With renowned jazz saxophonist Timothy McAllister joining GR Symphony this week, Local Spins asked the symphony president to reveal the music and artists who’ve impacted her most.
Throughout her corporate career, Mary Tuuk Kuras has maintained a second life as a musician.
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The soon-to-retire President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony has been involved in music since her early years, starting on piano, then expanding to organ, violin and vocals as well.
Prior to beginning her duties as Grand Rapids Symphony President and CEO in January 2019, she served as Chief Compliance Officer/Senior Vice President, Properties and Real Estate with Meijer, Inc. Before working at Meijer, she worked for Fifth Third Bank for 19 years.
Throughout that time, she remained active as a musician. In fact, she met her husband Patrick in 2019 while both were singing in the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus.
“My life changed after meeting my husband,” she says, noting that following her retirement the end of this year, they are looking forward to spending more time with their far-flung families, traveling – and making more music.
“We want to slow down and have flexibility, but that doesn’t change our commitment to music,” she says. Indeed, she intends to focus on more instrumental opportunities as well as continuing with the Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus.
This week, Grand Rapids Symphony welcomes saxophonist Timothy McAllister and conductor Carlos Miguel Prieto for a performance of a jazz-infused alto saxophone concerto. Get details and tickets online here.
1. Chicago, “The Chicago Story: Complete Greatest Hits” (2002) – Some of my earliest musical memories are listening to my brother’s 8-track tapes through the walls. I love the music of Chicago, especially the hits: “25 or 6 to 4,” “Make Me Smile.” The one that gives me chills to this day is “Feeling Stronger Every Day,” even as an adult. Just a couple years ago I had an unexpected accident when I fell down a couple stairs and fractured both my arms. The first couple months, I listened to that song a lot. It was a great symbol of recovering. Chicago has forever been an influence.
Listen: “If You Leave Me Now”
2. Abba, “Abba Gold” (1992) – In childhood I spent less time listening to albums and more listening to songs. This was a hits compilation with some of my favorite songs, (like) “Dancing Queen” and “Money Money Money.” What I love is the music is just so energizing. You can start off feeling lethargic but after a while you can’t help feeling energetic, joyful and in a great mood.
Listen: “Dancing Queen”
3. Barry Manilow, “I Write the Songs” (from 1979’s “Manilow Magic: The Best of Barry Manilow” – A singer I loved growing up was Barry Manilow. The songs were formulaic, but what starts as a ballad modulates to something else. “Could It Be Magic” nods to the piano literature starting off with Chopin’s “Prelude in C Minor.” I’ve been to a lot of Barry Manilow concerts, have the CDs, and I still listen to them as an adult.
Listen: “Could It Be Magic”
Currently Loving: Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2” – The Resurrection Symphony, especially the last two movements. Though I talked about pop music, I’m also heavily influenced by classical. Mahler, the Verdi “Requiem,” Widor’s “Toccata.” It’s what I play if I want to feel good as an adult. My husband has helped expand my musical tastes. He’ll play jazz, The Beatles, Queen as he makes dinner.
Listen: “Symphony No. 2, Resurrection” (Stokowski)
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Mary Tuuk Kuras’ Playlist on Spotify
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