Grand Rapids Symphony - One of America's Leading Orchestras
When the Grand Rapids Symphony returned to New York City’s Carnegie Hall in April 2018 for a performance with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus under the baton of Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, critic James Oestreich of the New York Times proclaimed “the Grand Rapids forces delivered it handsomely.”
The Grand Rapids Symphony, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this season, has been committed to serving its community through performances, educational programs, and collaborations with partners including Grand Rapids Ballet and Opera Grand Rapids. Led by Marcelo Lehninger, Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, the Grand Rapids Symphony touches the lives of some 200,000 people from 13 counties across the state through its 10-concert Richard and Helen DeVos Classical, six-concert Fox Motors Pops, and four-concert Holland Home Great Eras series.
Today, the Grand Rapids Symphony’s Gateway to Music, a network of 18 access points to engage with orchestral music for people of all ages and from all walks of life, include Lollipop Concerts for small children, Artist in Residence programs in schools, and Mosaic Scholarships for Latinx and African-American teens. Since 1944, four generations of concert goers have grown up attending Fifth Grade Concerts, providing a live concert experience for aproximately 15,000 students and adults each year.
Grand Rapids Symphony’s recent initiatives include Symphony Scorecard and Free for Kids, which together have welcomed more than 12,000 patrons to concerts who otherwise would not be able to attend. The orchestra’s award-winning Music for Health initiative sends musicians into area health care and rehab facilities as well as the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, armed with the healing power of music. Grand Rapids Symphony’s 12 recordings, for labels including Naxos, Nimbus and Koss Classics, include Invention & Alchemy featuring jazz harpist Deborah Henson-Conant, which was nominated for the Grammy for Best Classical Crossover Album during the 49th annual Grammy Awards in 2007.
The Grand Rapids Symphony’s ranks are filled with musicians who have made careers in West Michigan. The 2019-20 season marks the 40th anniversary season for clarinetist Michael Kornacki, violinists Christine Golden and Diane McElfish Helle, and bass trombonist Robert Ward. Since 2013, the orchestra’s musicians have been members of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, which represents players in 52 of the largest orchestras in the United States.
The 2019-20 season is the 60th anniversary season for the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony as well as the 58th for the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus and the 12th for the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus.
The Grand Rapids Symphony takes pride in having helped launch the career of former music director Semyon Bychkov, chief conductor and music director of the Czech Philharmonic. In 1986, the orchestra made history by appointing Catherine Comet as music director. Two years later, Comet, the first woman to lead a regional professional orchestra in the United States, was awarded the prestigious Seaver/NEA Conductor’s Award.
When the Grand Rapids Symphony made its Carnegie Hall debut in 2005, New York Times critic Bernard Holland wrapped up his review with these words: “The orchestra is what it ought to be and gives a glimmer of hope for all of us in the music world.”
Updated September 2019