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Grand Rapids Symphony names new music director

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
Marcelo Lehninger was named the new music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony on Thursday.

The Grand Rapids Symphony has made one of the most important decisions an orchestra makes: selecting a new music director. The search for a new director has taken the better part of four years.

Brazil native Marcelo Lehningersays he felt a “great chemistry” with Grand Rapids' musicians when he guest-conducted in 2015 and earlier this year.

“Every single concert that orchestra plays, you know we need to convey that passion, because that, it’s really what gets to people’s hearts,” Lehninger said.

Lehninger moved to the U.S. in 2005. He’s conducted orchestras in New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

He replaces David Lockington, who was the music director in Grand Rapids for the past 16 years. He's the longest-serving music director in the organization’s 80-plus year history.

“It’s not necessarily better, worse, or otherwise but it’s by definition always going to be different because (music directors) bring their soul and personality into everything they do,” said Mary Tuuk, who co-chaired the search committee. 

During a reception Thursday, the 36-year old said he was excited to raise his family and bring his passion for music to a growing “dynamic” region.

He said his first steps will be to simply listen to what the community wants from its orchestra. He says two of his biggest passions, education and connecting with younger audiences, will be a focus of his vision for the Grand Rapids Symphony.

“We want to be relevant,” search committee co-chair Larry Robson said.

“We’re not just a bunch of old people going to hear a symphony in a tuxedo. As our new conductor mentioned, we want to attract young people … to do many different things to broaden the appeal of the Grand Rapids Symphony.”

The Grand Rapids Symphony performs more than 100 concerts a year. It recently wrapped up a $40 million fundraising campaign to create an endowment fund, signed a 5-year deal with musicians and released a 5-year strategic plan.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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