Ralph Hepola was born into a Scandinavian-American family in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the United States where his early eclectic musical interests led to piano study before starting on the tuba at age twelve. At seventeen, he was chosen to play before the British Royal Family in the Manitoba All-Province Band at Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada. While still in high school, Ralph began performing as an extra musician with the Minnesota Orchestra, which later included recordings, and tours to Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City. While still a teenager, Ralph won a position with The United States Army Band of Washington, D.C. At age twenty, he won a full scholarship to the Manhattan School of Music in the Young Artist Competition of the Minnesota Orchestra/WAMSO.
Ralph earned his music degree at Northwestern University where he studied with renowned musician and teacher Arnold Jacobs. Five books have been published covering Mr. Jacobs’ celebrated career, which included forty-four years as Principal Tubaist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. At Northwestern University, Ralph played and soloed with Jazz Ensemble I, which twice won Best Big Band at the Notre Dame Jazz Festival. Ralph also studied with Ross Tolbert, Principal Tuba, Minnesota Orchestra, 1966-2004.
Subsequently, Ralph won an international audition for the Basel Symphony Orchestra. Basel is Switzerland’s third-largest city. There he performed under renowned conductors including Pierre Boulez and Antal Dorati. During five years in Europe, he performed as a soloist on Swiss Radio, and played in the Vienna Philharmonic at the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria under Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado, and Lorin Maazel. Ralph then freelanced for two years in New York City with various jazz and classical ensembles.