Category: meet the musicians

Musical chairs ends with principal appointment for Grand Rapids Symphony bassoonist Victoria Olson

Grand Rapids Symphony Principal Bassoonist Victoria Olson grew up in a musical family. Her mother, Vicki Olson, is a violist. Her father Robert Olson, a professor of music and director of orchestras at the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1990, was conductor of Kansas City Ballet for 14 seasons. Her father also was a bassoonist earlier in his career, though Victoria had never heard him play until he took his instrument out one day when she was 13 years old. “He was... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Thursday, January 18, 2018

Principal Violist Leslie Van Becker celebrates 40th anniversary with Grand Rapids Symphony

After violist Leslie Van Becker played her audition to become part of the Grand Rapids Symphony, she stopped at a payphone to call home to her parents in California. Forty years ago, there were no cell phones or internet. Nor was much going on in downtown Grand Rapids. “Nobody was on the street,” she recalled. “There was trash blowing down the street, and it was deserted.” Today, of course, you can send a text all over the world. And Grand Rapids is a happening... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Double bassist Kevin Flannery celebrates 40th anniversary with Grand Rapids Symphony

Kevin Flannery’s first foray into music was playing electric bass in a rock band. His mother was a violinist who studied at Eastman School of Music, so Flannery eventually tried his hand at double bass. His first teacher’s assessment was blunt. “He said, ‘You do everything wrong,” Flannery recalled with a laugh. “But you get a really nice sound.” For the past four decades, he’s shared that sound with Grand Rapids Symphony’s... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Friday, May 19, 2017

Meet the Musicians: Hornist Mary Beth Orr plays vibrant, brass music to see in planetarium at MSU

J.S. Bach, back in the day, took music out of the church and put it in coffee houses. Frederic Chopin tired of concert halls, preferring to perform in parlors and salons. In more recent times, violinist Joshua Bell posed as a street performer and busked in a Metro station in Washington D.C. in 2007. Cellist Matt Haimovitz on top of New York City’s urban park, the High Line , entertained urban hikers with music from Bach’s Suites for Unaccompanied Cello in 2012. In 2014, the... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The life of a Grand Rapids Symphony musician is fulfilling and fun, but the pace is fast and furious

Professional baseball players play nearly every day for months on end during the baseball season. Professional symphony orchestra musicians live similar lives. The boys of summer play double headers. Concert musicians sometimes have two concerts and frequently have double rehearsals on the same day. In baseball, there’s a crowd every time the team plays. Not so for orchestras, which have audiences for concerts but not for rehearsals. But the time and effort, as well as the wear and... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Violinist Larry Herzberg, Grand Rapids Symphony's 'chief morale officer,' reflects on 36 years with the orchestra

For decades, Grand Rapids Symphony’s Larry Herzberg played his violin, two to five hours a day, seven days a week. After 36 years with the orchestra, he decided it was time to retire in 2016. Herzberg, however, hasn’t retired from his other fulltime job as Director of Asian Studies at Calvin College. For many years, Herzberg has burned the candle at both ends, performing with the Grand Rapids Symphony and teaching both Chinese and Japanese at Calvin College. Beginning this... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Grand Rapids Symphony's Charley Lea appointed principal trumpet

Grand Rapids Symphony’s new principal trumpeter isn’t new to the orchestra. In fact, Charley Lea Jr. last season celebrated his 25 th anniversary season as the orchestra’s  assistant principal trumpet. Lea becomes the Grand Rapids Symphony’s first, new principal trumpet in more than 40 years as well as the first principal player named since appointment of new Music Director Marcelo Lehninger in June. A native of Charlotte, Lea isn’t completely... Read More
Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Meet the Musicians: Steven VanRavenswaay

Name: Steven VanRavenswaay Birthplace: Marinette, WI  Instrument: Cello Member since: 1975 1.  What is one of your earliest musical memories?    My earliest memory is of my father playing a recording of the great cellist, Leonard Rose, performing the Lalo cello concerto and telling me that he had dreams of me playing that piece someday. When I was 16, I performed the piece with the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony. 2.  How did your summers spent at... Read More
Posted by Sam Napolitan at Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Meet the Musicians: Michael Hovnanian

Name: Michael Aram Hovnanian Birthplace: Southfield, MI Instrument/Title: Assistant Principal Bass Member since: 2007  1.  How did you get started in music?   My father was a huge classical music aficionado, so I was exposed to music from the day I was born, and that really set the stage for my love of symphonic music. I was also inspired by a couple of my cousins who played instruments. I wanted to emulate them, so I started playing cello in elementary school long... Read More
Posted by Sam Napolitan at Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Meet the Musicians: Hannah Thomas-Hollands

Name: Hannah Thomas-Hollands Birthplace: Houston, TX Instrument/Title: Cello Member since: 2014 1.   How did you get started in music?     My parents knew that music education was really important regardless of eventual hobbies, passions, and career choice, so I started doing kindermusik (elementary music education for young children) when I was three or four and took up cello when I was six and ready for my first instrument.   2.   Why did you choose... Read More
Posted by Sam Napolitan at Tuesday, August 18, 2015
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