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Meet Will Haapaniemi and Hae Jeong Heidi Han

DSO Violins (David and Valerie McCammon Chair)

While the entire DSO is a close-knit community, few are closer than married orchestra members Will Haapaniemi and Hae Jeong Heidi Han. Sitting side-by-side in the violin section as the David and Valerie McCammon Chairs, Will and Heidi are the epitome of harmony. If the secret to a good marriage is common interests, Will and Heidi are #relationshipgoals for all of us in the audience. Read on to learn about the unique texture each brings to the stage. 

Will and Heidi met at the New World Symphony, and Will proposed before leaving town to accept a job with the Kansas City Symphony. Not long after that, four positions became available at the DSO. Heidi made sure that both she and Will came up to do the same audition. “I was willing to dream that it could be possible to win two positions at once, but I wasn’t willing to fully hope that it would happen,” Will says. But it did—after advancing to the final round of a blind audition (in which the judging panel had no idea they were a married couple), both Will and Heidi were offered jobs in the DSO violin section.

Heidi’s introduction to music performance was not dissimilar to most: playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” She began her musical journey as a kindergartener in Seoul, South Korea when her class was looking for students to play in a violin ensemble. “I raised my hand and volunteered. There are no musicians in my family, so it was just out of the blue. I liked it; I continued, and here I am,” she laughs. That seemingly tiny moment led her to where she is now, playing next to her soulmate on the Orchestra Hall stage.

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Like his wife, Will’s music education was born of a slow-burning infatuation from a young age. With songs stuck in his head at just three years old, he began pestering his parents for lessons. “I started on a cardboard box because I was so little,” he remembers.

While they each have favorites, Heidi and Will share an appreciation for all musical periods and the composers identified with each. “When I was in college I was in love with the Romantic Period. Brahms was my favorite,” Heidi remembers. She took to the fluctuating emotions of romantic works over comparatively solemn classical pieces. “But now I find the subtle beauty in them, and I’m like ‘wow, why did I think they’re not as interesting?’ because they are as interesting.”

For Will, one influence rises above the others: Beethoven. “No matter how much you look at [Beethoven’s] music, it still has deeper levels,” Will says, “[his work] is just incredibly well written and exciting to see.”

No matter what my age or what I’ve been listening to, I always come back to Beethoven as my favorite. ”

Will Haapaniemi

Will has upgraded from his cardboard-beginnings and the notes of Beethoven now emanate from his dark brown 1967 Sergio Peresson violin, formerly played by several famous soloists. The instrument’s deep shade attracts curious onlookers and fellow violinists alike, and led to Will being dubbed “that guy with the really dark Peresson” by former teacher Ruggiero Ricci. Heidi is proud to play a beautiful sounding 1908 Gaetano Sgarabotto; the model is known to be the best violin he ever made.

While their instruments are as individual as the musicians themselves, the couple isn’t unfamiliar with switching—a dire necessity during a New World Symphony performance of Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Two pages before the end of Will’s solo, he played a “wild upbow” which popped the top of his violin off. Heidi, concertmaster for the program, quickly swapped in her violin so he could continue. “The change was extremely tight and we only barely made it, but it sounded good,” Will laughs nervously, “It was exciting at the time.”

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High-stakes moments are commonplace for orchestra musicians, so the pair unwind after work with hobbies. Heidi loves cooking, and this year she’s had a lot of time to make meals from scratch. Like music, she has a taste for all kinds of food. “I don’t stick with one type: I go from Asian, to Asian fusion, to Italian. I don’t like eating the same thing twice in a row, so I cook a different recipe every day.”

“Heidi is a restaurant-quality chef,” Will says with a smile. Fueled by the energy of Heidi’s wonderful cuisine, Will enjoys running. Currently he’s prepping for a half marathon; the discipline required for high-level musicianship translates well into the focus marathon training requires.

When they are off duty from playing with the DSO, Will and Heidi enjoy performing in a different capacity. The couple often participate as a duo in community outreach performances, playing for the Alzheimer's Association, nursing homes, hospitals, schools, and donors. “I feel very deeply connected with [the DSO], and also with the communities that we play in. Whenever we play concerts outside the hall, I can feel how welcoming people are,” Heidi says.

I like the community we’re in. I find our colleagues are our friends, and they're the most friendly and supportive group. ”

Heidi Han
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Since winning their DSO auditions in 2014, Will and Heidi have come to call Michigan home. They love having an abundance of parks and nature centers nearby, and share a particular fondness for Maybury State Park. When they can, they also frequent new restaurants and small local businesses. “We’ve been to a lot of places in the whole country, and I find the Detroit restaurants better than in other places,” says Heidi.

Despite playing a season of DSO Digital Concerts with no in-person audiences, Will and Heidi have appreciated strong audience support. “I feel—even without having them directly there in the hall —some kind of connection; it still feels like a concert to me,” Will says. They both have high hopes for the 2021-2022 season and look forward to continuing work with Music Director Jader Bignamini, who they know will excite both the orchestra and the audience. Most of all, they can’t wait to welcome you back to The Max and share the experience of live music with you once again.

I am incredibly impressed by the orchestra, both the management and the musicians, being able to pivot so quickly in this incredibly difficult environment and produce concerts that are interesting and have value to us as humans and musicians alike. ”

Will Haapaniemi
Between 2 Stands – Will Haapaniemi and Heidi Han

The Music Continues

DSO Digital Concerts

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