From April 2018, Lenore in front of New York City's Carnegie Hall for the GRS concert.
Lenore D'Haem's 50 Seasons with the
Grand Rapids Symphony
Lenore D’Haem started playing in the violin section of the Grand Rapids Symphony (GRS) in 1969 during her senior year of high school at Grand Rapids Christian High. At that time, Gregory Millar was the conductor of the GRS. She continued playing with the GRS while attending Calvin College and graduated in 1974. Flutist Ruth Bylsma recalls some of this history with Lenore.
"I think Lenore and I go back as far as anyone in the orchestra. We just missed overlapping at Grand Rapids Central Christian High School, but when I came to Calvin, Lenore was a senior and concertmaster of the orchestra when I came in as a freshman playing principal flute. She was already playing in the GRS and I joined her two years later when I won my audition just before starting my junior year. We have been playing together in the GRS for the past 45 years. What a ride it has been. We've seen so many changes and so much growth. I am so proud of our city, our orchestra, and my colleagues. Best wishes, Lenore!”
Under the leadership of conductor Theo Alcantara, the 1970s saw impressive growth for the GRS, with the formation of full time positions plus the designation by the American Symphony Orchestra League as being a professional regional orchestra. In 1976, the orchestra’s annual budget was $500,000.
Fast forwarding to 2019, the GRS has an annual budget of around $10 million, and the symphony's regional status has been elevated to the point of being one of the top 52 orchestras in the US with membership in the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians (ICSOM). Lenore witnessed and participated in all of these changes.
During Lenore’s time with the GRS, the improvements have been astonishing. The orchestra's home moved from Civic Auditorium to DeVos Performance Hall, and the GRS has performed twice in New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Lenore has performed for six GRS music directors, plus numerous soloists and countless concerts.
Judy Kemph, flute/piccolo player, shares that "when I found out Lenore was retiring, it made me sad, until I heard about her fun plans. We have played so many concerts together with the Grand Rapids Symphony over the years and have countless shared memories, such as tour concerts, recording sessions, and wonderful seasons full of glorious music. The way the violins rotate positions for concerts, Lenore was sitting right next to me sometimes. Lenore's kind and cheerful presence will be missed at work, but we will all look forward to hearing about her new adventures."
As is the case with many professional musicians, Lenore taught private lessons to young students. Among her violin students in the 1980s was Mary Tuuk, who is the new President/CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony (see GRSMA's interview with Mary Tuuk in this issue). It is good to know that, while Lenore leaves the GRS after fifty years of service, her impact upon the organization will continue thanks to passing along her love of music and the violin to Mary.
Harpist Beth Colpean sums it up well, saying that “Lenore D'Haem was a wonderful colleague and friend! She has a calm temperament and supportive flair that I will surely miss.”
All the best to you, Lenore, and thanks for your five decades of dedicated service to the GRS, from your GRSMA colleagues!