Mark Votapek hiking in the High Sierras. Photos courtesy of Mark Votapek

Mark Votapek, assistant professor of cello at the University of Arizona, is an accomplished cellist with a distinguished resume. A graduate of Indiana University’s prestigious Jacobs School of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music, Votapek has served as associate principal cellist with the St. Louis Symphony, principal cellist with the Honolulu, Oregon and Sacramento Symphonies, and as a member of the Ebb and Flow Arts new music ensemble.

Votapek is also an avid hiker, having decided hiking was more his game than climbing mountains. He is just beginning his 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. He completed a portion of the trail in 2008.

“But it wreaked havoc with my chops as a musician,” he said of that experience. “Five months [average times to complete PCT] without playing would be difficult.”

So this year, Votapek planned free solo cello concerts along the way to satisfy both his hiking and musical pleasures. Idyllwild is a concert stop on his itinerary.

When asked whether he was hiking with his cello, Votapek said he had considered carrying a portable cello, but weight considerations ruled that out.

The next idea was to ship it, but that carried risks of damage to the instrument. Instead, a variety of friends and associates will drive Votapek’s cello from one concert venue to the next.

Votapek’s concerts are free, and concert facilitators are among those ferrying his cello from gig to gig.

“That’s the exchange,” he said. “Since the concerts are free, the tradeoff is driving my cello to the engagement.”

Votapek is no stranger to Idyllwild. He played a concert and gave master classes at Idyllwild Arts in 2009. He also knows Idyllwild Arts Orchestra Music Director Peter Askim from their time together with the Honolulu Symphony.

Votapek said he’d be playing from a menu of composers and works including several Bach suites, Kodaly’s solo sonata and “Mon Cirque” by Paul Tortelier. Votapek said his programs would vary based on audience and setting.

He will perform at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 4 in the Idyllwild Library Community Room.

There is no charge for admission.