A letter from Grand Rapids Symphony President & CEO, Mary Tuuk Kuras...
Our mission to deliver great music to the Western Michigan community is paramount and it brings us together as a Symphony family in life-changing ways. We build cherished relationships with each other and feed our collective souls, all through the lens of our musical mission. Creating, performing, entertaining, educating, and innovating is something we just do because of our passion for our mission.
Our Associate Conductor, John Varineau, has walked this mission daily for 36 years and his story is one of heart, dedication, education, and extraordinary innovation. So, it is with conflicting emotions of sadness for our Symphony family, and happiness for John and his wife Gwen, that we share John’s decision to retire at the end of our main season on May 16, 2021. Feelings of deep appreciation, respect, awe, and inspiration come to mind as we reflect on his legacy. We will also feel the indelible loss of John’s brilliant presence on and off our podium, as John and Gwen transition to a new chapter of desired life experiences with their family.
Describing John’s multi-faceted journey with the Symphony over 36 years is akin to telling the story of a Renaissance man’s travels. Frequent stops along the way range from Beethoven to John Williams to Harry Potter… from Holiday Pops to Nutcracker to Symphony with Soul to Sinfonia Navideña… from Manistee to Greenville to the Ford Museum to Picnic Pops at Cannonsburg… from DeVos Performance Hall to St. Cecilia to Van Andel Arena… from archival recordings to recording CDs to virtual concerts on Vimeo. John also embodies our mission as the familiar voice of Symphony broadcasts on Blue Lake, exquisite orator at remembrances of Symphony family members no longer with us, and tireless advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
But, most of all, John’s passion for students and music education touches our hearts deeply and his contributions are imprinted all over the Western Michigan community. He has shaped countless lives in our community and beyond over the years. Babies become patrons, fifth graders learn a musical instrument, and teenagers become adult musicians; all under John’s influence, teaching, and example. Leading and guiding our musicians of tomorrow for 33 years in Grand Rapids Youth Symphony rehearsals and concerts is yet one more radiant example of John the teacher.
Simply put, John is a treasure to our Symphony mission and our Western Michigan community. We will look forward to the creative ways in which we can express our appreciation for his incredible legacy publicly in the upcoming months. So, for now, we begin our path of gratitude, celebration, and recognition of John’s abundant contributions to our lives. We, the students of John’s classroom, applaud his teaching and will carry his lessons with us for life.
Mary Tuuk Kuras
President and CEO
Grand Rapids Symphony