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 led by Music Director Marcelo Lehninger with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, New York Times critic James Oestreich proclaimed “the Grand Rapids forces delivered it handsomely,” and the New York Classical Review spoke highly of the orchestra’s “polished sound” and “commitment to the performance.”
Since 1930, the Grand Rapids Symphony has been committed to serving its community through performances, educational outreach, and collaborations with partners including Grand Rapids Ballet and Opera Grand Rapids. Led by Lehninger plus Principal Pops Conductor Bob Bernhardt and Associate Conductor John Varineau, the Grand Rapids Symphony touches the lives of some 200,000 people from 14 counties across the state through its 10-concert Richard and Helen DeVos Classical, six-concert Fox Motors Pops, and four-concert PwC Great Eras series plus its D&W Fresh Market Picnic Pops in the summer.
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 more than 15,000 youngsters 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 hospitals and veteran’s homes, 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 2018-19 season marks the 50th anniversary for violinist Lenore D’Haem, the 45th for flutist Ruth Bylsma, and the 40th for percussionist William Vits as well as for violinists Steven Brook and David Wheeler. 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 2018-19 season is the 57th season for the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus as well as the 59th for the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony and the 11th for the Grand Rapids Symphony Youth Chorus. The Grand Rapids Bach Festival, an affiliate of the Grand Rapids Symphony since 2013, will hold its 12th biennial festival in March 2019 under its new Artistic Director Julian Wachner.
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 February 2019