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Marcelo Lehninger | Music Director
Marcelo Lehninger, who led the Grand Rapids Symphony’s critically acclaimed return to Carnegie Hall in 2018, is in his fourth season as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony and recently signed a five-year contract renewal that now extends through the 2025-26 season.
Awarded the 2014 Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director by the League of American Orchestras, Lehninger has led the symphony orchestras of Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver. Elsewhere he has conducted the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, the Lucerne Symphony, and the Slovenian Philharmonic. As an assistant to Mariss Jansons, he has toured with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
In the past year, Lehninger returned to his native Brazil for concerts with the Orquestra Sinfônica Brasileira in Rio de Janeiro, the Orquestra Sinfônica da Universidade de São Paulo, and the Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais. He traveled to Japan to guest conduct the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra in Tokyo and the Kyushu Symphony Orchestra in Fukuoka. Coming this season, he’ll make his debuts with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, the San Antonio Symphony and the Sarasota Orchestra, and he’ll return for engagements with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra where he spent two years as assistant conductor followed by three years as associate conductor.
Appointed Assistant Conductor of the BSO in 2010, the following year, on just three days’ notice, he led the orchestra in performances that included the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Harrison Birtwistle. Weeks later, the Boston Symphony Orchestra repeated the program in New York City’s Carnegie Hall with Lehninger on the podium.
In 2007, Lehninger made a successful debut with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and was invited to conduct the NSO again the following year. During the 2007-08 season, Lehninger served as music advisor of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas, conducting concerts across South America with the ensemble composed of 120 musicians from more than 20 countries with Placido Domingo as artistic advisor.
Selected by Kurt Masur, Lehninger was awarded the first Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Scholarship in 2008, sponsored by the American Friends of the Mendelssohn Foundation. On three separate occasions he served as Maestro Masur’s assistant, with the New York Philharmonic, with the Gewandhaus Orchestra in Leipzig, and with the Orchestre National de France during its residency in Vienna.
In 2011, he participated in the League of American Orchestra’s Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. The following year, he was named music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra, serving four years with the Los Angeles-based orchestra.
Before dedicating his career to conducting, Lehninger studied violin and piano. He holds a master's degree from the Conductors Institute at 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.
Lehninger, his wife, Laura Krech, and their daughters, Sofia and Camila, live near Grand Rapids.
Updated November 2019
Bob Bernhardt | Principal Pops Conductor
Beatrice A. Idema Chair
Bob Bernhardt is in his seventh full season as Principal Pops Conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony, continuing to bring his easy style, fine musicianship and infectious enthusiasm to a city and orchestra he has come to love.
In the world of pops, Bernhardt has worked with stars of Broadway including Brian Stokes Mitchell and Kelli O’Hara, with pop/rock and country acts including the Beach Boys, the B-52s and Wynonna, and with entertainers who perform music from multiple genres, including their own songs, such as Ben Folds, Randy Newman, Jason Alexander and Ann Hampton Callaway. He’s seldom met a style of music he doesn’t enjoy.
Bernhardt, who first appeared with the Grand Rapids Symphony in September 2013 to lead a “Boston Pops Tribute Show,” has been a regular guest conductor with the Boston Pops since his debut 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 Florida Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony, the Pacific Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, where he’s served for 15 seasons as conductor of Edmonton’s “Symphony Under the Sky Festival.”
This season, Bernhardt celebrates his 40th anniversary with the Louisville Orchestra which is also his 25th season as Principal Pops Conductor there. He also is in his tenth season as Music Director Emeritus and Principal Pops Conductor of the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera, where he previously was Music Director for 19 seasons.
His previous posts include serving as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Rochester Philharmonic, as Music Director and Conductor of the Tucson Symphony, as Music Director and Conductor of the Amarillo Symphony, and as 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 September 2021
Pearl Shangkuan | Chorus Director
Pearl Shangkuan, now in her 18th season as chorus director of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, is a much sought-after guest conductor who has led performances and workshops and presented lectures in six continents. 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 conducting international choral festivals in France in 2017 and in England in 2019 in a joint residency with American composer Dan Forrest. Shangkuan has conducted in New York City’s Carnegie Hall and for many prestigious All State Choral Festivals in the United States. She has lectured at many international conferences and served as a judge in several international choral competitions in Europe and Asia.
Director of Choral Activities and professor of music at Calvin University, Shangkuan’s choirs have performed at the national, division, and state conferences of the American Choral Directors Association and have toured Asia, Europe, South America, and South Africa.
A student of the late Joseph Flummerfelt, pre-eminent American choral conductor and former 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 Doctor of Musical Arts 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 2021
Leah Ivory | Youth Chorus Director
Leah Ivory, Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses co-founder, has accompanied for choirs at St. Cecilia Music Center, the North American Choral Company, and at Calvin University, her alma mater. She currently serves as artistic director of GRSYC and directs the Youth Chorus, in addition to directing the intermediate choir, Mosaic Singers.
Mrs. Ivory accompanies the choirs at Grand Rapids Christian High School. In addition to her piano and choral work, she is a drummer in the West African tradition, certified through the Tam Tam Mandingue Djembe Academy. Mrs. Ivory teaches djembe, offers drumming workshops in schools, leads team-building activities, composes music featuring West African rhythms, and performs in a variety of settings.
In January 2021, Mrs. Ivory began teaching World Music at Calvin University.
Choirs led by Leah Ivory have performed at both state and regional conventions for the American Choral Directors Association, and have toured Ireland, the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Ghana, the Czech Republic, Trinidad and Iceland.
Updated April 2022
Yaniv Segal | Interim Youth Symphony Conductor
Creative polymath Yaniv Segal has achieved critical success since childhood for his work as a symphonic conductor, composer, actor, and violinist. A rising star who is “redefining classical music” (Esquire Magazine), Yaniv is Conductor Laureate and Artistic Advisor of the Chelsea Symphony, former Assistant Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Naples Philharmonic, and has also assisted at the New York Philharmonic. He has collaborated with performers such as Yitzhak Perlman and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, guest-conducted orchestras around the globe including the Minnesota Orchestra, Kansai Philharmonic, Sinfonietta Cracovia, and Beethoven Academy Orchestra, and been described as “enthusiastic, lively, and incisive” (Giornale di Sicilia) and “illuminating” (New York Times). In addition to serving as the Interim Conductor of the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra during the 21-22 season, Yaniv is a Music Director finalist with the Rockland, Ashland, and Salina Symphony Orchestras.
In 2020, NAXOS released Yaniv’s Beethoven REimagined, a commercial recording made with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The album, called “exciting [and] outrageous” (Times of London), presents contemporary music inspired by Beethoven arranged and written by Yaniv as well as composer/DJ Gabriel Prokofiev. Previous commercial releases include the works of David Chesky on the album Joy and Sorrow, and The Mice War, an opera that teaches the children about the folly of war.
Drawing on his experience as a music educator and father of two young boys, Yaniv wrote The Harmony Games in 2018. It was commissioned by the Naples Philharmonic to introduce school-age children to the orchestra while connecting music to math, and has already been performed over fifty times. In 2021-22, Yaniv’s works will be performed by the Reno Philharmonic, Ashland Symphony Orchestra, Macau Orchestra, and Norwalk Symphony.
Yaniv grew up in New York with a Polish mother –a violinist who was one of the first women in the New York Philharmonic– and an Israeli father –a luthier who made the instruments his family plays on. As a child, he sang at the Metropolitan Opera, then starred as Colin in the International Broadway Tour of The Secret Garden, and was “convincing” (New York Times) as Joe in Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood at Lincoln Center. He studied violin with Setsu Goto, and twice was a soloist with the Yonkers Philharmonic. Yaniv attended Vassar College and earned graduate degrees in conducting and composition at the University of Michigan with support from the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. He has also studied with Lorin Maazel and Kurt Masur, and continues to receive mentorship from international conductors Leonard Slatkin and Andrey Boreyko.
Updated September 2021