GRSMA Alums: Where Are They Today?

Frequently our audience members notice when familiar faces are no longer with us on stage, and sometimes they ask about those missing GRSMA musicians. We are pleased to have such a strong following in our community and that our audiences care about our well-being! GRSMA decided to track down some of our former members for an update as to their whereabouts after leaving Grand Rapids.

Elliot Beck

Elliot Beck, GRS per-service Section Percussion from 2014 to 2015, left Grand Rapids to join the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as Percussion/Assistant Principal Timpani. In 2019 he returned to Philadelphia where he currently plays percussion with the West Philadelphia Orchestra, teaches music to young percussionists, and organizes his colleagues and friends for racial and climate justice. Elliot stated that “I will always be grateful for the year I got to spend with such warm, supportive colleagues in GRSMA and our many memorable performances. Some highlights for me were David Lockington’s final performance as GRS Music Director (Mahler’s Second Symphony), Live Arts! in the Van Andel Arena, and collaborations with Opera Grand Rapids.” When leaving the GRS, Elliot was interviewed by the GR Symphony News and asked "what compelled you to audition for a job in Israel?” His response was “the unglamorous answer is that I was seeking a full-time position, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was holding auditions.” Here is a link to Elliot’s entire interview from 2015: https://www.grsymphony.org/news/posts/grand-rapids-symphony-percussionist-

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Photo credit: Terry Johnston

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Samuel Caviezel

Samuel Caviezel, GRS Principal Clarinet from 1996 to 1998, is now Associate Principal and Eb Clarinetist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. About his time in Grand Rapids, Sam relayed that “this was my first job, straight out of conservatory, and I couldn’t have had a more warm and welcoming first professional experience. Those were some really good days, filled with great music-making and camaraderie.”

John Clapp

John Clapp, GRS Assistant Principal Bassoon from 2007 to 2014 and GRS Contrabassoon from 2000 to 2007, left the GRS to become Personnel Manager of the North Carolina Symphony. Today John is Vice President of Artistic Operations and General Manager of the Charlotte Symphony. In this role, John oversees all aspects of Charlotte Symphony artistic programming and orchestra operations. He also works closely with CSO musician and board committees in order to promote a collaborative relationship across the organization. During his time as a member of GRSMA, John served in many roles including Orchestra Committee Chair and ROPA Delegate. He still maintains an active AFM Local 56 membership and is excited to stay in touch with all the great work GRSMA is doing. John reported that "we still have family in the West Michigan region and enjoy coming back to our favorite places a few times each year. Working with all the talented members of GRSMA over my fifteen seasons in the Grand Rapids Symphony helped shape the successes of my life and career."

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Joseph Conyers

Joseph Conyers, GRS Principal Bass from 2005 to 2008, left Grand Rapids for a Section Bass position with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Eventually Joseph became Assistant Principal Bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra and today is their Acting Associate Principal Bass. In addition, he is Executive Director and Founder of the non-profit organization Project 440, faculty member at The Juilliard School and Temple University, plus Director of the Young Artist Orchestra Program at Boston University Tanglewood Institute. Joseph relayed that "despite my affiliations with many different musical institutions across the country and throughout my career, the leadership and organization along with the sense of family and institutional purpose of GRSMA is a standard that has continually inspired. I'm in awe of all they've been able to accomplish over the years fueled by their dedication of assuring West Michigan a world-class artistic institution of the highest repute. I currently share a stand with my former teacher from Curtis, an opportunity that few in their careers have the chance to experience and a dream that has definitely come true. That being said, I'm forever grateful to the Grand Rapids Symphony for welcoming me so warmly with open arms and inspiring me to grow as a person and as a musician. My experience with the GRS helped to lay the foundation for my place in classical music both on and off the stage."

Jeremy Crosmer

Jeremy Crosmer, GRS Assistant Principal Cello from 2012 to 2017, is now Section Cello with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. During his Grand Rapids days, Jeremy appeared as soloist with the GRS, composer for three works that the GRS premiered (most notably Ozark Traveler in 2017), member of the Negotiation, Orchestra, and Artistic Advisory Committees, and composer and arranger for the Music for Health Initiative. In 2021 he was a recipient of the Ford Musician Award for Excellence in Community Service, presented by the League of American Orchestras, for his work partnering with Kadima Mental Health Services in Detroit. During the pandemic Jeremy taught virtual composition and music theory workshops for high school students and participated in the DSO's partnership with Interlochen Arts Camp. His viola concerto Masks: a Heroine's Tale has been performed by orchestras around the country.

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Blake Hinson

Blake Hinson, GRS Principal Bass from December of 2010 to August of 2012, is now Assistant Principal Bass with the New York Philharmonic. Blake shared that “I absolutely love the Grand Rapids Symphony and remember my time there fondly. We played excellent concerts consistently, and it was a pleasure to be a member.” GRSMA is pleased to see that Blake has served as a member of the Negotiation, Orchestra, and Artistic Committees for the musicians of the New York Philharmonic, and that he currently is double bass faculty at Stony Brook University.

Matt Milewski

Matt Milewski was a GRS per-service Section Violin from 2004 to 2005. Now, as well as being a full-time Section Violin with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, he often is an extra violinist with the Dallas Symphony (where he also won and performed a one-year position in 2018). In addition, Matt is a member of Crimson Duo, a harp and violin ensemble that has performed around the world. Their current project Stringscapes, meant to fuse the creative process of photography with new works for violin and harp, will be featured on a recital in June of 2022 at the American Harp Society. That concert will include new works composed for the duo by Libby Larsen, Paul Patterson, and Patricio DaSilva. Matt told us that he loved performing in the Grand Rapids Symphony, especially because of the friendships and support he has here.

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Ava Ordman

Ava Ordman, GRS Principal Trombone from 1973 to 1997, is now in her nineteenth year as Professor of Trombone at Michigan State University’s College of Music. Her time with the GRS was notable and included many performances, premieres, and recordings as soloist, including Donald Erb’s Trombone Concerto, Libby Larsen’s Mary Cassatt, and Steven Smith’s Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra. The strong reputation of the MSU trombone studio is apparent in the GRS: all of our current GRSMA trombonists studied there, including Chris Houlihan who is presently finishing his bachelor's degree under Professor Ordman (check out his musician profile in this issue of our newsletter HERE).

Hannah Thomas-Hollands

Hannah Thomas-Hollands, GRS per-service Section Cello from 2014 to 2018, is now Acting Section Cello with the Utah Symphony.  Her GRSMA days included serving on the Orchestra Committee and creating a video A Day In The Life about her schedule as a free-lance musician in West Michigan (https://www.grsmusiciansassociation.com/thomas-hollands-video). While in the Grand Rapids Symphony, Hannah was proud to participate in the Music for Health program as well as maintain an active teaching and performing schedule nationwide. Now landed in Salt Lake City, she is happily engaged to fellow Utah Symphony musician (and former GRSMA member) Paul Torrisi.

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Paul Torrisi

Paul Torrisi, GRS Assistant Principal/Second Trumpet from 2017 to 2019, is currently Second Trumpet with the Utah Symphony. While his time in Grand Rapids was brief, Paul is remembered fondly for his outstanding performance of the off-stage trumpet solo for the GRS concerts of Mahler's Third Symphony in May of 2019. Paul tells us that he has had the opportunity to learn a lot of new music in his job with the Utah Symphony, which also includes the Utah Opera season.

Shannon Wood

Shannon Wood, GRS Principal Timpani from 2007 to 2013, left Grand Rapids to become Principal Timpani of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He remembered that "GRSMA embodies a group of strong, talented musicians that reaches out to local nonprofits to support the community." Shannon also noted that "I'm thankful for that same team support which I'm able to share here with the Musicians of St. Louis Symphony Orchestra."

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GRSMA was pleased to catch up with our former colleagues. We congratulate them on their impressive careers in the classical music world and extend our thanks for their contributions to this article.