Two-time Grammy-winner Eliot Wadopian ‘incredible’ musician dies


ASHEVILLE – Two-time Grammy winner and Asheville native Eliot Wadopian, known as much for his mentorship and friendship as for his exceptional musical talents, has died aged 63.

Wadopian’s sudden death sparked a wave of grief on social media on September 14, as friends and fellow musicians remembered the talented bassist who won Grammy Awards in 1993 and 2005.

Howard Hanger, a well-known retired minister and jazz musician in Asheville, said Wadopian had toured with his jazz group throughout Eastern Europe and the Far East for about five years. On Facebook, Hanger described Wadopian as “a great friend, a great musician and a good man in every way.”

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“It was just a joy. Just a joy,” Hanger said in a telephone interview.

Hanger quickly backed down, however.

“That’s not entirely true – he can be cranky at times,” Hanger said. “If he didn’t get enough sleep, phew! But he’s always been a great musician, and I’ve always been proud to be associated with him.”

Most recently, Wadopian has played bass with Free Planet Radio, a trio. He has also lectured, performed with the Asheville Symphony and others, and mentored students, both through private lessons and concerts with UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University.

Eliot Wadopian, holding double bass, walks with Chris Rosser, left, members of Free Planet Radio, and River Guerguerian.  It was the current Wadopian group.  The Grammy winner, 63, died on September 13, 2021.

The Wadopian Grammys came with the band Paul Winter Consort for Best New Age Album, but their musical interest ran the gamut.

“Eliot enjoys exploring music in its entirety, whether improvised or noted, taking advantage of the richness of several musical styles of jazz, rock, blues, country, folk, classical symphonic literature. and opera, as well as ethnic styles from India, the Middle East, Latin America and Eastern Europe, “reads Wadopian’s bio page on “Eliot is one of those extraordinary musicians who can bring a lifetime of varied musical experiences to any performance venue, educational setting, or recording opportunity.”

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Wadopian’s webpage notes that he had “contributed his talents to over 120 professionally released record albums.” Wadopian studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston from 1977 to 1980.

Local musician David Cohen remembers when Wadopian didn’t know how to play bass. On Facebook, Cohen recalled that in the 1970s he was playing guitar and teamed up with another friend to start a band, but they needed a bass player.

“At Newfound School (an alternative school near downtown), where a lot of our friends went, they were putting on a show called Aesop’s Fallibles,” Cohen said. “They needed a bass player, and they handed Eliot Wadopian a bass and said, ‘Learn that.’ Boy, he learned. “

Cohen, now a percussionist, admitted that Wadopian first ventured into strange musical paths.

“He was playing in a weird tone and like, ‘This is jazz, man,'” Cohen recalls. “When it really was a mistake.”

Wadopian became the bassist for their band, called Uncle Wiggly’s String Band, a nod to Wadopian’s curly hair and the nickname they gave him, Cohen said.

Grammy Award-winning Eliot Wadopian from western North Carolina passed away on September 13, 2021 at the age of 63.

“Over the years, Eliot has grown and grown as a musician and as a man,” Cohen said on Facebook. “He was an expert in judo, he became the lead bassist for a few different symphonies and was rock for a fusion band that I had the privilege of playing here in Asheville, Inside Out.”

From Wadopian’s latest group, Free Planet Radio, Cohen said, it’s “an incredible trio of stellar musicians. It will be impossible to replace.”

Wadopian has taught hundreds of students over the years, and Cohen said he was, “Just the nicest guy. He was so encouraging.”

Like Hanger, Cohen said that Wadopian “wasn’t always the nicest guy” because he could be a bit crisp at times, “but he came to this place” out of generosity and kindness with his mentorship and in the life.

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Mike VanGorder, another bassist, said Wadopian was the first musician he met when he moved to Asheville in 1989.

“His passion for music and his love of bass made him the perfect choice for my teacher, mentor and friend,” VanGorder wrote on Facebook. “Words cannot describe the devastation of the loss of Elliot to his family and friends.”

In a phone interview, VanGorder said despite Wadopian’s success and accolades, “He had no ego whatsoever.”

“He was always helping people,” VanGorder said. “I have never met another musician in this town who had a bad word to say about him. He loved what he was doing and he loved talking about it. He was just a great guy in every way. . “

Bassist Eliot Wadopian has performed with several local symphonies, won two Grammy Awards, and taught at UNC Asheville and Western Carolina University.  He died on September 13, 2021 at the age of 63.

Hanger said that the main strength of Wadopian is helping other players to adopt their attitude towards music.

“His attitude was such that you got him on board right away,” Hanger said.

Hanger said Tuesday was “a day of tears, of tears,” brought on by the shock of Wadopian’s sudden death.

“I just loved him. I loved him,” Hanger said. “He was a recalcitrant booger, but he was worth it. He was worth putting up with because he was so talented. There was nothing better than having an Eliot smile, because that meant that you are well. “

Wadopian had been married to Kathryn Potter since March 2010, according to his Facebook page. He is also survived by four children.

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