News About

Marcelo Lehninger

Marcelo Lehninger Appointed Artistic Director of the Bellingham Festival of Music

The Bellingham Festival of Music is thrilled to announce the appointment of Marcelo Lehninger, 43, as its new Artistic Director. He succeeds Michael Palmer, co-founder and Conductor Laureate, who led the Festival from 1993—2022.

Brazilian-born and Music Director of the Grand Rapids (MI) Symphony, Lehninger made his Bellingham debut this summer in the Festival’s 30th season. He quickly captivated the orchestra players, Board of Directors, sponsors, and audiences with the depth of his artistry and the warmth and sincerity of his personality. His concert included an epic performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the dazzling violinist Blake Pouliot; “Hymn-2001,” a touchingly meditative work by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov; and a vividly picturesque account of the Dvorak Eighth Symphony.

Lehninger’s appointment is the culmination of a three-year process by a Search Committee composed of four BFM Orchestra players, two board members, the Festival production manager, and retired physician and cellist Daniel Feller of Bellingham and Phoenix who chaired the committee.

Lehninger’s five-year tenure takes effect immediately, and he has already begun planning the 2024 season. Charged with overseeing all artistic aspects of the Festival in consultation with the Board and the BFM Artistic Committee, he will select Festival repertoire and guest artists, plan future seasons, audition/select musicians to fill vacancies in the orchestra and chorus, set the performance and rehearsal schedules, and collaborate on educational outreach and fundraising. In his inaugural 2024 season, he will conduct all five of the orchestral concerts. Beginning in 2025, Conductor Laureate Michael Palmer is invited to lead one concert per year.

Lehninger, who states he is choosy in accepting conducting gigs, enthusiastically embraced the idea of directing the Festival. He praised the “superb” virtuoso orchestra, Bellingham’s beautiful natural surroundings, and the warm relationships between the musicians and their home hosts. These features reminded him of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s idyllic summer home at Tanglewood where he spent time while serving as the BSO’s Assistant and Associate Conductor. “I always enjoyed those summers and being able to bring my family,” he said. “Even though there was a lot of work preparing three programs a week, there was always a barbeque somewhere and people getting together.” After he moved on from his Boston assignment, he “missed” that special collegial music-making.

Lehninger was the unanimous choice of all the Festival’s constituents—orchestra, Board of Directors, sponsors, and audiences—who had filled out detailed opinion surveys about each of the five guest conductors who appeared this summer.

Read the full press release.