Grand Rapids Symphony offers options to students


Terry Johnston

Photo by Terry Johnson.

For only $5, students can experience Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn and a variety of other composers at the Grand Rapids Symphony this fall.

The symphony’s student passport program gives any full-time student discounted access to many classical concerts, including “Mozart and Brahms” (Oct. 26-27) and “We Remember” (Nov. 16-17).

“The Student Passport Program is a way that we can have students still join us at an age when they don’t have a lot of expendable income,” said Jacalyn Wood, the symphony’s marketing manager and a 2005 Calvin graduate.

At $5, Wood noted, a student ticket is “cheaper than a movie.” Non-discounted tickets range from $24.50 to $96.50.

“I love the opportunity to expose young people to something they are unfamiliar with,” said David Lockington, the symphony’s music director. “I would hope that students, more than most, would be curious to explore something outside their familiar milieu and try to dig to the heart of it.”

October’s “Mozart and Brahms” will feature Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 41, better known as the Jupiter Symphony.

Woody Allen, in his 1979 movie “Manhattan,” named the Jupiter Symphony as one of his reasons for living. Robert Nordling, Calvin music professor and orchestra conductor, described the piece as “the absolute zenith of classical symphonic literature.”

Brahms’s concerto received similar praise from Nordling: “a gorgeous, gorgeous piece of music.” The concerto is written for a solo piano with orchestral accompaniment, and it includes a cello solo in the slow movement.

In November, the Grand Rapids Symphony will perform “We Remember,” which will pair Stephen Paulus’ Holocaust memorial oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn” with Felix Mendelssohn’s Fifth Symphony, “Reformation.”

Paulus, a living composer who has worked with the Calvin alumni choir, wrote the oratorio in 2005. In addition to the orchestra, it includes a mixed chorus, children’s chorus, cantor and soloists.

“This is a program which we call a Program of Conscience in which we take the time to explore a theme—in this case, the relationships between religion, society and culture,” said Lockington. “The prism is, of course, the Holocaust.”

The second part of the “We Remember” concert will consist of Mendelssohn’s Reformation Symphony, which recalls the Protestant Reformation. The symphony includes Martin Luther’s chorale, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”

The Student Passport Program gives discounts for all concerts in the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series, Crowe Howath Rising Stars Series and Edward Jones Coffee Classics Series, as well as Symphony with Soul.

The program also gives students admission to UpBeat, a behind-the-scenes, pre-concert presentation that features David Lockington and other guests. UpBeat begins at 7 p.m. before every Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Concert and is free for all ticket holders.

“I will, without apology, sing the praises of GR symphony,” said Nordling, who conducted the orchestra once this past summer. “Great orchestra—every concert I go to, I enjoy to the full.

“Now, am I comparing GR symphony to the New York Philharmonic? I’m not. And they wouldn’t either—that would be silly. But without apology, this is a good orchestra.”

50 full-time and 30 part-time professional musicians make up the orchestra.

A number of these performers also teach at Calvin College, including associate conductor John Varineau, chorus director Pearl Shangkuan and viola, harp, double bass, tuba, French horn and oboe players.

The Grand Rapids Regional Symphonic Orchestra is the “dominant symphony within [the West Michigan] area,” Wood said.

There are several ways to register for the Student Passport Program. The symphony recommends that on the evening of a concert, a student should simply sign up for and immediately receive a membership card at, depending on the concert’s location, the Student Passport table in the DeVos Performance Hall’s outer lobby or the ticket table at St. Cecilia Music Center.

Upcoming Concerts Eligible for the Student Passport Program:

Mozart and Mendelssohn
Oct. 18 & 19, 8 p.m.
St. Cecilia Music Center

Mozart and Brahms
Oct. 26 & 27, 8 p.m.
DeVos Performance Hall

We Remember
Nov. 16 & 17, 8 p.m.
DeVos Performance Hall

Winds and Piano
Oct. 19, 10 a.m.
St. Cecilia Music Center