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Marcelo Lehninger | Music Director
Brazilian-born Marcelo Lehninger is beginning his seventh season as Music Director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. His initial contract was extended through the 2025-26 season. In 2018, he brought the orchestra to Carnegie Hall, its first performance at the famed venue in thirteen years. He previously served as Music Director of the New West Symphony in Los Angeles, for which the League of American Orchestras awarded him the Helen H. Thompson Award for Emerging Music Directors. For five years, Marcelo served as Assistant and then Associate Conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
As a guest conductor, Mr. Lehninger has led some of the leading orchestras in the United States, including the Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Houston, Detroit, Baltimore, Seattle, National, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Indianapolis, Colorado, Charlotte, New Jersey, Jacksonville, Omaha, Chautauqua, Portland, Princeton, Hartford, Hawaii, Vancouver, Tucson, Toledo, and Fairfax Symphonies; the Florida, Louisville and Sarasota Orchestras; and the Rochester, Orlando, New Mexico, and Colorado Springs Philharmonics. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2011 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
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 October 2022
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
Duo Shen | Assistant Conductor
Maggie Coleman Chair
A passionate and versatile conductor, Duo Shen has been praised for his appealing style in leading orchestral groups in both China and the United States. A native Chinese from Beijing, Shen came to the United States in 2008 to pursue his musical dreams. Shen Holds a Professional Studies diploma from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Violin from University of Maryland, College Park.
Shen served as assistant conductor and cover conductor to such conductors as Marcelo Lehninger, JoAnn Faletta, Carlos Kalmar, and Vinay Parameswaran. He was hired as staff conductor at CIM immediately upon graduation and served as rehearsal conductor, assistant conductor, and cover conductor. Shen was also invited as cover conductor at Buffalo Philharmonic and first call cover conductor at Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.
Shen remains passionate about his violin career. He was praised for his performance with the Capital City Symphony in DC. As a member of the Northern Lights Music Festival this summer, he led numerous concerts as concertmaster. He also performed chamber music concerts as well as solo music concerts during the festival. As a chamber musician, Shen founded and toured with the Beijing-based piano Trio “Tongyan” throughout China.
A strong advocate for new music, Shen has performed and premiered numerous newly composed pieces both as a conductor and violinist with different groups such as the CIM New Music Ensemble, District New Music Coalition, and TEMPO at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.
As a music teacher and administrator, Shen served as the Assistant General Manager at the Master Players Festival, a two-week music festival for both domestic and international music students. Shen’s duties included facilitating the festival’s day-to-day operations, and student life, giving violin lessons and assisting guest conductors and artists.
As a conductor, Shen has collaborated with such orchestras as Grand Rapids Symphony, Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, The Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra, The University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra, The University of Delaware Symphony Orchestra, New Symphony Orchestra (Bulgaria) and Pazardjik Symphony Orchestra (Bulgaria).
Updated May 2022
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