Meet the Musicians: Steven VanRavenswaay

Name: Steven VanRavenswaay
Birthplace: Marinette, WI 
Instrument: Cello
Member since: 1975

1.  What is one of your earliest musical memories?   

My earliest memory is of my father playing a recording of the great cellist, Leonard Rose, performing the Lalo cello concerto and telling me that he had dreams of me playing that piece someday. When I was 16, I performed the piece with the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony.

2.  How did your summers spent at Interlochen Center for the Arts influence you? 

 My father conducted and taught at the National Music Camp at Interlochen in the summers from 1968 through 1977. I played in orchestras and took private lessons there from the age of nine until I graduated high school. Interlochen helped define who I would become as a musician. By the time I graduated high school, I had worked with some of the greatest conductors and performed most of the standard orchestral repertoire.

3. Why do you choose to play a locally-made instrument? 

I experienced a great tragedy in 2005 when my instrument, a cello made in 1755, was destroyed in an accident. The relationship musicians have with their instruments is extremely personal and intimate. My wife jokingly calls my cello "your girlfriend,” I spent eight  years searching for a new instrument with which I could form that relationship again. Quite frankly, the fact that the cello I now play was made by someone living in Grand Rapids is just an interesting side note. Don't get me wrong, I love this instrument and it is nice having the maker, Steve McCann, here in Grand Rapids, but that is not why I chose this instrument.

4. Name one live performance that you’ll never forget.  

 At the risk of sounding cliché and perhaps a bit snobbish, nearly every performance can have moments that transport me to a place non-performers can't understand. I live for my music. Music is who I am. Even if I am not playing my cello, I have music going, in my head or on the stereo. Most recently our performance of Mahler's 2nd Symphony comes to mind. The climax of the final movement sends me to that place where I lose myself and it becomes difficult to contain my emotions. Incredible! 

5.  What do you do outside of work? 

I love to cook and I'm a huge movie fan. Give me a great movie and a nice pasta dish, and I'm happy. 

6. What kind of music do you listen to for personal enjoyment? 

I will listen to almost anything, but if you nail me down, my current favorite is film music. I've got several Pandora channels dedicated to specific film composers. That is why I was so excited to perform Michael Giacchino's score for "Star Trek.” What a rush! 

7.  What is your favorite thing about living in Grand Rapids? 

Grand Rapids is a big "small town.” It is large enough to have many of the perks of much larger cities, but small enough to feel familiar and intimate. 

8.  What would you be if you weren’t a musician? 

I can't imagine doing anything else but if I had to choose one thing I would probably be a chef. I like the complexity and creativity of cooking. 

9.  What advice would you give to young musicians? 

I look back to when I was growing up and I can't remember a time when I wanted to do anything else. My advice would be to follow your passion and hope that the adults around you are willing to let you explore and follow your passion. If you really love playing an instrument, do it with all your heart, just don't do it to get rich. Becoming that wealthy "rock star" is a one in a billion proposition but if you play with all your heart, you will at least have a refuge from the chaos of everyday life. 

10.  What would you like people to know about the Grand Rapids Symphony? 

 We are professionals, every one of us! Yes, it is a full time job. THIS IS WHAT I DO FOR A LIVING!   

Posted by Sam Napolitan at 06:00
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