Emma Noël Votapek PDF Print E-mail

Emma Noel VotapekViolinist Emma Noël Votapek holds the assistant principal 2nd violin position in the Tucson Symphony.  Prior to joining the TSO, she was a member of the Honolulu Symphony for five years.

Emma has a Master of Music degree in violin performance from the University of Minnesota, where she studied with Jorja Fleezanis.  During her time in Minnesota, she played with the Minnesota Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, and other orchestras in the region.  She completed her undergraduate studies at Rice University as a student of Sergiu Luca, graduating summa cum laude with degrees in both violin performance and economics.

An active chamber musician, Emma has performed locally with the KingFisher and DayStar String Quartets, and has appeared recently at the University of Arizona, on the St. Andrew's Bach Society series, at the studios of Hawaii Public Radio, on the Pacific International Concert Artists series, and in numerous other venues in Hawaii and the mainland.  She also currently performs with the Tucson Chamber Artists and Art.if.Act Dance Project.

In addition to performing, Emma has extensive experience teaching violin and coaching chamber music, most recently at the prestigious Punahou School in Honolulu and the Sierra Academy of Music in California.  During the summer, she participates in the Britt Festival and the Mammoth Lakes Music Festival.

When not engaged in musical pursuits, Emma enjoys hiking and backpacking (especially in the high Sierra) and rooting for her home team, the Michigan State Spartans.


When did you start playing the violin? When I was about five years old.  I started, in Japan, on both the violin and piano.  When my family moved back to the States, my brother and I started over using the Suzuki method.

Why did you choose your instrument? My parents chose it for me.

What other instruments do you play? I've played the viola since high school.

What makes the violin special? There is such a rich performance tradition dating back many centuries, and I wouldn't trade the repertoire for that of any other instrument (except piano).

What advice would you give to kids learning to play your instrument? First learning how to play a stringed instrument is very challenging.  Be patient, and make sure you get a solid technical foundation - it is much better to learn it right the first time than to have to unlearn bad habits!

When did you know you wanted to be a musician? I was very conflicted as a high school senior, trying to decide whether to go the musical or academic route.  In the end, I couldn't imagine giving up music.

What's the best part about being a musician? It's like being able to speak another language that can be richer and more meaningful than what we speak everyday.  Or rather, it bypasses language, and that's a wonderful thing to share with colleagues and the audience.

Guilty musical secret: I have a soft spot for J-pop (Japanese pop music).

Most memorable musical moment: Listening to my soon-to-be husband play the cello solo from the slow movement of Brahms' C minor piano quartet during our wedding ceremony.

What would your career be if you hadn’t chosen to be a musician? I had a great environmental economics class in college that piqued my interest in the field, and I taught English in Japan for a year after college (and loved it), so those would be two possibilities.

Hobbies: Hiking/backpacking, reading, sight-reading parties, and I'm a sports nut (especially when it comes to Michigan State).

Favorite composers: Brahms, Mahler, Beethoven, Bartok, Strauss...

Hometown: Okemos, Michigan (just outside of East Lansing)

What are your favorite movies? Amelie, Like Water for Chocolate, City of Lost Children, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Pride & Prejudice (BBC)

What good recording have you listened to most recently? Mengelberg conducting the Concertgebouw in Mahler

Favorite Tucson restaurant: My husband loves Mexican food, so Guadalajara Grill has become a favorite.  I also love Miss Saigon, and have been happy to find several good places for sushi.