Rudolf Budginas, Piano Virtuoso
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Rudolf Budginas, Piano Virtuoso

Grover Beach, California, United States

Grover Beach, California, United States
Band Classical Comedy




"Renowned Pianist Rudolf Budginas Takes Classical Music for a Spin"

Rudolf Budginas isnAEt interested in playing classical music the way it was written.

The 40-year-old Lithuanian-born musician is well aware of its reputation for being long and boring, but his Oct. 18 concert in Arlington Heights promises to be anything but a snoozer.

"I think classical music is in a danger zone," Budginas said. "For me, I try to give the audience a good time, so they donAEt fall asleep during the show."

The concert will feature BudginasAEs take on classical hits like "Moonlight Sonata" and "Hungarian Rhapsody," as well as personal stories about growing up in Lithuania. … - Daily Herald


Classical pianists aren’t known for being outrageously entertaining, but Rudolf Budginas likes to twist the conventional image.
“I am not here to show you that I have a doctorate,” he said. “My goal is to entertain.”
While growing up in Lithuania, Budginas had dreamed of being a classical musician, but it took the fall of the Soviet Union for him to make that happen. When travel restrictions ended, he came to America to find musical success.
Seven years ago, he began experimenting with the norms of classical music for his audience. His experiment got an incredible positive reaction from the crowd, Budginas said.
“I break down the wall between the musician on the stage and the audience,” he said. “Create the atmosphere of being in their living room.”
Budginas will perform at in the Marshfield High School auditorium at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.
His concert will feature hits such as “Rhapsody in Blue” and “Moonlight Sonata” among others, and he will blend them with country music and various genres.
When he’s not engaging the audience, he said he is an avid surfer — a sport virtually nonexistent in Lithuania. Though he’d like to surf local beaches, he doesn’t bring his surfboard on tour. There isn’t time for it, and he might get strange looks driving through Kansas later in the tour with a surfboard on top of his car.
Blending of genres like tango, blues, world, jazz and classical music creates a unique sound that will surely provoke a response from the crowd, Budginas said.
Growing up in a Soviet-controlled country can produce an interesting perspective on things. Budginas has lived in America for several years now, but the culture shock hasn’t slowed him down. His background has motivated him to soak up the American way of life and all of its freedoms.
“I love meeting new people,” he said. “I like exploring my new culture.”
The people fascinate Budginas the most. Sometimes people make fun of his bizarre accent, but he doesn’t mind, because he considers it an important part of his persona.
He said he knows no limits for his career. He just wants to surf, explore the culture, meet some people and play his own unusual brand of music anywhere he can.
“My dream is to travel the universe and have an intergalactic concert tour,” Budginas said. - The World (Coos Bay, OR)

"Budginas Find the Fun Side of the Classics"

Pianist Rudolf Budginas appeared as the featured artist in the second concert of the Community COncert season. He teaches music in California and likes to have fun with classical music. He enjoys crossing his polished technique in classical works with popular music features related tot he classics. For instance, he played some Haydn on a harmonica and turned Beethoven's "Fifth" into a toe-tapping boogie-woogie number, then played the first movement of the "Moonlight Sonata" by the light of a disco ball. "I've never had a classical pianist ask to use the disco ball before, but I guess there's a first for everything," said Memorial Theater technician John nixon.

Some of the most impressive keyboard fireworks came just before intermission, when Budginas segued from Johnny Cash's "Walk the Line' to Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6."

In the second half, Budginas had an interesting way of livening up a Chopin "Prelude." "Why don't we take Chopin to Brazil and give him a mojito," he said.

he played a dreamy version of the Scott Joplin rage "Solace," followed by a tango take on Schubert's "Serenade."

Budginas brought volunteers up on stage for a very fun sequence based on the "Habanera" from Bizet's opera "Carmen."oOne of the volunteers was local teenager Scott Martin, fresh off his victory Saturday afternoon in the Knox County Symphony's Young Musicians Concert, where he played Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." One hopes we'll get to heart that or something equally good at the KCS winter concert in February.

Budginas, meanwhile, closed with is own arrangement of "Rhapsody in Blue," which received a standing ovation. - Mount Vernon News

"In the Limelight, Rudolf Budginas"

See URL (.pdf only available) - Midland (TX) Reporter-Telegram

"Musical History Tour, Pianist Rudolf Budginas Blends Humor, Education and Music"

When Rudolf Budginas plays classical piano, he tries to take his audience on a humorously educational trip.

He's been on a few of those himself.

Budginas (pronounced bud-guinness) begins a really big journey tonight at Lodi's Hutchins Street Square, the first stop on an 82-city, 32-state U.S. tour that's his most ambitious yet. It's also the opening show in the 2009-10 Lodi Community Concert series.


Rudolf Budginas

What: Lodi Community Concert series

When: 7:30 p.m. today

Where: Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St., Lodi

Admission:$25; $15 (students); $75-$150 (season)

Information: (209) 333-0360


Oct. 6: Duo Concertante

Nov. 5: Butch Thompson Trio

Feb. 5: Daniel Rodriguez

March 22: Casey MacGill's Blue 4 Trio

"Lodi. I've never been there," he said with genuine enthusiasm. "I'm very excited to see new places - little pockets. For me, it's another opening to the heartland of the country. That's what I'm really wanting to see."

Budginas, 40, grew up in a musical family in Lithuania when it still was part of the Soviet Union.

It was the first Soviet republic to break away from the communist state (in 1990), and "now we have bigger malls than here. They look like spaceships over there."

He left his hometown of Plunge as a teenager to study at Russia's rigorous and classically formal Moscow Conservatory.

He's been striking his own notes of independence since.

"My music is done in an entertaining way rather than with stuffy old formality," said Budginas, whose prodigious skills have allowed him to travel around Europe and the world.

He made his biggest trip when he was 21.

A professor with whom he was touring Russia recommended he apply to the University of Southern California's graduate school. He was awarded a full music scholarship.

"I just packed my bags and went to L.A.," said Budginas, who didn't speak English when he arrived in Southern California from Lithuania's small (3.6 million) and tightly knit society. "That was very hard. I came with all the illusions from all the movies and TV shows in Europe: 'Oh, boy, palm trees, Hollywood,' and expecting everybody to greet me.

"Everything was so dreary. There were huge distances and the portions in restaurants were just huge. A fast lifestyle is an individual lifestyle: It gives you your freedom, but you feel somewhat detached."

Budginas, who had been a prize-winning performer since his Moscow Conservatory days, struggled with the new language.

"I couldn't understand all the dialects," said Budginas, communicating quite well after 19 years. "I was so intimidated. Every ethnicity has its own dialect. I didn't know which was true. I was afraid to pick up the phone."

He definitely knew the musical language required to earn his doctorate. In the wide-open atmosphere of Southern California, he started feeling hemmed in by his Russian-infused discipline.

"As a classical pianist in Lithuania, we prepared classics for a classical audience," Budginas said. "I wanted a different approach. I found myself at a dead end. I'd lost communication. I needed to change and do something in order to satisfy them, better teach them and take them on the trip with me."

After moving to San Luis Obispo in 2003 to accept a Cuesta College teaching position he still holds, an epiphany occurred at St. Timothy's Church in 2006.

"I started giving some information in a kind of light, humorous way," he said. "Little bits and pieces I knew already. That made it very listenable. After one concert, it had a high success and I thought, 'This is my life. I'm gonna go in this direction.' "

Budginas since has blended humor, history anecdotes and music into a multi-dimensional experience.

"My biggest hit (that night) was (George Gershwin's) 'Rhapsody in Blue,' " said Budginas, his personable, upbeat enthusiasm apparent during a phone conversation from San Luis Obispo. "I incorporated some jazz styles. A little bit of electronic music with some samples in a very eclectic way. I also did some tribal things with percussion and a didgeridoo."

He's added Chopin in a light, Brazilian bossa nova-ish style. He's done Latin-style Bach. He plays familiar selections by Franz Liszt ("Hungarian Rhapsody") and Gershwin ("Moonlight Sonata"). There also are a few "surprises."

Like his musical approach, he's adapted an American tempo to his lifestyle.

"They will work whenever they have time," Budginas said of his Soviet roots. "Here, people are very serious, very driven. I've actually learned so much ... trying to embrace the old Soviet mentality versus this fast-paced mentality.

"One of the most important things that opened my mind is I've learned to live with different people and cultures. That's why the U.S. is so unique. It has all this variety and everybody in one place."

His U.S. trip will be momentous for he and Lilliana, his American-born wife of seven years.

"We'll be having a baby in the middle of the tour," he said happily. "It'll be the biggest event in my life on my biggest tour."

Despite some levity, Budginas is serious about music.

"I don't consider myself a comedian or humorist," he said. "I just present music like I'm presenting it to friends in the living room. People find it amusing. I don't work on jokes or anything. I just want to create a relaxed atmosphere. With my accent, I already sound weird."

That also was true of his Westernized approach when he performed in Lithuania for the first time.

"Everybody came to hear a classical pianist," he said. "When I played, everyone realized - they knew it was gonna be different. It wasn't gonna be as formal. They realized that and they loved it."

There's one big trip he has yet to take.

"No, not Moscow," he said with a laugh. "It's too tough over there. Too deep. It's a completely different world. Besides, I'd have to speak Russian."

Contact Tony Sauro at (209) 546-8267 or

HOME - The Stockton Record

"A Twist on the Masterpieces, Rudolf Budginas and Steve Miller Guitarist Kenny Lee Lewis Get Edgy with Clasical"

See URL (.pdf only available) - The Tribune

"Budginas Wows Sunnyside Audience"

See attached URL (only .pdf available) - Lower Valley Concert Assoc

"From Borge to Budginas"

He's been described as a classical version of Jon Brion, but I'd call him today's version of Victor Borge. Watching Lithuanian-born concert pianist Rudolph Budginas in action recalls those halcyon days when audiences rolled in the aisles to Borge's droll antics, which never got old even when the Great Dane did. Just before his death at 91, Borge's classic routines were still hilarious, and one hopes his young successor will have as long a run. The astonishingly talented Budginas, who as a kiddie prodigy studied at the Moscow Conservatory, rolls into So Cal this week as part of a marathon 82-city, 32-state U.S. tour. He'll take his audience in a wild ride through the classical, pop, jazz, country and other musical worlds, combining "serious" piano with funny stories about his childhood; a souped up version of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata; commentary on Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line"; and a couple of his specialties: pop/jazz/ragtimey versions of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 5 and Bizet's Carmen that feature a rollicking band of irreverent instrumentalists.
Tue., Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m., 2010 - L.A. Weekly

"Making Classical Music Cool"

See review URL (.pdf available only) - Statesman Journal

"Rudolf Budginas at the Craterian Theater, The Lithuanian-born pianist serves up classics with a sense of humor"

When he trained at the famed Moscow Conservatory, Lithuanian-born Rudolf Budginas (pronounced bud-guiness) was an old world, no-nonsense musician heading toward a career as a concert pianist. These days Budginas' concerts are filled, at least partially, with all manner of musical nonsense, but it's nonsense with a point.

Budginas is embarking on an 82-city, 32-state U.S. tour that will bring him to Southern Oregon for one show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. The show is being sponsored by the Jackson County Community Concert Association.


Who: Rudolf Budginas
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9
Where: Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford
Tickets: $25
Call: 779-3000
Budginas says in a phone interview that his shows incorporate his classical training, jazz arrangements and sense of humor and mix them all up in an effort to connect with audiences.

"Here in America there is a little bit different attitude from Europe," he says. "Europeans are set in their ways. Here, people tend more to entertainment. When I came here I felt the whole atmosphere didn't fulfill me, and audiences needed something more."

Which is why Budginas, who has toured across the world from Denmark to Japan, is given to telling stories in his shows about his childhood with a family of musicians. Or to explaining what certain musical lines from Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody" and Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line" have in common. Or tricking up timeless classics such as "Claire de Lune" and "Moonlight Sonata" with jazz accompaniments.

Budginas has been described as a classical version of Jon Brion, or a hip, modern version of Victor Borge. But he didn't foresee any of that when he came to the United States in 1994 on a music scholarship to the University of Southern California. He'd been studying in Moscow as the Soviet Union was collapsing in the early 1990s.

"Lithuania was under the Soviet regime," he says. "Music was the thing to do. You could be free and creative. But you were deprived of a lot of material things. When the door opened in 1991, all the options all of a sudden opened."

He'd been concertizing when he met a professor from USC who encouraged him to come to the U.S. for further study. He says there's a gulf between the way classical music is taught here and in Europe.

"In the U.S. a lot of people are studying at universities," he says. "It's more academic. In Lithuania and Soviet Union you go to conservatory, and it's all music. There's not all the academics, just musicians around you, huge competition and a lot of inspiration.

"Here they prepare mostly teachers, there it's performers.

"I've done both. I was lucky."

After completing a doctorate at USC, Budginas landed in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he teaches music appreciation and piano at Cuesta College and is conductor of the Chamber Orchestra at Thomas Aquinas College.

About five years ago he was giving a concert when, on a whim, he played a little jazz and talked informally about musical relationships.

"The audience went crazy, and I said, 'This is it,'" he says with a laugh. "They were my experimental rabbits. Every concert now is sold out."

These days he'll work folk or country tunes into his performance, rendering the drum and bass parts in the left hand and melody in the right.

Like all classical performers, Budginas is acutely aware of working in a genre with an aging audience and not many replacements in sight.

"My goal is to bring classical back," he says.

To that end he chooses slight pieces, nothing heavy or overly long. He often wraps that in different contexts, say, tango or jazz or blues or Latin.

"You can hear Chopin in bossa nova," he says.

But above all it's entertainment.

"My main goal," he says, "is for people to have a good time and forget life's problems."
- Mail Tribune of Medford OR


"Ambient Romance" released in 2009.




Rudolf Budginas (pronounced “bud-guinness”), piano virtuoso, along with his band, present a rhythm-pulsating, crossover show of classical hits such as “Moonlight Sonata”, “Beethoven’s 5th” and “Hungarian Rhapsody”. These rock, pop and jazz-inspired arrangements will take classical music in surprising and unexpected directions. His audiences have been wildly appreciative of Rudolf’s impeccable artistry, high energy and dazzling wit. Rudolf delivers an entertaining performance that delights all ages.

Hailed as “A young hip Victor Borge-like entertainer,” the Lithuanian-born pianist recently finished an 82-city, 32-state tour to conquer the hearts, minds, ears and funny bones of American music lovers.

Rudolf studied at the Moscow Conservatory and earned a doctorate from University of Southern California (USC). Rudolf’s passion is to expand the accessibility of classical music to wider audiences.