Alicia and her family during the recent GRS Youth Chorus tour to Iceland.
Musician Profile: Alicia Eppinga
My name is Alicia Eppinga and I have been in the Grand Rapids Symphony for 30 years! I grew up in Grand Haven, where I spent a lot of time riding my bike and, of course, going to the beach. I was raised in a musical household, though neither of my parents are professional musicians. My first music teachers were my mother and my grandmother. I started piano around age 5 with my mom. She also directed the children's choirs at our church, which I loved being a part of.
At age 7, I began studying piano with my Grandma, who was a full-time piano teacher. I can truly say that, without these lessons from my Grandma, I likely would not have succeeded as a professional musician. She was a tough yet caring teacher, and did not treat me or my siblings any differently than other students. She had her students keep a notebook for theory and music history lessons, and I had to regularly sightread, compose and perform. She had 2 small grand pianos in her living room, so we played duets often. Her insistence on playing together, having knowledge of music, and playing expressively were invaluable to me. I am very happy to own one of her pianos, while the other is at my parents' house.
At age 9, I began cello through the public school system, and began lessons with the principal cellist of the West Shore Symphony. We attended most of these concerts, and I loved watching Miss Fisher play!
At age 15, I was rather unexpectedly accepted to the Interlochen Arts Academy. The school desperately needed cellists that year! When I started at IAA, I sat last chair and realized that I was going to have to work very hard to play like the other students there. At this time, I was still considering other options for a career, especially mathematics, but when I took Calculus, I knew that music was for me!
I attended Oberlin Conservatory for my undergraduate degree and loved the atmosphere there as well as my wonderful teacher, Richard Kapuszcinski. He would often talk to us about "taking off our blinders", being involved in things other than music, and practicing in a smart way. He was a great influence on me as a player, teacher, and person. I did my graduate work at the Eastman School of Music with Steven Doane, another warm and caring teacher. After graduating, I had no idea what I was going to do, but my mom had heard about a cello audition in the GRS. Thankfully, I had taken an orchestra excerpt class at Eastman and was somewhat prepared. I won the audition for 3rd chair, moved to assistant principal, where I sat for 20 years, and am now extremely proud to be the principal of an amazing cello section!
I am married to violinist (mechanic, fixer-upper, and great guy) Jim, who now subs with the GRS. We have 2 children - Leo, 16, and Iris, 13. Since we are always asked, I will tell you that yes, they play string instruments! Leo plays violin and Iris plays bass. They both enjoy art, reading, and hanging out at our home, which is out in the woods in Ada. We enjoy our family vacations, which have taken us all over the U.S. in our little camper.
When I was in school, I never thought that I would end up back in West Michigan, but I am so glad I did! This has been a great place to raise our kids, enjoy nature, watch a city grow, and work with this wonderful orchestra.
(Note from GRSMA: Alicia will be featured soloist in Haydn's Cello Concerto No 1 on the GRS Classical series April 17-18.)