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Larry Herzberg Takes His Final Bows

Diane Helle - GRS Violin

As we come to the last month of the 2015-16 season, it is time to say a fond farewell – at least on stage - to violinist Larry Herzberg, who will be retiring after performing for 36 seasons with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Larry arrived in Grand Rapids in the fall of 1980 as part of an expansion of full-time musicians in the symphony’s string section.  He brought a wealth of experience from his years as Assistant Concertmaster of the Nashville Symphony (and from his “moonlighting” with country music stars in Nashville’s recording studios). 

In the late 1970s, Larry took a break from his orchestra profession in order to pursue his other love, the Chinese language, in a PhD program at Indiana University. In Grand Rapids, Larry found a way to realize both of his callings, eventually building a unique double career as a professional violinist and a college language professor.

Over his years with the Grand Rapids Symphony, Larry has been a member of both the first and second violin sections including several years in which he anchored the first violin section from second stand, right behind the concert master. Always a passionate player, Larry is also known for being rock solid on even the most treacherous rhythmic passages and is esteemed among his colleagues for virtually never counting wrong.

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But Larry’s contributions to the Grand Rapids Symphony also include much in addition to his performing. His graciousness to everyone and his ever-positive spirit have greatly influenced the daily life and culture of this orchestra.

He also might also be called the violins’ chief morale officer, particularly in December. Witness: Nutcracker Ballet parts decorated throughout with pictures of cats (Larry’s third great passion), or tiny replicas of famous paintings, or phrases in Chinese. Witness: the gifts given each year to section members – books on cats for fellow cat lovers, books on dogs for the dog lovers, something else for the pet allergic. Larry was also responsible for two series of publications for all orchestra members: COMA and DOGMA  (yes, that would be Cats of the Musicians’ Association and Dogs of the Musicians’ Association).

One of the largest projects from Larry’s imagination was the video that is posted on our GRSMA Website (click here for link). In addition to the initial vision for the project, Larry also was the producer and partial funder of the nationally acclaimed video showing the many way that GR Symphony Musicians are connected to and serve the West Michigan Community.

Usually when people retire, it means that they are saying goodbye to full time work. In Larry’s case, “retirement” means that he will be cutting back from two full time jobs to only one; Larry plans to continue as Director of the Asian Studies Department at Calvin College. He also plans to stay deeply involved with music, but now as a listener.  We know he is looking forward to the heretofore rare pleasure of sitting in the audience right beside his wife, Qin, and enjoying the Grand Rapids Symphony concerts with her.

Larry, we will miss you on stage and off, but we look forward to scanning the audience and playing great music for you.