Marcelo Lehninger | Music Director
Chair Funded Anonymously
Marcelo Lehninger just completed his second season as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony, conducting the orchestra in 11 programs during the 2017-18 season plus the Grand Rapids Symphony’s critically acclaimed return to Carnegie Hall in April.
Appointed Assistant Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2010, Lehninger was promoted to Associate Conductor two years later, spending five seasons there. On just three days’ notice in 2011, he led performances in Boston Symphony Hall including the world premiere of a new violin concerto by Harrison Birtwistle. With Lehninger on the podium, the BSO later repeated the program in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.
Awarded the 2014 Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director by the League of American Orchestras, Lehninger made his Grand Rapids Symphony debut in February 2015 with an enthusiastically received performance of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9. In April 2016, the Brazilian-born conductor returned to DeVos Performance Hall for concerts with Ottorino Respighi’s Pines of Rome. Two months later, he was appointed 14th music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. This summer, he returns for his second season of the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops.
This past season, Lehninger made his debuts with the Tucson and Charlotte Symphonies and led return engagements with the North Carolina Symphony and the Rochester Philharmonic. He also returned to the Slovenian Philharmonic, conducting concerts in Ljubljana and on tour to Vienna. In May, he conducted the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse in France.
In North America, Lehninger has led the symphony orchestras of Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Toronto and Vancouver among others. Elsewhere, he has conducted the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin and the Lucerne Symphony. As an assistant to Mariss Jansons, he has toured with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
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 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. 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. 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 June 2018
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 returns to the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops for his fourth summer at Cannonsburg Ski Area. In September, Bernhardt will begins his fifth season as Principal Pops Conductor of the Grand Rapids Symphony, playing a key role in programming for the Fox Motors Pops, for which he’ll lead concerts that include “The Music of Sir Paul McCartney” with guitarist and vocalist John Pizzarelli in September, the Wolverine Worldwide Holiday Pops in December, and “Sci-Fi and Superheroes” with vocalist Mela Dailey in May 2019.
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 and Wynonna, and with entertainers who perform music from the Great American Songbook such as 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,” marks his 25th anniversary this summer as a regular guest conductor with the Boston Pops, which he first led 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 12 seasons as conductor of Edmonton’s “Symphony Under the Sky Festival.”
This past season, Bernhardt completed his 36th consecutive season with the Louisville Orchestra and his 21st season there as Principal Pops Conductor. He wrapped up his sixth 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.
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 June 2018
John Varineau | Associate Conductor
Cornucopia Family Foundation Chair
Now in his fourth decade on the podium for the Grand Rapids Symphony, Associate Conductor John Varineau 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 the D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops and wide variety of educational and outreach concerts throughout the area.
Last season was Varineau’s 30th anniversary season as conductor of the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, and the upcoming 2018-19 season will be his 34th year with the Grand Rapids Symphony. Additionally, he conducts the Grand Rapids Symphony in performances with the Grand Rapids Ballet including the 2014 world premiere 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.
Varineau’s guest conducting appearances have included the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Lansing Symphony Orchestra, the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, and the 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 June 2018
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Pearl Shangkuan | Chorus Director
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