Classical pianist brings his work ‘into 20th century’
By JESSICA ZIMMER / Santa Rosa Correspondent
Dr. Rudolf Budginas can’t wait for the first performance of his upcoming Santa Rosa Junior College concert, “Piano on the Edge.”
“I think this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Budginas.
Budginas’s arrangement of classical piano, jazz, electronic, and rock music features a dark, metal-style “Swan Lake” and Vivaldi’s “Seasons” in a “dubsteppy style.”
“It’s going to sound epic,” said Budginas.
The performance, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, features Kenny Lee Lewis, guitarist for The Steve Miller Band; John Whitney, drummer for Sonoma County band Kingsborough; the Santa Rosa Junior College orchestra and the Santa Rosa Junior College Choir.
Budginas said the “project was maturing inside my ears and my brain for a long time,” but that it took him two months to put the composition on paper.
“I still don’t know what’s going to happen at the end. I have it in my head. It could be good, or really great,” said Budginas.
Budginas, who joined the Department of Music at Santa Rosa Junior College as a faculty member in the fall of 2012, said the concert is a fundraiser to benefit local students in the arts.
After teaching at SRJC for more than a year, Budginas said he is struck by the diversity of the college’s student body and the fact that his students are extremely “driven, especially career-driven.”
He said that even though he is SRJC’s digital audio coordinator, it is his mission to show young musicians that it is important to learn classical music.
“It develops your taste, your sensitivity,” said Budginas.
“It’s the only way to develop great skill.”
Budginas, who trained as a classical pianist, made his debut at 9 with the Lithuanian National Symphony. He earned his Master’s and Doctorate of Music Arts degrees from the University of Southern California. Budginas then taught at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo and worked as a conductor at Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula.
Coming to northern California has expanded his musical tastes because San Francisco is a center for electronic music.
“I started to be interested in (electronic music) when I got to Los Angeles,” Budingas said. “There was nothing like that when I grew up in Lithuania,” which was then part of the former Soviet Union.
Now, Budginas puts together tracks with Ableton Live, the standard software for professional DJs, using a variety of sounds and synthesizers.
Budginas’s last album, “Ambient Romance,” was more “classical piano, with one third crossover, more jazzy-type tracks.”
He wants his next CD to feature more crossover pieces.
Budginas said he thinks it is important for classical musicians such as him to take their “creativity forward.”
“We (classical musicians) usually play pieces written 200, 300 years ago. I’m trying to…collaborate with modern artists. I want to bring my work into the 21st century,” said Budginas.
Budginas said he usually starts by using classical music as a foundation. He then blends it with elements from pop and other current music to create something fresh.
“That’s part of why (teaching at SRJC) is an inspiration. I can help (my students) in all aspects (of their professional lives): teach them about different types of music, touring and performing. They keep me updated (about current music). I like to be surrounded by the students all the time,” said Budginas.
If You Go: “Piano on the Edge” takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19 at Santa Rosa Junior College, 1501 Mendocino Avenue. Price: $20 general admission, $50 reserved seating. Call 524-1538 or visit santarosa.edu/foundation or pianoontheedge.com.