have a great radio taping for WRTI (aired last Saturday), but you can hear the archived “Crossover” with Jill Pasternak, online. Of course it was on while we rehearsed, so we haven’t heard it yet!
After closing up the rehearsal day at 5:30, Jason and I raced downtown to get ready for our final Philly Orchestra concert of the subscription year: Berlioz’ Damnation of Faust (the ride to Hell at the end is a mindblower).
More coming soon – Hey, PLEASE buy tickets to our June 11th show at the Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville…get tix on our website or through www.colonialtheatre.com
OK, all for now!
- Don (the drummer)
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I first saw Jason play at a holiday party at the Curtis Institute when he was a new student there in 1996. I was sitting in my faculty seat – the holiday party is a student concert filled with antics, skits and “light” hearted performances. Jason just blew me away with his incredible virtuosity and panache. He swooned and cajoled his violin into acting like a serenading suitor to a Curtis coed sitting at a make believe café table on stage. This guy had some bravura and moxie with the fiddle!
Then 2 years later he was concert master of the Curtis Orchestra when I got the chance to conduct them in a reading rehearsal. And he was a terrific leader and concertmaster! His practical suggestions to me and the violin section were of great help!
So I was not at all surprised when in his senior year he landed a job in our Philadelphia Orchestra first violin section. Two years later when brother Zachary was finishing his Curtis time, we suspected he would be a shoe-in as well. Zachary had and has amazing fiddle chops, and I got a chance to supervise both of them in an appearance at a local pub with a bluegrass band headed by Mark Cosgrove (being filmed for a documentary on music making called Music From the Inside Out). Zach and Jason were both interviewed in the filming process, as well as featured on a Mermaid Inn bluegrass sit in jam with Cosgrove’s band.
It was THEN that I knew I had at The Philadelphia Orchestra some very serious violinist brother talent.
When the time came to try to create a soundtrack CD for the movie, Jason and Zach said, “Wait until you hear our two other brothers, Wallace and Alex – all four of us together.” Man, were they right. The moment we launched into Maiden’s Prayer with all four brothers at violin helm, my jaw dropped to the floor. It was absolutely symphonic, the lush sounds being afforded to that staple Texas swing tune.
Wallace was stoic and quiet, but when he played, I found his sound was like velvet – so smooth, and beautiful. (Wallace was not always in town in that time frame from 2004-2007 – he was finishing his Doctorate in violin performance from U of Texas. We call him Dr. Wallace now).
Then Alex opened up on a bluegrass tune Blackberry Blossom , and my jaw dropped another foot or two – this brother has AMAZING fiddler’s chops. And so many styles he can play – straight bluegrass, swing, blues, bebop jazz, and hard core rock ala the best of Hendrix, Clapton, and Van Halen. Alex DePue’s playing just bursts out with energy, bravura, and sheer virtuosity. Though classically schooled, he is by far the most unclassical of the brother bunch. His improvisational skills are legendary throughout the fiddle world. We had that recording session in December of 2004 and had an absolute ball! We rehearsed for a night and went in the studio the next day laying out the traditional Maiden’s Prayer, Orange Blossom Special (both arranged by Alex in a very unique way) and added Alex’s new hard driving
A bit over a year passed, and as the movie, Music From the Inside Out, was in mid-run, we decided to reconvene with the film showing and live music from the film at World Café Live. Alex came off his final Chris Keagle tour, we invited young Curtis Institute bass phenom Paul Kowert (now with Chris Thiele and The Punch Brothers) to play his 2nd instrument love – the mandolin, and the rest of us convened, along with first-session incredible banjoist Tony Trischka, to play an extended set, so strongly and seemingly effortlessly led by these DePue Bros. This was at Philadelphia’s World Café Live in January of 2006. After the crowd went nuts, it really was time to think about doing this band more seriously , get some
work, and see if it might become something.
A few gigs came by our way that Spring – we played Cherry Hill New Jersey’s Croft Farm Performing Arts Barn that March, then played a special gala post concert reception for Christoph Eschenbach and Philadelphia Orchestra patrons at the Kimmel Center – to rave response! We had such a good time that we decided to book a few dates that summer of 2006. We got another date in June at World Café
Live, and a house party on the Jersey Shore, and an orchestra picnic reception on the football field of Villanova University (an outdoor concert event for the Philly Orchestra). It was an intense 3 or 4 days, but good music was made. By then we were using our 2nd bassist, Doug Mappe, an extra with Philly, and former teacher of our 1st bassist for the recording session, Ranaan Meyer (Time for Three). We did
decide that private parties and receptions, where we were providing backround music, were not going to be our goal with this band. Time to do featured concerts.
So we got booked for a special Fringe Festival Party in Philly….except all the DePues ended up not being able to play: Zach went off on tour that September with his trio Time for Three, Jason was involved in his own concerts following our Philly Orchestra tour, Wallace was back in Austin Texas to finish his doctorate, and Alex, though scheduled to play, was relocating his life and career that September to San Diego. We did the gig with Paul Kowert on bass, Tony Trischka on banjo, Kenny Kosek on violin, Mark Cosgrove leading the band, along with a guest mandolin friend of Trischka’s. It was a gig, we had fun, but it was certainly not the DePue Brothers Band as advertised in the Fringe Festival post party!
We did do one more performance that fall – an early December, hour-long concert at the Kimmel Center in honor of their 5th anniversary. It was a complete band except Zach, who was on tour. Our bassist for that night was Hal Robinson , principal bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Tony Trischka and Mark were on. Alex came back from his San Diego move to mop up some loose ends and play with us. Wallace came back from his doctoral work in Texas to play the Nutcracker with the PA Ballet, and of course Jason and I were in residence with the Philly Orchestra. We had quite a good time, but it seemed like a last hoorah. The band was either done or in long-term dormancy. I was trying to get the Music from
the Inside Out soundtrack done while fulfilling my teaching and orchestra duties, working on other percussion recording projects, and being a dad.
Fast forward to Fall of 2007: Alex was re-invigorated out west and about to tour with Steve Vai Band, Zach finished off a tour, and we all got together for an orchestra fundraiser event in November of 2007 to perform. We had an absolute hoot of a time, and a few orchestra patrons and friends of mine (along with my brother, Keith) decided to invest in the band to finish a full recording. The sound track from the movie had fizzled, but we had three tracks ready to go. We decided to schedule a recording session in late December. The tunes we would record were “Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Ice Cream Man,” and perhaps a few others. We roughed out a “Sweet Georgia Brown” that ended up not making the album, and most tracks for “Ice Cream Man.” It was a rough day, with a not so great engineer, and a chilly, noisy violin isolated room that was not fun for the Brothers. Young phenom Paul Kowert was on bass.
We would have to reconvene recording sessions essentially in the spring or summer, when more time could be found.
We played a house concert in late January of 2008 – a fund raiser for the Friends of the Mann Music Center. (We have come to realize that accoustic shows in intimate settings for a crowd of 70 or less are very exciting). Recording did not begin again until the summer of 2008, when we started recording in earnest at Melody Vision (Rodney Whittenberg’s studio). Fiddle Faddle, Flint Hill Special, Please Take Me Back, and Plow Train were all banged out in June. We also performed some house concerts and Kimmel Center post-orchestra concerts and got re-invigorated with performing. One of the more memorable moments on stage was seeing Alex go into extra contortions during one of his solos, gyrating much more than usual. We all thought, “wow, he’s really into it..” It turns out his battery-operated flashing light shirt was malfunctioning and prodding his body with electric shocks. In between songs he walked off stage, ripped off the battery back and threw it into the wings…both very funny and very dangerous! New band regular on bass that night was Kevin MacConnell, a fine Philly freelancer, who subsequently was our recording bassist that summer for those 4 tunes.
In the fall, a special session was had for Tony Trischka’s new tune (“Catfish Corners”) and it was successfully birthed on tape. (With bassist, longtime great Larry Cohen, this album could easily be called “Who’s On the Bass”.) Christmas of 2008 recording resumed with “I Wanna Know What I Knew” (Doug Mappe on the revolving bass), fiddle parts for “Catfish Corners, and Jason’s scintillating “Dance of
the Goblins”. Though gigs and concerts were sprinkled in and around May and June of 2009, we were now hard at work on mixing, and recording vocals. Final recording sessions took place in September of 2009, with vocal overdubs, fiddle track retakes for Jason and Zach, and harmonies expertly arranged by Alex. We also finished off all instrumental tracks and vocals for “Muddy Boggy Banjo Man” (Tony Trischka had recorded a banjo track for it a year earlier, but guitar, fiddles, and Alex on the bass were added at that point). Alex was lead producer, with Rodney co-producing at his side.
In November it was mastering time, and once a first master was done we convened at the home of Dr. Richard Davidson, a renowned research doc, who is a recording buff. (His CD collection numbers several thousand!) His perfect listening room with floor-to-ceiling stacked speakers and woofers provided us a perfect opportunity to test the mastered sound. After taking vigorous listening notes, debating the order of songs, and eventually dropping “Sweet Georgia Brown” from this CD, we were done!
Of course it took us a number of weeks to finalize the title of the CD – but we all settled on Weapons of Grass Construction. We originally wanted to call it Weapons of Grass Destruction, but googling the title found it already taken by another band. Wallace, at the eleventh hour, had a brilliant and “constructive” idea of changing the last word to “Construction”. We were all in agreement and relieved!
It had been one heck of a day. We had an early photo session with our lovely and gracious photographer, Vanessa Brinescu-Scherzer, followed by the 5 hour listening debate and tweaks on mastering levels.
We dropped off the master for pressing in late November (giving a master copy to visiting Larry Groce, from Mountain Stage – we subsequently got an offer to play on his show in January of 2010 Morgantown, West Virginia.) We pre-sold about 100 CDs at the DePue Brothers Holdiday Concert in Bowling Green Ohio that Christmas. The full band, now with new banjo regular, the smooth picking Mike Munford, began to perform more regularly – a big presenters conference in NYC, Mountain Stage national public radio show, another World Café Live benefit for the Philly Orchestra, a special Constitution Center show, and finally a wonderful music festival out in the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole Wyoming, where we tasted touring life for the first time, got a serious wage for the first time, and really tested out our collective performance skills. Though we were without Zach, whose incredibly nutty schedule allows him only 3-4 weeks a year with us, we felt it was a great first concert with the full band, beyond the Philadelphia region.
So…what draws me to these brothers? I come from a musical family myself. My brother Keith, sister Jean, mother Glenna, and myself sang and played regularly while growing up. These four DePues, though brothers that shared some of the same teachers early on in their development, have distinctly unique and individual “voices”. Yet they have a very special collective rappore as brothers that I find
absolutely a joyful experience to perfom with. Really quite similar to when a great orchestra like the Philadelphia takes off with familiar Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov symphony, these brothers have a rapport and excitement that is intoxicating in the best of ways – you can’t help but smile!
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Growing up in the De Pue household was like attending a conservatory of music, with the addition of one thing: love. Although I started to study the violin when I was five, I can still remember my older brothers playing duets at the piano before I was five. The images of them playing the violin hasn’t left my mind to this day.
By Jason Micah De Pue
I was blessed to be the third child. I think that there were many things that I learned by being the third in line…a lot of the math had already been done by my two older brothers by the time I came around, and they did all they could to foster, nurture, and develop me (in addition to pestering, teasing, and occasionally using me as a sports device).
Dad began teaching the violin to me when I was five, and after a few months, (as I continued the tradition in our family), I asked Dad if he would no longer be my teacher. He sadly obliged, and a few months later, I found myself studying with violinist, Boris Brant.
Mr. Brant had immigrated to the United States in the late ‘70’s, and happened to land a job at Bowling Green State University. For many years, he had taught at the Stoliarsky School in Odessa, Russia, the same school that produced the likes of Heifetz and Milstein. Knowing what I know now about Mr. Brant, had he not died in January of 1986, the path of my life would have probably been very different.
Mr. Brant was a truly great teacher. He knew the violin so well, and it seems to me that he was going to get me to a certain point and then send me to study with Dorothy Delay at the Julliard School. The reason I believe this is because he had done so with many of his other students in the past. The fact that he died when he did, completely changed the path of my life.
When, two weeks later, Mom died in a car accident, her death devastated all of us, and left us in disarray for quite a while. At that time, the most reliable thing was to play the violin and make music with the family. I had lessons with many different teachers, but there wasn’t a teacher of any consistency, until Vasile Beluska began teaching me. He was a Romanian immigrant who joined the faculty of Bowling Green State University in the fall of 1986. Josha Heifetz had been one of his teachers.
Mr. Beluska taught me for nine years, better known as “the formative years.” He was (and is), a truly selfless individual. He always gave Zach and me extra time every Wednesday evening, and to this day, claims that many of the few gray hairs he has, was a result of teaching us. He was very patient, and dedicated, two important virtues for a successful teacher. During the summers, he had us study with other teachers; this caused us to be fresh in the fall when we returned to him. He was always extremely good to us.
Meanwhile, Dad remarried, and made the wisest decision of his life. Our new mother was Elaine Markopoulos De Pue. She stepped into the picture when I started eighth grade studies. There were new things to adhere to, all of which were healthy. She was, and is, extremely strong. I don’t think there is anyone in this world who has made more sacrifices for other people than Mom.
When I graduated from Bowling Green High School in 1995, I began studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Looking back, although Curtis was ready for me, I wasn’t ready for Curtis until my third year. Attending Curtis was like no other possible experience. When I hear the phrase “culture shock,” an example of it was attending Curtis and being in a microcosm of the world. I quickly learned to say phrases in Chinese and Korean, among other languages. I was a student there for five years, and the Jason who walked in those doors the first day in the fall of 1995, was a very different Jason when walking out of there on the last day of classes in May of 2000. To me, the hallmark in studying at a place like Curtis was to know music on my own terms and to understand it without the outside influences that could have disrupted my own understanding. Open-mindedness, though, should always remain constant. I still remember a quote on the wall in one of the practice rooms. It said: “The wise man adheres to the challenges of life, like water to the receptacle that holds it.” There is no truer statement.
Since graduating, I have become a member of the first violin section of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Every week, playing in the orchestra is an education unto itself. Learning new repertoire is always incredibly exciting, and playing anything I’ve performed before is only that more exciting to play again. This fall, I will be joining the faculty of Temple University’s Music Preparatory Division. Teaching is an important element in my musical life; I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can walk into a room, work one-on-one with a student, and the knowledge that I have gained so far! There certainly is a lot more ground to cover. This is only the beginning!
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Wallace is the brother who, when he puts his mind to something, come hell or high water, he will get it done, no matter how big the project. Learn the Brahms Concerto, no problem. There is a certain character trait in him that I find lacking in many people today, and that is the will to finish what he dreams up in his mind.
Alex is the brother who doesn’t care if it rains or shines, because every day is like southern California for him, as long as there is a fiddle around for him to play. I truly believe that Alex wakes up everyday loving his life in music. How many people can say that when they go to work, they fall in love with it all over again, each and every day? He generates that love on stage, and people love to be around Alex.
Jason is the student of the family, and before you think I’m insulting him, let me clarify. Jason is constantly studying the violin and the repertoire that goes with it. Consistency is a word that comes to mind. Because of his consistent work ethic, he is capable of things on the violin of which I can only dream of. He is constantly finding ways to better himself as a player. He reads books written by the great teachers of the past, and incorporates those techniques not only in his own playing, but also shares that information with his students, when teaching.
As I studied at the famed Curtis Institute of Music, I found that I learned much from my teachers, coaches and conductors. But the ones that gave me the most inspiration and information were the people that I spent almost every day with while I was at school, the students. As I look back on my days at Curtis, I realize that I had my own mini-Curtis back at home. These three brothers were my inspiration: Wallace, Alex, and Jason. Each of them, at one point or another, gave me time. Whether it was Jason writing me a five-page letter as to what repertoire I should start thinking about, or Alex and Wallace spending countless hours teaching me fiddle tunes by ear.
And then there are the other qualities about them that I discussed earlier. They have given me lessons without even realizing it. But before you think this is over, and that I’m going to leave you all misty-eyed thinking that I’m only a brother who looks up at these musical giants with gleaming eyes, I do have scars to prove what I’m about to share with you.
The countless gigs that the family did together had us stuck in the car together hours on end. My brothers had a fun game they liked to play on their youngest sib in the back seat of the car. I, being the youngest brother, was always stuck riding in the middle of the back seat. Hours of fun were spent at my expense when the two brothers (the two brothers always rotated) would count to three and proceed to hit me on the head from both sides. And we’re not talking a nice little tap either. I usually showed up to the concert with a splitting headache.
Jason once cracked my head open with a golf club. He was practicing his swing in the basement of the house when I got in the way of his follow-through. I don’t remember much after that, although I do think that I had to get stitches. To this day I can’t remember that awful day when I was three years old. Thanks Jason.
Then there were those times that I was the innocent victim of a fight between two older brothers. Alex and Wallace once had it out in the car. I remember Alex threw a right cross that missed the intended target completely and found my cheekbone. To this day I can’t remember what happened after that, or even what age I was when it happened. Thanks Alex.
And then there is wonderful Wallace. He once decided to give me a hair cut in his room located in the basement of our house. At first, I thought he knew what he was doing since he swore up and down that he had cut a friend’s hair and had a great hairstyle just waiting for me. Well, after a couple hours of evening out this side, and trimming that side, and balancing the left side of my bangs with the right, I had nothing more to cut. What I should say is that there were only patches of hair left. I looked like a rat that had just met a cat in the back alley. I mean the hair on my head was cut to shreds. To tell you the truth, to this day I can’t remember what happened after that, so much pulling and cutting of my hair left my brain numb. Thanks Wallace.
So there you have it. Growing up with these three guys has been both inspirational and physically painful all at the same time. There is one ingredient to this family that I have left out, and that is the parenting that was involved with all of this. Dad was, and is the catalyst and the reason the four of us stand today as musicians.
There is not a parent in the entire world who can say s/he is a perfect parent; the only true judges of parenting are those receiving it (maybe not at the exact moment they were receiving their grounding for the weekend, but later in life) In retrospect, I can honestly say that Dad was as close as one can get to being a perfect parent.
Raising four violin-playing sons takes more than just a pat on each son’s back or a check to pay for lessons. Dad was always around, which is more than I can say for most parents. He was around even when you didn’t want him around. He was always busting your chops if you hadn’t worked that day, and expecting you to achieve the highest possible standards. Dad puts those parents to shame who think that paying the bills for their kids is what it’s all about. Dad didn’t show his love materialistically as much as he showed it physically.
He provided us with the tools necessary to become performers, and was always creating a performance venue so that we were constantly in front of audiences. His love went beyond music, however. I remember countless nights going to see a movie with Dad, or playing a game of miniature golf (which to this day I am the champion of, although he would try to argue that). As busy as we were as a family, Dad made an effort to do something fun from time to time, and it always felt that much sweeter after a successful performance, or a day of practice.
His concept was, and I think still is, that the relaxing part of your day feels much better when you have accomplished something during the day. Maybe I shouldn’t say “perfect” parent, because there is no such thing. But a parent whose own children appreciate what he did for them, is a successful parent.
Although I would like to end this here, there is one other person that we are forgetting, perhaps the most important. As you are probably aware, our mom was killed in 1986, which put me just a shy under the age of 7 when it happened. That leaves a lot of growing up to do without a mother. Elaine, or Mom as I like to call her, filled the shoes left behind, and then went on to create her own shoe store.
A wonderful lady, she provided guidance to each of us. She can be very tough and demanding in areas of life other than music. At the time it seemed trivial, but she made the biggest deals about the smallest things. I think one thing she taught me, that I relate to violin and performing to this day, is that you have to do those things you don’t necessarily like doing, and do them well, in order to achieve those things you like to do.
That “thing” for me is called practicing. The toughest part of practicing, for me, is pulling the instrument out of the case. It’s amazing how something that you think you won’t like, turns into one of the most fascinating things in your life. I have that revelation every day I practice.
Each of these people have had a greater impact on me as a musician than anyone else in the business of music. I feel lucky that I get to call these people, brother, father, mother, and most importantly, my family.
Zachary Jon De Pue
Four-hundred words will not suffice in describing what it was like growing up in a musical family. I feel I am the luckiest out of the four brothers in the family. Outside of being everyone’s toy to throw around, kick, punch, and generally destroy (or at least try to; I am still here, writing this.) I had the guidance of three older brothers and two wonderful parents. Each person has qualities that to this day I admire and try to instill in myself.
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The DePue Brothers’ International Fiddle Competition will be held in Bowling Green, OH from Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, 2011 at the Bowling Green Performing Arts Center. The potential earnings for any contestant is $3000 should he/she be awarded 1st place in both of our divisions. The overall goal we intend to achieve from this endeavor is one big check going back into the city, my hometown of Bowling Green, made out to the BG Public School District’s Music Education program(s), and we have already begun our fund-raising drive!
The winner of our NON-Certified division, the “OPEN Open” (no rules! …details to be announced), has a chance at an additional $1000 plus a “Recording Contract” with Spontaneous Records, a sub-division of The Fiddler LLC, including two days of FREE studio time in Philadelphia, PA (compliments of Melodyvision Audio/Visual Recording Studio) and possibly a chance to appear onstage with DePue Brothers Band during the winner’s visit to Philadelphia if scheduling permits. (www.depuebrothersband.com)
All Top 10 Contestants will be awarded monies along with a new bow (compliments of Glasser Manufacturing in NYC) and a new set of Thomastic-Dominant violin strings (compliments of Connolley and Company, also in NY State) and trophies/plaques (compliments of The Copy Shop in Bowling Green, OH). In addition to the competition itself, we will feature appearances by The DePue Brothers (on Saturday, October 1st, celebrating our father Dr. Wallace DePue, Sr.’s birthday!), DePue/DeHoyos (on Friday September 30th) and also from The Bistodeau Family Band and MORE! Very exciting.
Our confirmed celebrity judges so far for the formal Certified division are:
Megan B. Lynch
Dr. Wallace DePue, Jr.
We will keep you updated on the competition as it develops. Please email me for more information on the competition.