Aloha: Farewell to musicians George Goad and Gerald Torres, Peter Spring and Bill Vits, and to former GRS President/CEO Mary Tuuk Kuras
Aloha. The word is a multi-purpose greeting, which we extend to those who recently have departed the GRSMA circle but will not be forgotten.
First, a word of congratulations goes to former GRSMA musicians George Goad and Gerald Torres. Last summer trumpeter George Goad (https://www.grsmusiciansassociation.com/copy-2-of-new-page) won the audition for the Third Trumpet position with the Kansas City Symphony, and bass player Gerald Torres (https://www.grsmusiciansassociation.com/torres-profile) won a section bass position with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. We are sad to see George and Gerald leave our ranks and wish them the best in their new jobs.
Next, we are very sad to say a final goodbye to two retired GRSMA musicians, bass player Peter Spring and percussionist Bill Vits, both of whom passed away last fall.
Long-time Principal Bass of the Grand Rapids Symphony, Peter Spring was a passionate lover of the arts. Even after his retirement, he was often seen in the audience of the GR Symphony and the GR Ballet. We keep Peter’s wife, former GRSMA member Nancy Yagiela, and his family in our thoughts. GRSMA horn player Paul Austin offered this memory of Peter. “Whenever I think of Pete, it goes beyond seeing him on stage at DeVos Hall. We frequented the same Eastown coffee house hangouts and often ran into each other at Kava House, Sparrows, Common Ground, or Global Infusion. We chatted about music during those run-ins, and Pete's special delivery whenever telling a story always reminded me of comedian Bob Newhart. And then one day Pete and Nancy showed up at my yoga class! I give Pete so much credit for taking up yoga at his stage of life, and he quickly became a class fixture at The Yoga Studio. His yoga mat eventually had an unofficial reserved spot that we called “Pete’s place” (one day a new student arrived early and set up there, only to have Pete kindly boot him to another spot when he arrived!). That was our Pete — he had a set routine that was endearing. I dare say that GRSMA musicians won’t forget Pete’s standard piece to demonstrate the double bass to fifth grade audiences every year (“The Elephant” from “The Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saëns), and we think of Pete whenever we hear that music.
Principal Percussion of the Grand Rapids Symphony from 1979 to 2022, Bill Vits was extremely well-known in west Michigan. This YouTube video, shown at the first GRS Classical Series concerts of 2023, truly captures his spirit (Bill actually assisted the GRS in the creation of this video). Bill Vits Tribute - YouTube GRSMA violinist Christina Fong provided us with this fond memory of Bill.
“Bill and I had a long, good, and sometimes complicated history and friendship. We did some musical projects together. I played on several of his recording company projects back when he had a recording business, and I always learned something new. We served on the artistic advisory and negotiation committees for the GRS. We also served on the UICA music committee when it was truly a creative artist-run organization. I have known Bill for so long that I was around his and Stacey's epic move to their Swiss chalet. He scheduled a bunch of friends to help them move. We all thought it would be easy because their home was so clean, organized, and somewhat sparse. Little did we know that he had an attic filled with so much stuff that we packed the semi he had rented and still had more stuff to move. During the move, a vase buried beneath a million things in the attic broke. It was just an ordinary florist shop vase that anyone else would have pitched without a thought. Bill picked up the broken vase and carefully examined it. I could see the wheels of his brain turning as to how he could salvage the broken vase or use it for something else. Bill did this because that was the kind of guy he was. He believed everything and everyone had potential and value. To say that Bill enjoyed and lived life to the fullest is an understatement. Yet, no matter how full, it does not seem long enough. I miss you.” We keep Bill’s wife Stacey and his family in our thoughts. (Remembering Bill Vits)
Finally, we say aloha in every sense of the word to Mary Tuuk Kuras, who is retiring from the GRS. Mary was President/CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony from January 2019 to December 2022 and saw the organization during the challenging years of the pandemic. While she will no longer be at the helm, we will continue to see Mary onstage at DeVos Hall in the soprano section of the GRS Chorus. GRSMA wishes Mary the best during her retirement and thanks her deeply for her solid leadership of the GRS. (https://www.grsmusiciansassociation.com/welcome-mt)
Mary Tuuk Kuras