In making music, all humans - whether they know it or not - celebrate God’s good creation.

Christians who make music, offering their efforts up as an act of worship, knowingly join all creation in returning praise to the Creator who, in love, made it. In so doing, we can help music achieve its ultimate and highest purpose - to praise God who inspired it. The Calvin College Orchestra, therefore, is more than just a musical organization and as such has a broader mission than simply a musical one.

The Calvin College Orchestra is a nationally-reputed ensemble of instrumentalists drawn from various academic disciplines throughout the college community. Along with its participation in campus-wide events and major tours, each semester the orchestra performs two major concerts. Concerts include Calvin Music Festival, a fall concert, a concerto concert, a spring concert, and accompanying the Calvin Oratorio Society in its annual production of Handel’s Messiah.


We worship God through the offering up of our music to Him in faith;
We serve one another within the ensemble as a community of faith;
We point people who listen to our music to Christ in faith;
Thus we study and play music from many times and places rejoicing with God in His good creation.

Orchestra rehearses Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 4:40-6:00 p.m.


John Varineau

John Varineau

Adjunct Faculty
(Orchestra, Community Symphony, Clarinet)
Full profile

Explore Orchestra

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 twenty-five 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 fifteen 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), Dr. Robert Ritsema (2001-02) and Robert Nordling (2002-2012). The ensemble is currently under the direction of John Varineau who was appointed conductor of the Calvin Orchestra in January 2013.

Scheduling (for upperclass students)

Please contact the conductor to schedule an audition time.


Please have excerpts from two contrasting pieces prepared to play. The audition will also include some scales and sight-reading. Bring your own instrument unless you have made arrangements to borrow one of our department instruments.


Please contact the conductor regarding audition procedures.

Please visit our Ensemble Tours webpage for upcoming ensemble tours.

Please call the Calvin Campus Store at 1-800-748-0122 for available ensemble recordings.