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Violinist Alex DePue killed in Mexican car accident

Farewell to the Modern Paganini

Alex Depue showed what the violin could do.
Alex Depue showed what the violin could do.

On January 27, a car accident in Mexico claimed the life of violinist Alex DePue, The Modern Paganini. DePue lived up to that 2018 album title, winning competitions from an early age and playing with his brothers Zach, Wallace, and Jason. Performing as The DePue Brothers, they created genre-defying compositions that proved a popular live staple. Challenging what the fiddle could do was DePue’s specialty. His cover version of “Owner Of a Lonely Heart” by Yes has garnered over four million views on YouTube, and was featured on site’s homepage. One of those viewers was guitarist Steve Vai, who then featured DePue in the Grammy-nominated live video and the album Where the Wild Things Are and hired him as a touring violinist.

A dedicated and beloved educator, DePue employed folksy phrases like, “You have to eat your vegetables before you have dessert,” which translated into “Practice the basics, and the things you want to play will be sweeter.” He would often explain compositions with anecdotes about his father’s annual Christmas caroling, or a treasure hunt, and then offer an insider’s wink when you finally connected the melodic structure.

But his passion for education extended past interviews and classrooms to his performances, as witnessed by artist Krystal Dyer, who painted live for DePue’s last show at the San Diego Mission Bay Boat & Ski Club, the evening before his death. “I did not quite know what I was going to be getting into. All I was told was I would be painting live for a violinist. During soundcheck, I stopped setting up and just stared in awe. His soundcheck alone was breathtaking. It [the performance] was absolutely beautiful and powerful. He even took time in between songs to talk about various styles of playing, and the facial expressions violinists make with different playing methods.”

“I quickly found that his personal countenance, charm, and heart were even more captivating [than his music],” says his widow Aria Noelle Curzon-DePue. “He was a true friend, mentor, and teacher to so many. He had a way of helping you believe in yourself, through his own belief in you. He stood up for, cheered on, and continued to be one of the most fervent champions of those he believed really had something to say with their art.”

A video on his Facebook page, dated November 29, 2021, features him being interviewed by Mrs. DePue. When he speaks of other musicians, his excitement is infectious: “A lot of my inspirations on the violin come from the youngsters. Like Billy Contreras. Holy God! You all need to hear him play. Joseph Shackelford is another freak of nature who has just surfaced at the age of 23 and taken the violin world by storm.” DePue also championed guitarist Jake Allen, who he promoted at every opportunity. “I spoke with the Dean at the school of music at BGSU [Bowling Green State University], and it appears as if we are going to do another Bowling Green show this summer. And this time, we will be featuring an emerging new artist in my hometown. That’s how much I believe in this kid.”

DePue shared the stage with Allen at his final show, along with friend and frequent live partner Sam “Barefoot” Johnson. “Alex was very excited about working with Jake, and he wanted me to see this guy play,” says Johnson. “Alex and I opened the show as a duo, upright bass and fiddle. Then, one of his students came up and played a couple solo classical guitar pieces — he was amazing. Christopher Dale did a short set, and finally we watched Alex and Jake play together for a full hour show. There were other things that were special about this night, but it means so much more now that he is gone.”

A GoFundMe to aid in DePue’s memorial expenses has been established.

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Alex Depue showed what the violin could do.
Alex Depue showed what the violin could do.

On January 27, a car accident in Mexico claimed the life of violinist Alex DePue, The Modern Paganini. DePue lived up to that 2018 album title, winning competitions from an early age and playing with his brothers Zach, Wallace, and Jason. Performing as The DePue Brothers, they created genre-defying compositions that proved a popular live staple. Challenging what the fiddle could do was DePue’s specialty. His cover version of “Owner Of a Lonely Heart” by Yes has garnered over four million views on YouTube, and was featured on site’s homepage. One of those viewers was guitarist Steve Vai, who then featured DePue in the Grammy-nominated live video and the album Where the Wild Things Are and hired him as a touring violinist.

A dedicated and beloved educator, DePue employed folksy phrases like, “You have to eat your vegetables before you have dessert,” which translated into “Practice the basics, and the things you want to play will be sweeter.” He would often explain compositions with anecdotes about his father’s annual Christmas caroling, or a treasure hunt, and then offer an insider’s wink when you finally connected the melodic structure.

But his passion for education extended past interviews and classrooms to his performances, as witnessed by artist Krystal Dyer, who painted live for DePue’s last show at the San Diego Mission Bay Boat & Ski Club, the evening before his death. “I did not quite know what I was going to be getting into. All I was told was I would be painting live for a violinist. During soundcheck, I stopped setting up and just stared in awe. His soundcheck alone was breathtaking. It [the performance] was absolutely beautiful and powerful. He even took time in between songs to talk about various styles of playing, and the facial expressions violinists make with different playing methods.”

“I quickly found that his personal countenance, charm, and heart were even more captivating [than his music],” says his widow Aria Noelle Curzon-DePue. “He was a true friend, mentor, and teacher to so many. He had a way of helping you believe in yourself, through his own belief in you. He stood up for, cheered on, and continued to be one of the most fervent champions of those he believed really had something to say with their art.”

A video on his Facebook page, dated November 29, 2021, features him being interviewed by Mrs. DePue. When he speaks of other musicians, his excitement is infectious: “A lot of my inspirations on the violin come from the youngsters. Like Billy Contreras. Holy God! You all need to hear him play. Joseph Shackelford is another freak of nature who has just surfaced at the age of 23 and taken the violin world by storm.” DePue also championed guitarist Jake Allen, who he promoted at every opportunity. “I spoke with the Dean at the school of music at BGSU [Bowling Green State University], and it appears as if we are going to do another Bowling Green show this summer. And this time, we will be featuring an emerging new artist in my hometown. That’s how much I believe in this kid.”

DePue shared the stage with Allen at his final show, along with friend and frequent live partner Sam “Barefoot” Johnson. “Alex was very excited about working with Jake, and he wanted me to see this guy play,” says Johnson. “Alex and I opened the show as a duo, upright bass and fiddle. Then, one of his students came up and played a couple solo classical guitar pieces — he was amazing. Christopher Dale did a short set, and finally we watched Alex and Jake play together for a full hour show. There were other things that were special about this night, but it means so much more now that he is gone.”

A GoFundMe to aid in DePue’s memorial expenses has been established.

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Sad and unfortunate as this death is, some more information about the Mexican car accident would be informative. As in where, and how it occurred, would be a way to fill out the story. In that so many "accidents" are in Mexico, we all can wonder about the incident and whether is was accidental at all. How about some details?

March 4, 2022

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