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Despite Contract Dispute, DSO Musicians Take Pleasure in Comforts of Home

For the two members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra who call West Bloomfield home, the township's natural beauty and plentiful public resources provide solace and inspiration.

It’s been a long five months for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra players as DSO management and the striking union are locked in a contract dispute that has silenced orchestral music.

“It’s been depressing,” said viola player and West Bloomfield resident James Vanvalkenburg last week.

But living in West Bloomfield is solace for Vanvalkenburg, as the community has resources for the 57-year-old husband and father of two. When Vanvalkenburg and his wife, Farah, moved to West Bloomfield in 1994, he wanted to ensure an education and future for his children that would provide  for arts and academics in equal measure.

“My younger son Elliot is a junior at Andover (High School) where he performs musical theater and plays clarinet, but he’s also a varsity swimmer. The support for extracurricular activities is fantastic," Vanvalkenburg said.

The Midland native said that is proud to see his children pursuing their goals in a supportive community. That West Bloomfield residents are able to, depending on the neighborhood, choose between school districts was “a primary draw” in Vanvalkenburg’s decision to move to the area, “as well as the area’s natural beauty."

West Bloomfield’s scenic natural features are a source of inspiration for Vanvalkenburg as an endurance training enthusiast. “I ride my bike all over and I use the at Arrowhead Road,” he said.

Vanvalkenburg competes in Ironman competitions and participates in “Rock & Roads” race series every May. He finished first in his age bracket in the 2009 10k race.

Fellow DSO musician and West Bloomfield resident Elias Friendenzohn said he prefers the more relaxed appreciation West Bloomfield’s scenic nature preserves. “I love the lakes.  Not so much during the cold months, but I’m always taking my dog for drives and to the park,” the violinist said.

Friedenzohn and Vanvalkenburg cite the as a valuable resource for leisure and a useful tool for their career pursuits.  “The library is a great place for musicians,” Friendenzohn said.  “When they don’t have a specific piece I’m looking for, they’re always happy to order it for me.”   Vanvalkenburg said “their opera catalogue is wonderful."

Vanvalkenburg plays throughout the area.  “I’ve performed at the a few times, among other locations, including the formerly Hammill, now Steinway Music," he said. "I’m always on the lookout for more freelance work around town.”

Occasionally, the audience comes to him, showing up wherever Vanvalkenburg schedules a concert.  “I’ve had faithful followers who’d drive anywhere, from Dearborn to Plymouth, you name it, just to see my independent ensembles perform. We can’t play the same piece twice!" he said.

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