Pianist Marcus Roberts and Trio to Perform in 2016 “Symphony with Soul”

Media Contact:
Samara Napolitan
Grand Rapids Symphony
616.454.9451 x 110

Pianist Marcus Roberts rose to prominence as a gifted performer — first with the Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center bands for years, then with his own trio and as a classical soloist. Roberts is perhaps best known for the development of an entirely new approach to jazz trio performance. Along the way, he’s become a mentor to many younger musicians, training many on the bandstand and from his professorship at Florida State University. Now, on February 27, 2016 at 8:00 p.m., Roberts and his trio will join the Grand Rapids Symphony for its 15th annual “Symphony with Soul” concert. As part of this annual tradition, the concert will be preceded by Celebration of Soul, a special event celebrating diversity and inclusion initiatives in West Michigan. 

Roberts grew up in Jacksonville, Florida where his mother’s gospel singing and the music of the local church left a lasting impact on his own musical style. After losing his sight at age five, he began teaching himself to play piano, and had his first formal lesson at age 12. Roberts later went on to study classical piano at Florida State University with Leonidas Lipovetsky. Among the many competitions that Roberts has won and awards that he has received over the years, the one that is most personally meaningful to him is the Helen Keller Award for Personal Achievement. Since then, Roberts has become a widely-known and accomplished performer, composer and mentor for young musicians.

Joined by the Grand Rapids Symphony Community Gospel Chorus, directed by Duane Shields Davis, Roberts and his Trio will evoke themes of romance, swing and the blues. His particularly notable version of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” features lengthy trio and improvisatory sections. This concert will also be conducted by Music Director Laureate David Lockington in his first return to the Symphony since leaving the role of Music Director at the end of the 2014-2015 season.  Traditionally, the opener for the Symphony with Soul is Johnson & Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice,” arranged by Chris Hansen. 

Joining the performance will be musicians from the Mosaic Scholarship Program. Made possible through a gift from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Mosaic Scholarship Program provides talented African-American and Hispanic students with private, one-on-one lessons with a professional musician from the Grand Rapids Symphony, instrument rentals, and tickets to Grand Rapids Symphony concerts. At Symphony with Soul, these young instrumentalists will perform on stage as part of the Creative Connections program started by Jill Collier Warne. 

The pre-concert Celebration of Soul gala and MaLinda P. Sapp Legacy Award presentation will honor BL2END, Stephen & Clarice Drew and Huntington Bank. The community will recognize and celebrate each recipient for their commitment to the arts, inclusion, education, and bridging cultural differences. Proceeds benefit the Symphony’s extensive education programs, including the Mosaic Scholarship Program. Individual tickets to the Celebration of Soul event are $150 and include dinner and concert admission. For more information, visit GRSymphony.org/Events. 

The “Symphony with Soul” concert is sponsored by Steelcase Inc.


Tickets start at $18 and are available at the Symphony office, weekdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., 300 Ottawa NW, Suite 100, (located across from the Calder Plaza), or by calling 616.454.9451 x 4. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum.) Tickets are available by phone in the evening and on Saturday by calling 616.885.1241. Tickets are available at the DeVos Place Box Office, weekdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or on the day of the concert beginning two hours prior to the performance. Tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster, 800.982.2787, online at GRSymphony.org or in person at Ticketmaster outlets: select D&W Fresh Markets, Family Fare Stores and Walmart. Tickets purchased at these locations will include a Ticketmaster service fee. Full-time students of any age are able to purchase tickets for only $5 on the night of the concert by enrolling in the Symphony’s Student Passport program. This is a MySymphony360 eligible concert.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

The Grand Rapids Symphony was officially organized in 1930 and is nationally recognized for the quality of its concerts and educational programs. Led by Music Advisor Larry Rachleff, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, ten concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are presented each year, touching the lives of some 170,000. Nearly half of those who benefit are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities reached through extensive education and community service programs. The Symphony’s Affiliated Organizations include the Grand Rapids Bach Festival, Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra, and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. The Symphony also provides the orchestra for Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony please visit GRSymphony.org.

This activity is supported in part by an award from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.