Pianist Andrew Staupe is a 2010 and 2013 YTA Gold Medalist and a 2009 Silver Medalist.
He recently shared an update on his career with us.
It’s been nine years since you won Young Texas Artists’ Gold Medal in Piano — for the second time! How would you say your experiences with YTA impacted you and your music career?
For every young artist, and actually, ANY artist, external validation of your art is a critical necessity — for various reasons. This is why music critics have evolved into a cornerstone for artists’ biographies, why CD reviews exist, and Golden Globe/Academy Awards exist for visual art. Art, in its various guises, is so completely subjective that often we are simply unable to accurately gauge how we compare to other peers, both nationally and internationally.
Winning Gold in 2013 helped me see that my work was indeed paying off, and that my confidence was affirmed outside of my own mind and heart.
I think every success in one’s own life serves this sort of external purpose, and thus for a burgeoning artist, it is such a terrific method of saying, “Keep going, you’re doing GREAT!”
Plus, the additional prize money didn’t hurt, either.
What have you been up to since then?
Since those Gold Medals, things have continued to expand in my dual career as a concert pianist and a professor. I graduated with my doctorate of musical arts from Rice University in 2016 and started teaching at the University of Utah in August 2016. After a three-year stint in the gorgeous mountains, I applied to the University of Houston in 2019 and have been a Professor of Piano here at UH since then. It’s fun to return to the city where I spent so many years!
In the sphere of concert pianism, since those victories, I’ve been able to continue performing with major orchestras all around the world, including debuts with top orchestras in South America and Europe.
What have been some of the more memorable moments of your music career so far? Why were they meaningful to you?
Naxos CD: I went to Denmark to record the complete violin/piano music of Carl Nielsen with my colleague Hasse Borup in 2019. Having a professional CD is a benchmark in any concert pianist’s career, so it was an incredible (and incredibly stressful) journey to finally start my recording career.
Orchestras: Since 2013, I’ve been able to work with some of the best orchestras in the world, including the Baltimore Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Houston Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, the George Enescu Philharmonic (Romania’s top orchestra), the Orquestra Filarmonica de Bogotá (Colombia’s top orchestra), and dozens of others around North America.
Recitals: I have performed in some of the coolest places to play concerts as a solo pianist, including Carnegie Hall, Rachmaninov Hall in Moscow, the esteemed Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, and in Robert Schumann’s own living room in Leipzig.
What are your goals from here?
Despite the major career delay of COVID-19, my goals are still exactly the same as they were before. I would love to make some more CDs for Naxos and beyond, continue to help build an even more sought-after piano area at the University of Houston, and play with even more top orchestras around the world.
Please tell us what you enjoy doing for fun or to relax. Do you have any hobbies?
It’s super important for artists to relax and take time off, even during an insane semester or concert season! I cannot emphasize this enough. Music history is littered with countless stories of composers and performers who simply didn’t rest, and too much of a good thing can drive anyone mad… I’m as focused and driven as anyone I know, but I think sanity is maintained and increased with perspective, rest, and downtime.
I love watching and playing sports, so the NFL season is something I look forward to every year. I’ve always loved gaming, so over the years I’ve amassed over 40-50 PlayStation 4 video games and marveled at their beautiful worlds. It’s dangerous, though! One can easily spend an entire day within Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed Black Flag, or Rocket League…
Please tell us about your musical tastes. Have they changed over the years? How?
I’ve always been a bit of an outlier with my musical tastes (listening), as I tend to not listen to classical music a lot — or piano music more specifically. I find that my appreciation of classical music is producing it, so many times it feels far too casual for me to listen to concerts rather than perform them myself. I love early music, especially Renaissance masters (Dufay, Gabrieli, and Ockeghem are my jam!) and Medieval composers like Perotin and Machaut. Choral music is so beautiful, so I can’t get enough of it. Russian oktavist music is also a secret passion of mine. If you don’t know what oktavists are, go! Incredible.
Apart from classical, I love ’90s rap (I’m definitely showing my age now), classic jazz like Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum/Bill Evans, and have slowly gotten around to listening to some classic rock from the ’60s and ’70s — great stuff! I also slowly have been getting into ’80s music more these days, likely from peer pressure from my colleagues. Slowly but surely, I’ll be a well-rounded listener after all!
What advice would you offer young artists who are just starting their music careers?
Be true to what you want, and be honest with yourself. If you have a burning desire to do X, GO FOR IT. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise if you feel that you have the abilities to do it. Being honest with one’s self is also super important. We’re all a product of differing innate talent and ability — and exposure to various opportunities to cultivate that from within. For example, I love NFL, and a $150 million contract for five years wouldn’t be bad at all, but I had to be honest with myself years ago that being an elite QB wasn’t in the cards for me. I’m not 6-foot-5, don’t have a rocket arm, didn’t have exposure playing high school and college football, and so I didn’t exert any time or effort into trying to actualize something that would never pan out.
Conversely, I started piano much, much later than most of my concert pianist peers, so many external people said that a concert career wasn’t in the cards for me. However, I knew that certain abilities I had were there, so I worked and worked and continuously placed myself in positions to get lucky, and lo and behold, fortune fell my way from time to time. I think it’s crucial to recognize what you may have within you with unfettered honesty and ambition, and then surround yourself with inspiration and mentors that can build this to success.