Musician Profiles: Josh Schlachter and Jinn Shin

JS. Important initials in the world of classical music (J.S. Bach comes to mind immediately, as well as Johann Strauss and Jean Sibelius). But in GRSMA's world, JS are the initials of our two featured musicians: violinist Josh Schlachter and cellist Jinn Shin. Get to know our own version of JS (spoiler alert: one of them lists J. S. Bach as their favorite composer!).

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GRSMA: What led you to a career in music?

 

Josh Schlachter: Music and violin have been prominent parts of my life as long as I can remember. As a kid I was fascinated by so many instruments playing together in an orchestra.

 

GRSMA: Do you play any other instruments?

 

Josh: When I was young I studied piano for many years and briefly played clarinet.

 

GRSMA: Where did you grow up, and were you part of a musical family?

 

Josh: I grew up on the north side of Grand Rapids and both of my parents taught in the Grand Rapids Public Schools. My mom was active as a singer when she was younger and my sister played viola and piano.

 

GRSMA: Do you recall when you decided to make music your profession? Who are among your musical mentors and heroes?

 

Josh: I knew playing in an orchestra was it for me at my first rehearsal at age 12. Peter Oundjian, the former first violin of the Tokyo String Quartet, was a teacher and mentor to me while I was at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Dr. Myron Kartman at Northwestern University was a huge influence. The most important figure in my development was Geof Applegate, retired Principal Second Violin of the Detroit Symphony, with whom I studied for seven years after completing graduate school.

 

GRSMA: Tell us about your most memorable moments from GRS concerts.

 

Josh: Having my kids, Sam, Zach, and Sophie, in the hall for their first orchestra concerts are some of my most cherished memories. Concerts with Andre Watts were inspiring and performing twice in Carnegie Hall were unforgettable experiences. 

 

GRSMA: If you weren't an orchestral musician, what career path would you have taken?

 

Josh: Law and politics interested me from a young age. My mom interned in the U.S. Senate and was in the first class of women at her law school. I have considered switching paths many times.

 

GRSMA: Tell us about your favorite places in Grand Rapids.

 

Josh: My kids play five sports so a good deal of my time is spent at courts, fields, stadiums, and the ski area near Grand Rapids. My wife, Tenille, and I love watching them compete and grow. 

 

GRSMA: Do you have a favorite composer or orchestral piece?

 

Josh: My favorite piece usually changes several times each season, depending on which repertoire the orchestra performs. J.S. Bach has always been near the top of the list for me.

 

GRSMA: What are your hobbies or interests?

 

Josh: I enjoy skiing and traveling. Coaching young people in sports has provided some of the most fulfilling experiences I have had.

 

GRSMA: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the Grand Rapids Symphony?

 

Josh: Having the opportunity to share the stage with so many wonderful colleagues for so long has been the most meaningful.  

 

GRSMA: Is there a specific GRS concert that you look forward to the most this season?

 

Josh: The Mozart Requiem in March will be a highlight for me. While on an orchestra tour of Portugal I performed the piece in a mid-14th Century church. Playing it brings me back to that experience. https://www.grsymphony.org/mozarts-requiem

Jinn Shin.jpg

GRSMA: What led you to a career in music? Do you play any other instruments?

 

Jinn Shin: My first instrument was piano, and I still play for fun, although not very well. After a few years of playing the piano, I picked up the cello as my mom recommended it. She said it’s the instrument that sounds the closest to the human voice. Soon after starting on the cello, my family and I moved to the United States from South Korea. I was 11 years old. In the midst of changes in language, culture, and environment, music was something that remained constant during that season of life. Especially back then, music truly felt like a universal language for me since I was not good at English when I first moved here. My love for music grew then, and here I am still playing the cello!

 

GRSMA: Where did you grow up, and were you part of a musical family?

 

Jinn: After moving to the United States, I grew up in Portland, Oregon. (West coast, best coast!) No one in my family plays a musical instrument, BUT my grandpa was an avid classical-music-lover. Although I never got to meet him as he passed away before I was born, my mom tells me that he would have classical music on around the house at all times. And he even quit his stable government job to start a classical-music-themed cafe!

 

GRSMA: Do you recall when you decided to make music your profession? Who are among your musical mentors and heroes?

 

Jinn: I grew up being told that the life of a musician is very… “difficult”, for the lack of a better word. So, I always tried to have a plan B even when I was attending music school. That’s why I decided to pursue a double-degree in college: cognitive sciences and cello performance. There was even a time that I “quit” music after college and was going to pursue a career in healthcare. However, music kept tugging on my heart, and I decided to trust myself and really give it a shot when I started playing in a pre-professional orchestra at Bard College in New York. My musical heroes are my teachers at various stages of my musical life, from my first teacher Dorien de León, who taught me the foundation of cello playing, to my last teacher Julia Lichten, who helped me become a more sophisticated player. I wouldn’t be where I am without their persistence and encouragement.

 

GRSMA: Tell us about your most memorable moments from GRS concerts.

 

Jinn: I joined GRS during the pandemic. I still remember the first concert we had with some live audience members at the end of the 2020-21 Pathwaves season. I can’t forget how loud and warm the live clapping sound felt, even though there were only a few dozen audience members. Another memorable moment for me was when John Varineau stepped in at the last minute to conduct Mahler’s "Resurrection" Symphony. It was a performance that wouldn’t have happened if there wasn’t this deep sense of trust between John and the orchestra. It was amazing!

 

GRSMA: If you weren't an orchestral musician, what career path would you have taken?

 

Jinn: I think I definitely would have ended up in a career path that requires interacting with other people regularly. I love working directly with people, seeing the direct impact of the work I do. So, maybe an elementary school teacher? A nurse? A social worker?

 

GRSMA: Tell us about your favorite places in Grand Rapids.

 

Jinn: I love going to the Grand Ravines Dog Park. My pup, Coda, has so much fun every time, and it is the best dog park in town with an off-leash trail that is fenced in. My other favorite spots are the Millennium Park and the Provin trails. In terms of food, you have to try Japanese curry from KCM and gyro from Tasty Gyro Coney Island. 

 

GRSMA: Do you have a favorite composer or orchestral piece?

 

Jinn: Beethoven, hands down. His music is so timeless and just feels right. My favorite to listen to is the second movement from his Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor”. For me, that  piece is a reminder of why I love music.

 

GRSMA: What are your hobbies or interests?

 

Jinn: I spend my mornings at Bowen Elementary School in Kentwood, working with kids who need extra support. It gets my day going in such a positive way, and I love working with teachers (I don’t know how they do it) and young students! I am also constantly teaching my dog Coda new tricks; we are currently working on “sit pretty”. And I like to jog and cook Korean food! 

 

GRSMA: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the Grand Rapids Symphony?

 

Jinn: Everyone in the orchestra shows up to deliver excellence and always aims to improve. And the hard work really pays off when combined with the exuberant energy we get from our Grand Rapids audience.

 

GRSMA: Is there a specific GRS concert that you look forward to the most this season?

 

Jinn: I was really looking forward to playing Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony because surprisingly I had never played it before! And it was as amazing as I had imagined it. Now, I am looking forward to playing Stravinsky’s "Petrushka"! https://www.grsymphony.org/saxophone