BIG ARTS to present renowned band of brothers
When the city of Philadelphia jacked up property taxes in Wallace DePue Jr.’s neighborhood about five years ago, Southwest Florida gained a very valuable asset.
By 2014, the professional musician had moved south and was in residence in Fort Myers.
The eldest son of Wallace DePue Sr., renowned pianist, prolific composer and professor emeritus of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, DePue Jr. is a freelance musician and a member of The DePue Brothers Band, which will play on Jan. 12 at the BIG ARTS Schein Hall. Being a homeowner in Southwest Florida means DePue frequently substitutes for local orchestras, including the Naples Philharmonic, Southwest Florida Symphony and Charlotte Symphony, in addition to being the local draw for his brothers to come here and play.
The brothers include Jason, a member of the first violin section of the Philadelphia Orchestra, as is brother Zachary; and Alex, a champion fiddler who has toured with recording artist Chris Cagle, actor and singer Kevin Costner and, most recently, Mexican guitarist Miguel De Hoyos. But that is merely a skim over their combined credits, which include Grammy nominations, concertmaster positions, top teaching gigs and national touring with John Williams’ “Star Wars” National Tour Concert Orchestra.
The brothers’ original Florida tie started with their paternal grandmother, who lived in Englewood from the late 1970s and throughout the ’80s.
“We’d come here at Christmas every year,” DePue said.
Further incentive to relocate from Philadelphia was a good friend from elementary school who moved to Fort Myers in 2006.
DePue played his first recital at a church bazaar in rural Bowling Green, Ohio, when he was 7. His father played piano. The DePue Family Band had its first gigs in 1979, and included DePue Jr.’s mother, pianist Linda Kallman DePue, until she died in a car accident in 1986. DePue Sr. is now retired, but still composes every day, his son said.
The brothers all principally learned to play violin. They were taught by university professors, but their father was the musical taskmaster.
“Every day my dad would come home (from teaching at the university) and say, ‘Did you get your time in?'” he said.
They were expected to practice two hours a day and there was never any question that they’d obey dad’s edict, he added.
They all eventually played multiple instruments, DePue Jr. a little guitar; Alex a bass guitar; Jason a mandolin and powerful bass vocals; and Zachary mainly a violin but also vocal harmonies.
Although the brothers are scattered throughout the country, they collaborate online and send MP3s back and forth.
“We can’t play simultaneous that way,” DePue said, “but we’ll take turns and play something and say, ‘Hey, what do you think of this?'”
And that suffices until they are together to rehearse.
What they play in concert is an assortment of genres, the set list being “what four neurotic musicians” can agree upon, DePue Jr. said, admitting with a sly smile that “it’s sometimes hard to treat each other as adult professionals” and not slip into boyhood roles.
But they make it work, playing what DePue defines as “grassical” music – a combination of bluegrass and classical that on one stage can have them playing “Orange Blossom Special,” “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” “Little Brown Jug Theme and Variations” and a composition based on “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” a song by the rock band Yes.
“Our concerts are not monotonous,” DePue Jr. said. “We keep our audiences on the edge of their chairs.”
The brothers will be joined at BIG ARTS by drummer Don Liuzzi, principal timpani with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and banjo player Mike Munford.