Dear Grand Rapids Symphony Patrons,
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. Navigating a pandemic as a Symphony family with grace and courage is the thing we just do because we have chosen to continue bringing hope and healing to our Western Michigan community.
So when we lose a member of our Symphony family, the grief is profound and felt deeply. With heavy hearts, we share the sad news of cellist Steve VanRavenswaay’s unexpected passing Saturday.
Steve’s life journey with the Symphony is remarkable and emblematic of a Western Michigan story. Originally from Holland, he started playing with the Symphony in September 1975 at the age of 16. With two other musicians, he held the second-longest active tenure in the orchestra at 44 seasons. Incredibly, he was a member of the orchestra for half of its 90-year history.
Steve played with the Ars Nova and Dorian string quartets before becoming a member of the unique ensemble "Beyond Classical", performing educational concerts for the school children of West Michigan, giving some 30 individual performances a year. Over the years he has been honored with numerous awards including 1st prize in the Chicago Cello Society’s 1984 competition for young cellists. He has also performed with such artists as Natalie Cole, the Moody Blues, Yes, John Tesh, Linda Ronstadt, and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (heavy metal Christmas music). Steve’s wife Corrie was a long-time member of the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus.
We will remember Steve as an extraordinary musician who made it his life’s work to create beauty, serenity, and joy for our lives. Undeterred by life’s challenges, he put our musical mission first. Simply put, Steve was a shining example of our Symphony family legacy, history, and culture.
Steve will be deeply missed and we are only now beginning our grief journey. Yet now, more than ever, we are reminded that music has the power to inspire and uplift, to change hearts and minds, to transform lives. We are comforted by the healing ways we can use music to assuage our hearts in the tough days ahead, this time our own.
Please also join us in expressing our deepest sympathy and support to Steve’s wife Corrie and their family. Our support for each other defines our Symphony family fabric and culture. These are uncharted waters, but our support for each other will carry and uplift us.
Marcelo Lehninger, Music Director
Mary Tuuk, President & CEO