From the age of nine, he studied music at the Wisconsin Conservatory in Milwaukee, as well as Northwestern University, Manhattan, and Juilliard. Votapek was awarded the Naumburg Award in 1959, and performed his debut recital at New York's Town Hall. After winning the First Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962, Votapek signed contracts with RCA and Sol Hurok, and made his debut at Carnegie Hall.
Votapek was a professor of piano and Artist in Residence at the Michigan State University College of Music, and served there for 36 years before retiring.
- Cummings, Robert. "Ralph Votapek". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-10-25.
- "Ralph Votapek | College of Music | Michigan State University". People.music.msu.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-25.