Experiencing the magic of the GR Symphony on a student budget


Story by America DeGraw, Reporter
Photo courtesy of Terry Johnson & the Grand Rapids Symphony

You take your seat to the sound of 89 instruments warming up and practicing their solos. It’s a cacophony of sound, chaotic and messy, but beautiful nonetheless, building tension for what you are about to experience. You sit excitedly in your chair, staring out at the orchestra below you, the anticipation is almost unbearable. Then the lights dim and doors at the side of the stage open wide. Out walks the first violinist and the hall applauds him as he takes his place. He raises his violin and bow, looking out at his fellow musicians, who raise their instruments expectantly, awaiting his next move. Carefully he draws his bow across the strings, releasing a clear note that is slowly caught up and echoed by his companions; the sounds swell to a climax, then dies as quickly as it began. The conductor takes his place, and raises his baton. Music swells again, this time in a glorious crescendo that immerses you in sound.

The Grand Rapids Symphony, housed in DeVos Performance Hall, is considered a source of pride for West Michigan residents; it’s full orchestra performs over 400 shows a year, not including their contributions to both Opera Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Ballet.

For most patrons the Symphony is an investment, as tickets for a normal GR Symphony performance cost between $30 and $70. However, in an attempt to bring classical music to a larger demographic, the Symphony released what they call their “Student Passport.” This free promotion is available for full-time students in any level of education, so long as they have a valid student ID, and gets you into certain shows for only $5. So, as a student, what shows do a passport get you into? The passport includes the “Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series,” “Grand Rapids Bach Festival,” the “Fox Motors Pops Series,” as well as many more which can be found under the “Student Passport” section of the Grand Rapids Symphony website.

This reporter recently attended the performance of “Rachmaninoff’s Paganini Variations using my student passport, and was absolutely blown away by the show. The symphony lived up to my high expectations, presenting a polished and emotion-evoking performance that left me longing for more. The performance opened with a lively rendition of Dvorak’s “Carnival” overture, preparing the audience for the intense music of Rachmaninoff’s Paganini with something lighter and exciting.

Their guest performer Joyce Yang, an award-winning pianist who has performed as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and many other renowned orchestras, played Rachmaninoff’s movements with passionate precision, causing her audience to take to their feet at the end of the performance and demand not only a second curtain call, but an encore as well. She played a piece of her own choosing, one it seemed she played many times before. As she lost herself in the music, she let the emotion of the piece sweep her away and left the audience in awe once more when she had finished.

The performance was a great success, showcasing not only the Symphony’s guest, but each section of the orchestra individually. The excellent performance left the audience with a reason to return. The symphony is without doubt worthy of its high praise.

Now, as a student, you too have reason to experience a night of culture and engrossing musical performance. With the $5 student passport, your trip to the Grand Rapids Symphony is not only highly enjoyable, but affordable as well.

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