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marcelo lehninger grand rapids symphony music director

When Marcelo Lehninger’s wife, Laura, plays popular music in the car, their 4-year-old daughter, Sofia, protests, “No, I want Papai’s music. “Papai” is Portuguese for dad. Dad’s music is classical. You can tell Lehninger, a father of two daughters, gets a kick out of this. Lehninger, 36, is the new music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony. When he takes the helm for the 2017-2018 season, he’ll plan concerts, choose the music, select guest artists and lead a majority of the symphony’s classical series concerts, and some other concerts too. A native of Brazil, Lehninger is the son of a German violinist and a Brazilian pianist. He has a captivating accent and a warm, affable manner that should charm the tuxedo pants off of Grand Rapids. It doesn’t hurt that he says stuff like this: “Even if I’m conducting 100 concerts a year, I want to be as passionate as if I were conducting my very first one. My father always told me, never just perform. Make every concert a special event.” When you add up his actual jobs with his guest conducting gigs, you realize Lehninger has led these “special events” all over the world: Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Washington, D.C., Brazil, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Argentina, Uruguay. Up next: Australia. The list actually goes on. His latest gig was four years as music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles. When he made his Grand Rapids symphony debut in February 2015 to lead a performance of Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World,” Lehninger brought the house down. “It was an expression of magic and passion that reached new heights,” says Mary Tuuk, co-chair of the symphony’s search committee. He can’t wait to make that happen again. Lehninger swims every day. He loves good microbrews, fried yucca and the movie “Somewhere in Time.” He might finally get to visit Mackinac Island. He thinks his youthful energy will attract a younger audience to the symphony. Expect some lively South American music mixed in with your favorite classics. Conductors are known for their black jackets and bow ties, but Lehninger might surprise us. He’s got style. “I have red shoes,” he says. “And some other colors too.” He laughs. “You’ll see.”


SOLACE Fall / Winter 2016 - 2017