Memorial concert honors longtime piano professor


Karen Walker performing at David Rostkoski’s memoral concert. Rostkoski requested that his students from the 1980s, Karen Walker and Jody Graves, to perform at his concert | Bailey Monteith for The Easterner

By Sam Jackson, Reporter

A memorial concert was held on Saturday, June 2 in the Music Recital Hall that honored David Rostkoski, a long time piano professor at EWU.

Rostkoski passed away on December 11, 2017. He was a professor at EWU from 1970 to 2001 and is known for being a Distinguished Faculty Exchange Scholar through EWU and Nishinomiya, Japan. Throughout his life as a concert artist he performed many recitals across the Pacific Northwest and beyond. Rostkoski specifically requested the memorial concert as his celebration of life in a written letter to Jody Graves, a piano professor at EWU. Within his request, Rostkoski wanted the concert to include Graves and Karen Walker, who were both his former students in the 1980s.

Graves described Rostkoski as someone who was, “very serious, a very smart musician and very knowledgeable.”  When Rostkoski was approaching retirement from his position at EWU, he contacted Graves and asked her to consider applying for his position, which she did and is honored to hold that position currently. Besides being a distinguished music educator, Graves remembers Rostkoski for more.

“He was well known as a gourmet chef,” Graves said. “He would host parties, cook food and have games at his house. He was very well known for that with his colleagues at EWU.”

Rostkoski requested that current EWU piano students also be included in the memorial concert to pay tribute to his continuing legacy. Christian Skok, a junior majoring in piano performance and musical theater, was asked by Graves to perform and played “Intermezzo Op. 116, No. 6” by composer Johannes Brahms.

“I picked that piece because there is so much emotion in that and whenever I play it, I just imagine the music is giving everyone a big hug,” Skok said. “It’s a very comforting piece.”

Anyone was welcome to attend the memorial service. The crowd consisted of Rostkoski’s family members, former students and people that just knew of him and appreciated piano music.

For instance, Verna Wagner attended the memorial. Wagner was a student of Rostkoski’s when he first started teaching at EWU. Wagner described the impact that Rostkoski had on her life as “a lot” by keeping her into music and teaching her how to teach others.

“He always was willing to share his music and willing to help to learn new things,” Wagner said.

The EWU library holds many recordings of Rostkoski’s concerts, and they have been added to the digital commons library holdings. The EWU piano program continues to hold onto his legacy as a concert artist and teacher, through the professors and students who choose to carry on his artistic vision for the university.