Music director candidate Perry So returns for FREE encore performance with Grand Rapids Symphony

Media Contact:
Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk
Public Relations Manager
616.454.9451 ext. 139

GRAND RAPIDS, MI., May 4, 2016 – Orchestra conductor Perry So was born and raised in Hong Kong, and that’s where he first heard of the Grand Rapids Symphony – believe it or not.

Musicians in the Hong Kong Symphony, who happened to have Michigan connections, had spoken well of the Grand Rapids Symphony, and that memory remained with So.

“A young, energetic orchestra that really wants to get it right,” So recalled his former colleagues telling him. “A work ethic is everything. It’s a quality I prize above all else.” 

In March, So made his DeVos Performance Hall debut as the seventh of eight guest conductors collaborating with the Grand Rapids Symphony during its 2015-16 season. All eight are potential candidates to become its next music director.

Grand Rapids Symphony’s Music Director Search Committee decided to have So back for a second look.

The former associate conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, whose past two seasons included appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra, returns to West Michigan for an encore performance with the Grand Rapids Symphony at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 15, 2016.

The special event will be held in the Jenison Center for the Arts at Jenison High School, 8375 20th Ave. Admission is free, but an RSVP is required. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at (616) 454-9451 or go online to

Perry So, who was awarded two prizes at the Fifth International Prokofiev Conducting Competition in 2008, will lead the Grand Rapids Symphony on May 15 in Mozart’s Overture to “The Magic Flute” and Wagner’s Prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde” as well as Wagner’s Prelude to Act 3 of “Lohengrin.”

A reception to meet the conductor will follow the 30-minute concert.

In March, Perry So lead the Grand Rapids Symphony in Robert Schuman’s Symphony No. 2 and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Piano Concerto No. 5 with pianist Martin Helmchen in DeVos Performance Hall.

He also conducted the orchestra in a recent work by contemporary French composer Guillaume Connesson titled “Supernova,” which was inspired by a painting by Wassily Kandinsky.

So recalled being “absolutely captivated” by Connesson’s music, which reminded him of sounds you’d hear walking down the streets of Paris.

“I’m drawn to explore the works of local composers wherever I go. Entering the musical imagination of someone who lives in the community prompts me to learn much more about the specific audience and the musical culture of a city and country than I otherwise would have,” he said. “In my experience, an orchestra that delights in a broad range of styles is an orchestra that is open-minded, that can bring a sense of adventure to familiar pieces, and that can get on board with different ways of doing things. 

An inaugural Dudamel Conducting Fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Perry So recently concluded four years with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra as associate conductor, where he appeared with pianist Lang Lang in an internationally televised celebration of the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China.

So has led major orchestras from London to Seoul as well as in the countries of Japan, Israel and Russia. He has toured with the New Zealand Symphony, the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, and the Zagreb Philharmonic, the latter in a historic series of concerts in capitals of former Yugoslav countries.

Perry So graduated from Yale University with a degree in Comparative Literature, where he began studies in conducting. He later studied with Gustav Meier at the Peabody Conservatory of Music. 

Off-stage, So, who lives in New Haven, Connecticut, enjoys cooking and running.

“My wife tells me I can sometimes take the kitchen as seriously as I take the podium,” he said. “I’ll be running my third half-marathon in a few months, hopefully working my way up towards a full marathon sometime in the near future.”  


Tickets are free by an RSVP is required for entry. Call the Grand Rapids Symphony at 616.454.9451 or go online to the Grand Rapids Symphony’s website to RSVP for Perry So’s May 15 program.

About the Grand Rapids Symphony

Organized in 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony 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, nine concert series are presented, featuring a wide range of music and performance styles. More than 400 performances are given each year, touching the lives of some 200,000, nearly half of whom are students, senior citizens and people with disabilities all reached through extensive education and community service programs. Affiliated organizations include the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus; Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and Classical Orchestra; and Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Choruses. GRS sponsors the biennial Grand Rapids Bach Festival and provides the orchestra for performances by Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet. To learn more about the Grand Rapids Symphony, please visit

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.