Marcelo Lehninger 
|  Music Director

Chair Funded Anonymously

Marcelo Lehninger, now in his second season as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony, conducts the orchestra in 11 programs during the 2017-18 season.

The Brazilian-born conductor came to Grand Rapids following four years as Music Director of the New West Symphony in Los Angeles, during which he was awarded the 2014 Helen M. Thompson Award for Emerging Music Directors by the League of American Orchestras.

Appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2010, Lehninger was promoted to Associate Conductor two years later. During his five years in Boston, on just three days’ notice in 2011, he led performances in Boston Symphony Hall including the world premiere of a new violin concerto. With Lehninger on the podium, the BSO later repeated the program in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Lehninger made his Grand Rapids Symphony debut in February 2015 with a critically acclaimed performance of Antonín Dvoƙák’s Symphony No. 9. In April 2016, he returned to DeVos Performance Hall to conduct Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Two months later, he was appointed 14th music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. In 2017, Lehninger made his debut at the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops and also appeared at the Brevard Music Center in June and returned to the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in July.

Last season, Lehninger made his Japanese debut with the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra. He made his Australian debut with the orchestras of Sydney and Melbourne along with eminent Brazilian pianist Nelson Freire, who will join Lehninger and the Grand Rapids Symphony in April for concerts in DeVos Performance Hall and in Carnegie Hall. His guest conducting engagements this season include a return to the Slovenian Philharmonic for concerts in Ljubljana and Vienna, and his debut with the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in France.

As guest conductor, Lehninger has led the symphony orchestras of Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver among others. Elsewhere, he has conducted the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the Lucerne Symphony and a tour with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra assisting Mariss Jansons.

Lehninger made a successful debut in 2007 with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and was invited to conduct the NSO again in 2008. During the 2007-08 season, Lehninger served under Placido Domingo as music advisor of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, conducting concerts across South America with the ensemble of 120 musicians from more than 20 countries.

Selected by Kurt Masur, Lehninger was awarded the first Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Scholarship in 2008, sponsored by the American Friends of the Mendelssohn Foundation. He served as Maestro Masur’s assistant with the Orchestre National de France during its residency in Vienna as well as with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig and with the New York Philharmonic. In 2011, he participated in the League of American Orchestra’s Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview.

Before dedicating his career to conducting, Lehninger studied violin and piano. He holds a master's degree in orchestra conducting from Bard College Conservatory of Music in New York. A dual citizen of Brazil and Germany, Marcelo Lehninger is the son of German violinist Erich Lehninger and Brazilian pianist Sônia Goulart.

Last summer, Lehninger, his wife, Laura Krech, and their daughters, Sofia and Camila, became residents of West Michigan.

Updated December 2017



David Lockington  |  Music Director Laureate

David Lockington became the Grand Rapids Symphony’s first Music Director Laureate in May 2015, after serving 16 years as Music Director, the longest tenure in the 87-year history of the organization.

Beginning with his appointment in January 1999, Lockington led the Grand Rapids Symphony in Detroit’s Orchestra Hall during the opening season of the Motor City’s Max M. Fisher Music Center in 2003, and in a critically acclaimed appearance in New York City’s Carnegie Hall in May 2005 during the orchestra’s 75th anniversary season. His five recordings with the Grand Rapids Symphony include the CD and DVD Invention & Alchemy, featuring “hip harpist” Deborah Henson-Conant, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album in 2007.

Lockington’s legacy includes launching Grand Rapids Symphony’s Symphony with Soul, an annual community collaboration that will be held for the 17th time in 2018. He also led LiveArts, a multimedia, multidisciplinary show held in April 2015 that drew more than 7,100 people to the Van Andel Arena.

Today, Lockington is music director of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra in California, a post he’s held since May 2007. In March 2013, he was appointed music director of the Pasadena Symphony.

Lockington recently served as principal guest conductor of the Orquesta Sinfónica del Principado de Asturias in northern Spain for several seasons. In 2015, he became one of three artistic partners with the Northwest Sinfonietta in Tacoma, Washington.

Since moving to the United States in 1978, the native of Great Britain has held posts as assistant conductor of the Denver Symphony Orchestra and Opera Colorado, and as assistant and associate conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

In May 1993, he was appointed music director of the Ohio Chamber Orchestra followed by an appointment as music director of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and the Long Island Philharmonic.

Lockington has guest conducted the symphony orchestras of Houston, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Utah, Pacific, Nashville, San Diego and Kansas; the orchestras of Louisville and Florida; the philharmonics of Los Angeles, Buffalo and Calgary; and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa among others. He has participated in summer festivals in Grand Teton, Chautauqua, Eastern Music and Interlochen.

Internationally, Lockington has conducted the China Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra in Beijing and Taiwan, led the English Chamber Orchestra on a tour in Asia, and appeared with the Israel Chamber Orchestra and the Northern Sinfonia in Great Britain.

Lockington began his career as a cellist in his native London, serving as principal cellist with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for two years. A graduate of Cambridge University, he earned his master’s degree in cello at Yale University. He served as assistant principal cellist for three years with the Denver Symphony Orchestra before turning to conducting.

A naturalized U.S. citizen, Lockington is married to violinist Dylana Jenson. They live in Grand Rapids and have four children.

Updated December 2017



Bob Bernhardt  |  Principal Pops Conductor

Beatrice A. Idema Chair

A longtime guest conductor with the Boston Pops among other North American orchestras, Bob Bernhardt begins his third season in 2017-18 as Principal Pops Conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony. Bernhardt plays a key role in all of the programming for the Grand Rapids Pops, including the Fox Motors Pops, for which he led three acclaimed performances last season of “Sgt. Pepper’s 50th Anniversary” with special guests Classical Mystery Tour; and with the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops, for which he conducted successful appearances in July with “The Music of ABBA” featuring Arrival from Sweden, and “The Musical Legacy of Chicago” with Brass Transit.

In the world of pops, Bernhardt has worked with singer-songwriter Ben Folds and soprano Renée Fleming as well as with entertainers from Broadway, including Brian Stokes Mitchell and Kelli O’Hara; from pop, rock and country, including the Beach Boys and Wynonna; and from the Great American Songbook, including Jason Alexander and Ann Hampton Callaway. He’s happy to say he rarely has met music he doesn’t enjoy.

Bernhardt, who first appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony in September 2013 to lead a “Boston Pops Tribute Show,” marked his 24th year this past summer as a regular guest with the Boston Pops, which he first conducted in 1992 at the invitation of then-Boston Pops Conductor, John Williams.

Besides the Boston Pops, Bernhardt has been a frequent guest conductor with orchestras including the Baltimore Symphony, the Detroit Symphony, the Cincinnati Pops, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, where he’s served for 11 seasons as conductor of Edmonton’s “Symphony Under the Sky Festival.”

Bernhardt currently is in his 37th consecutive season with the Louisville Orchestra and in his 21st season there as Principal Pops Conductor. He’s also in his seventh season as Music Director Emeritus and Principal Pops Conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, where he previously was Music Director for 19 seasons. Since 2012, he’s been an Artist-in-Residence at Lee University.

Formerly, he was Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Rochester Philharmonic; Music Director and Conductor of the Tucson Symphony; Music Director and Conductor of the Amarillo Symphony; and Artistic Director of the Lake Placid Sinfonietta.

A lover of opera, he conducted productions with Kentucky Opera for 18 consecutive seasons as well as for 19 seasons with his own company in Chattanooga along with many guest conducting engagements with the Nashville Opera.

Bernhardt received his master’s degree with honors from the University of Southern California’s School of Music, studying with Daniel Lewis. He received his bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude, and was an Academic All-American Baseball Player.

He lives with his wife, Nora, in Signal Mountain, Tennessee.

Updated December 2017


John Varineau  |  Associate Conductor

Cornucopia Family Foundation Chair 

Associate Conductor John Varineau is in his fourth decade on the podium for the Grand Rapids Symphony, where he conducts concerts on nearly all of its series, including the Fox Motors Pops, the Gerber SymphonicBoom, the DTE Energy Foundation Family, and the PNC Lollipop as well as for a variety of educational and outreach concerts throughout the area.

The 2017-18 season marks his 33rd year as a conductor with the Grand Rapids Symphony and 30th anniversary season as conductor of the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra. Additionally, he conducts the Grand Rapids Symphony in performances with the Grand Rapids Ballet including the world premiere in 2014 of a new version of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a production co-designed by Grand Rapids native Chris Van Allsburg, author and illustrator of The Polar Express.

Last season, Varineau conducted the Phoenix Symphony in two separate programs. Other orchestras he’s conducted previously include the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Lansing Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, and Traverse City Symphony Orchestra as well as the Fort Wayne Philharmonic and Oklahoma City Philharmonic. He formerly served as music director of the Holland Chamber Orchestra (now the Holland Symphony Orchestra).

A clarinetist, John Varineau presents solo recitals and plays in the contemporary music group, Ensemble Montage, and the woodwind trio, ma non troppo. He is an adjunct professor of music at Calvin College where he conducts the Calvin College Orchestra and teaches clarinet and occasional academic courses. He also conducts the Calvin Community Symphony, an ensemble open to both Calvin alumni and community musicians.

Committed to nurturing the next generation of classical music lovers, Varineau is a frequent visitor to area schools and shares an infectious enthusiasm with students throughout West Michigan.

A native of Laramie, Wyoming, Varineau attended Michigan State University and the University of Wyoming for his clarinet training and earned his master’s degree at Yale School of Music.

He has made three recordings with the Grand Rapids Symphony and three with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He married his wife, Gwen, in the same year that he joined the Grand Rapids Symphony. They have a daughter, Jade, and a son, Justin.

Updated December 2017

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Pearl Shangkuan  |  Chorus Director

Covenant Chair 

Pearl Shangkuan, now in her 14th season as chorus director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, is a much sought-after guest conductor and clinician across the United States as well as abroad. Active among the national leadership of choral conductors, she has served as president of the Central Division of the American Choral Directors Association.

Recent engagements include making her conducting debut at Carnegie Hall, lecturing at several international conferences, and serving as a judge in several international choral competitions in Europe and Asia.

Director of Choral Activities and a professor of music at Calvin College, Shangkuan had led choirs that have appeared at American Choral Directors Association conferences and have toured Asia, South America, South Africa and Europe.

A student of Joseph Flummerfelt, pre-eminent American choral conductor and chorus master of the New York Philharmonic, Dr. Shangkuan received her bachelor of music degree in church music (summa cum laude) and master of music in choral conducting (with distinction) from Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. She earned her doctorate in choral conducting from Rutgers University.

Dr. Shangkuan has a signature choral series with Earthsongs publishing and is the music editor of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship music series, published by GIA. She and her family live in Grand Rapids.

Updated September 2017


Sean Ivory  |  Youth Chorus Conductor

Patricia Verduin Chair

Founding director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus and its select treble ensemble, Mandala, Sean Ivory is a choral conductor, pianist and composer living in Grand Rapids.

Since 1992, Mr. Ivory has been the vocal music instructor at Forest Hills Central High School. He has held past positions at St. Cecilia Music Center, the North American Choral Company, and Calvin College and continues as director of the Calvin College Oratorio Society.

Mr. Ivory attended Northwestern University, Calvin College and Michigan State University.  His choirs have performed at both state and regional conventions for the American Choral Directors Association, and have toured Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Ghana and the Czech Republic.

In addition to his activities as a teacher and conductor, Mr. Ivory also works as a pianist and composer. Several of his works, many of which are collaborations with Chicago composer Paul Caldwell, are published by Earthsongs, Alliance Music, Hal Leonard and GIA Music. Mr. Ivory’s solo compositions are published by MusicSpoke, a new online music distributor.

One of Mr. Ivory’s new compositions, The Peace of Wild Things, will be featured on a new recording by mirabai, a new professional women’s choral ensemble directed by Dr. Sandra Snow from Michigan State University.

Updated October 2017