Joseph Conyers with GRS Assistant Principal Violist Barbara Corbato
Renowned Former GRS Musician
Returns for Solo Appearance
interviewed by Larry Herzberg -GRS Violinist
Joseph Conyers was formerly the principal bass of the Grand Rapids Symphony. For the past five seasons he has served as Assistant Principal Bass with the world-famous Philadelphia Orchestra. Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Symphony have a special place in his heart. For that reason among others Joseph has graciously consented to return to our city to play a solo with us on our September 8 concert at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Here is what Joseph had to say about our orchestra and our community in a phone interview this week.
Why is an extremely busy and highly acclaimed artist such as yourself willing to take the time to come to Grand Rapids to play a concert with musicians from our orchestra?
The city of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Symphony in particular have a special place in my heart. I truly love the town, the orchestra, and my friends in the orchestra. The three years I spent in Grand Rapids was a very special time in my life. I learned so much during my time there. I can honestly say that I would not be the musician I am today were it not for the experiences I had playing in Grand Rapids. I not only gained invaluable experience in my first job as a professional, but also was in a community where I could explore and develop my faith.
The orchestra world is extremely competitive these days, with too many talented and highly trained musicians for the number of orchestra positions. Therefore Grand Rapids has really fine players that continually surprise guest conductors and guest artists with their high level of artistry. I find it inspirational to see what a great orchestra a city of such relatively small size has created. It’s a great story and one which I’d like to help get out. I also want to support the musicians of this orchestra that means so much to me.
After leaving Grand Rapids, you were a member of the Atlanta Symphony for several years before joining the Philadelphia Orchestra. Is there anything you particularly liked about our orchestra here?
While it’s true that those other orchestras with which I’ve played perform at an extremely high level, what I find so special about the Grand Rapids Symphony is the joy in making music, the musicality, and the great flexibility displayed by the players there. There’s a real commitment to genuine music making. And the orchestra continues to play at a higher and higher level. The Grand Rapids Symphony is also unique in encouraging input by the musicians in helping discuss innovative ways to grow the organization.
Why have you chosen to play “Danny Boy” with us on the September 8 concert?
First of all, “Danny Boy” is a beautiful and well-loved piece of music. But it’s also something that has special significance for me. I first came to know it as a church hymn. It now holds a little bit of my soul. I discovered a particularly lovely setting for string bass solo with string accompaniment, which I performed as an encore on a recent program and which I plan to do with you in Grand Rapids.