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Off-Grid Cellist Relishes Performing with the Wood River Orchestra
Friday, November 4, 2022


Richard Inouye has performed his electric cello on a half-dozen river trips on the Grand Canyon, the Salmon River and the Green River.

And he’s performed acoustic folk with a band in Pocatello named Elvis Has Left the Building, as well as gigs with his friend Greg Mladenka, a water quality specialist who recorded the album “Way Out West.”

Now, the recently retired ecologist is performing his acoustic cello with the Wood River Orchestra. He will join the orchestra on Sunday, Nov. 6, when it performs Haydn and Brahms hits in a free concert at 4 p.m. at the Wood River High School Performing Arts Theatre on Hailey’s Community Campus.

“I joined the orchestra last year. I had not played with an orchestra for eight years and, after I retired, I wanted to do it again. I like working with a group to make something more than it would be with just an individual,” he said.

Inouye has to make a concerted effort to practice and perform with the orchestra.

He and his wife are building an off-grid house 10 miles north of Fairfield on property they purchased from The Nature Conservancy. And that means a 50-mile commute to Hailey to practice.

Oftentimes, Inouye commutes to practice from Logan, Utah, where his wife is wrapping up her career.

The couple decided to retire in the Fairfield area to be close to their son who lived in Gooding at the time.

“I thought the Sawtooth National Forest was a beautiful place—there’s not a lot of development in the area,” said Inouye. “The land had been gifted to the Nature Conservancy 25 years ago and they had not invested much energy into maintaining it.”

The property on Soldier Creek is protected by a conservation easement but the couple were allowed to have a house framed in and Inouye has been doing the interior finish work himself.

“We get our electric power from a PV system installed by Great Solar Works in Hailey,” said Inouye. “The frame house is well insulated with good solar heat. Even when we’re not there it doesn’t freeze. And an off-grid solar system provides power for our well.”

Inouye grew up near Philadelphia where he learned to play piano in the first grade. He began playing the cello in eighth grade after his older brother started playing with a high school string quartet. Inouye went on to play cello for high school, district, regional and state orchestras, as well as the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra.

He played with the Idaho State Civic Symphony for 20 years while teaching at Idaho State University and with the Symphony of the Potomac for three years while managing genetics and biodiversity grants for  the National Science Foundation in Washington, D.C.

He’s performed in small chamber groups here with other members of the Wood River Orchestra.

“I also know how to play violin. And as a graduate student I played the harpsichord. But I like the range and tone of the cello,” he said. “Many say it’s the closest thing to a human voice in terms of range and quality.”

Inouye says he especially loves paying in small groups because of the communication that takes place between the musicians as they perform.

“We’re working closely together, working with skills each person has developed. Each individual is just trying to blend their music with that of others.”

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