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Academics / Departments & Programs / Music / Ensembles / Orchestra

The Calvin Orchestra is a full symphony orchestra which performs two majors concerts each semester, including the annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah and Concerto Concert (featuring Calvin student soloists). Orchestra also participates in regular domestic and international tours.

Membership is open to all Calvin students who meet the demands of musicianship.

Rehearsal information: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 5:15-6:30pm


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Josh Zallar

Adjunct Faculty (orchestra)

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  • History

    The first Calvin orchestra, formed in 1908 by Martin Ten Hoor, was an eclectic ten-piece ensemble that enjoyed some success before being disbanded in 1910. The orchestra was revived in 1913 by Gerrit Winsemius, grew to include 25 members, and had such phenomenal success that it made the cover of the March 1914 issue of The Banner, only to subside the following year.

    For the next decade there was no orchestra at Calvin, and the resurgence of the orchestra in 1925 was soon cut short by the Great Depression. The vicissitudes that had accompanied the Calvin orchestra from the beginning continued through the war years. But in the decade following 1945, Henry Bruinsma and Harold Geerdes alternated as conductors to bring a level of stability, sophistication, and success to the orchestra that has continued to the present day.

    For more than two decades beginning in 1955, the orchestra flourished under the direction of Harold Geerdes, culminating in the invitation of the Calvin orchestra to the Midwest Conference of Music at Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1965. Following the brief appointments of Gerald Bartlett (1977–78), Douglas Scripps (1978–81), and Dr. John Worst (1981–82), Dr. Derald De Young began his tenure as conductor of the Calvin orchestra. Over the next 15 years under De Young, the orchestra toured extensively in both the United States and Eastern Europe, hosted several high school string festivals with guest clinicians, and featured violin soloist James Oliver Buswell performing Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 and cellist Ross Harbaugh of the New World String Quartet performing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.

    The Calvin Orchestra has since been ably directed by Dr. Peggy Wheeler (1996–99), John Varineau (1999–2001, 2013–2019), Dr. Robert Ritsema (2001–02), and Robert Nordling (2002–2012). The ensemble is currently under the direction of Dr. Tiffany Engle who was appointed conductor of the Calvin Orchestra in 2019.

  • Auditions

    Those interested in joining Orchestra should contact Prof. Josh Zallar ( for more information and to schedule an audition time.  

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