Artist-Faculty Series reaches beyond performance

Courtesy Photo / Giuseppe Lupis
Giuseppe Lupis will be performing with fellow faculty member Marlen Vavrikova

Courtesy Photo / Giuseppe Lupis Giuseppe Lupis will be performing with fellow faculty member Marlen Vavrikova

Grace Sterenberg

Grand Valley State University Oboe professor Marlen Vavrikova, who is originally from Czech Republic, and piano professor Giuseppe Lupis, who is originally from Italy, share not only a common European background but a lifestyle dedicated to music as well. The two will play together at the Artist-Faculty Series from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. today along with Gregory Crowell on the harpsichord.

Both Vavrikova and Lupis said they have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know one another through their rehearsals.

“We enjoy talking about European music and food,” Vavrikova said. “I always enjoy playing with colleagues because we can learn from each other and have a good time, and it’s a good excuse to get to know them better too.”

Lupis agreed and stressed the importance of getting to know the person you will accompany beyond a strictly musical level.

“I feel that a lot of affinity that is not only musical but goes beyond that to a personal level makes for the best performance,” he said.

Both Vavrikova and Lupis were exposed to music at a young age and owe at least some of their success to family. Vavrikova began playing the oboe at age 10 and said she appreciated the encouragement from her mother all along the way. She said similar to the horn and violin, oboe is an instrument that is challenging for beginning students, which can be frustrating.

“The first couple of years when I started (playing the oboe) were challenging for both (my mother) and me,” she said. “It was her support, encouragement, and love that kept me going.”

Vavrikova’s mother, a pianist, was able to motivate and inspire her in more ways as well.

“My mother is also a musician, so she was the one that nurtured my relationship with music, and when I was little we always played together,” Vavrikova said. “I have the best memories of spending time with her, just listening to her practice and having her read through pieces to play with me.”

Lupis’ first experience with the piano was at a cousin’s house. After showing an interest in the insturment, he began lessons at age 8. Since then, his life has become focused on music in every way.

“I cannot think of my life without music — I really cannot,” he said. “Today, all of my interests and hobbies revolve around music.”

Lupis came to the U.S. from Italy about 10 years ago for his sabbatical at a college in Georgia. After it was over, he got married and chose to stay.

Though he said the accomplishment he has been most proud of throughout his years would be his family, he added that all of his professional accomplishments have also been significant to him as they are all part of the developing process.

“A real musician is built on many steps,” he said. “It’s not just one thing, like playing at Carnegie Hall, that makes you a musician. It’s the whole process.”

While almost all of Lupis’ time is dedicated to music, he said if he had to choose any other career he would be a chef. He loves to cook as well as compose music and organize events, concerts and competitions.

Vavrikova’s little free time is spent drawing and painting as art is a passion of hers.

“With music, I have to do it now when I have the strength,” she said. “For art, I need to acquire a lot of knowledge and stories that I can contribute to my artwork later during my retirement when I have more time.”

For now, though, both Lupis and Vavrikova agree that teaching is their priority and love to share their love for music with their students.

“I love to see how my students grow, how they come here with the enthusiasm,” Vavrikova said. “I see them get into their studies, I see them stumble at first and sometimes even fall for the first time and I help them get up and keep going. In the end when they leave, they are independent and they call me to tell me about their successes and that’s what’s really wonderful to me.”

Lupis agreed and said teaching music is more than just a job for him.

“It’s really just like an extended family, like my students are my children almost,” he said. “So I try to give them the best that I can possibly do.”

Tonight’s event will be held at Sherman Van Solkema Recital Hall in the Performing Arts Center and is free and open to the public. For more information about Vavrikova and Lupis’ professional accomplishments, visit

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