zaterdag 10 november 2018

Vision on teaching (English text)

For Dutch text here



The basis of my teaching methods at AMPA are aimed at discovering the uniqueness in each individual student. Every musician has his or her own personal way of expressing themselves through music. It is my job as a teacher to create the circumstances in which this search for individuality can take place as freely as possible. I will help you develop the musical artist within yourself.


I teach at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Tilburg. AMPA distinguishes itself from other conservatories in the Netherlands by not only offering high artistic quality, but also focusing on the following six key skills:

Practice-based research
Collective entrepreneurship
International connectedness

These key skills are reflected in the way I teach.

A. Craft – top-level artistic quality 

1. Technique

A good technique is essential if you are to function as a musician. Making music is a craft, just as carpentry is. And a craft must be learned. Technique must never get in the way when making music, either alone or with others.
This is why you are given many etudes and scales to study in your first year. These scales basically cover all the material for your future repertoire. In the first year I use the etude books by Klosé. The scales start at B-flat and its parallel, G-minor. The scales are studied in seconds and thirds, the triads are broken long and short.
In the second year you move on to Etudes d’après Terschack & Berbiguier. You repeat the scales if needed and proceed with the chromatic scale. You study it in small seconds, large seconds (challenging!), small thirds, etc., right up and until the octave.
In the third and fourth year you continue with the Ferling etudes & 'Messiaen' études by Guy Lacour. With these etudes the musician no longer has the security of a tonal centre, leaving him or her with no other guidance than the line. It is around this time that we will also begin to study the beautiful caprices by Karg-Elert and we will additionally search for etudes that you require at that moment. Christian Lauba, for example, has a number of avant-garde etudes that help you study circular breathing, multiphonics, slap tongue, and so forth.
In practice the Ferling etudes are most often started too soon. Added to which these etudes always come in pairs: a slow one and a fast one. The fast ones are often skipped. It is however the combination of the two that makes this etude book so good. The slow etudes train several aspects including playing long lines in a free manner, in addition of course to playing sostenuto and uniformity; the fast ones are highly virtuoso and each have their own specific difficulties.

2. Embouchure
My view on embouchure is very straightforward: relaxed, whereby only a small number of muscles are used to ensure the air travels into the mouthpiece. Most students do too much!
The corners of the mouth move forward, the lower jaw comes down and the lower lip fills the space between the reed and the teeth. The back of the tongue is held high and is located between the molars. It is just like when you whistle; you use your tongue to intonate. It works in the same way on a saxophone.

3. Repertoire – technique & performance / solo & ensemble

Besides the technical pieces we will also play performance pieces suited to your needs at that particular moment in your development. Examples are: Aria by Bozza, Fantaisie-Impromptu by Jolivet, Histories by Ibert and La Malinconia by Badings.
I believe that you must at least have tried all the ‘regular’ styles within the world of saxophone. This gives you a broad and solid foundation in technique, musical taste and possibilities. The further you advance in your studies, the more you will develop your own taste and artistic preference. We will venture on this exploration trail together, always working towards the practical side of things. And naturally we will give much thought to how you can express your artistic preferences on the national and international stage.
We shall also explore the ensemble repertoire. There is a broad and varied repertoire for saxophone quartets, but also for various other combinations with strings, other brass players, piano and percussion. AMPA offers extensive opportunities for ensemble.

B. Master classes & Projects

1. Master classes

My colleague, Andreas van Zoelen, and I try to offer our master classes as wide- ranging as possible. We do not exclude any styles, but besides saxophonists we also invite experts on other instruments. There’s always something to be learned from everyone!

2. Projects
Similarly in the projects we try to work with other instruments as much as we can, but the AMPA also stimulates collaboration with other disciplines of art. We have so much to learn from each other, such as the way in which dancers move, or how horn players breathe. And so you learn to make music in versatile ways, enabling you to use your music in many different ways and in an interdisciplinary work field.

C. Independence – self-management

Two vital things I want to teach you are to be self-starting and independent. I want you to be able to fend for yourself once you have graduated and to be confident enough to set out your own artistic and practical line. And the seeds for that are sowed during your time at AMPA.
My teaching style can sometimes be difficult, as I demand great independence of you. I want you to start deciding for yourself early on. We will work on making rehearsal and study schedules and every week we will check and see how you got on with studying and rehearsing to then decide where and how you can improve (further) on that. Your motivation to do this must be intrinsic. I am your coach, trying to help you reach your full potential.
There is an opportunity, for example, to study abroad for a term through the Erasmus exchange programme.

D. Final exam
The final exam consists of two parts: midway through your final year you play a recital in which you demonstrate how you have progressed and developed as a saxophonist both technically and musically. It is your calling card regarding your technical and musical abilities and preferences. In the second half of the fourth year you also work on an interdisciplinary production, entirely your own. During your training you will have been confronted with other music genres and artistic disciplines. The production is centred around ‘musical interaction’; playing together with other musicians, but first and foremost, with other artists.!/blog/10-november-2018-2

Visie op lesgeven (Nederlandse tekst)

For English here


De basis van mijn manier van lesgeven aan AMPA is gericht op het zoeken naar de eigenheid van iedere individuele student. Elke musicus heeft zijn persoonlijke manier om zich in muziek uit te drukken. Het is mijn taak als docent om de omstandigheden zo te maken dat dit zo vrij mogelijk kan gebeuren. Ik zal je helpen om de muziekkunstenaar in jezelf te ontwikkelen!

Ik geef les aan de Academy of Music and Performing Arts Tilburg. AMPA onderscheidt zich van de andere conservatoria in Nederland door zich, naast een hoogstaande artistieke kwaliteit, te richten op de volgende zes key-skills:

Praktijkgericht onderzoek
Collectief ondernemerschap
Internationale verbondenheid

Deze key-skills vind je terug in de manier waarop ik lesgeef.

A. Ambacht – hoogstaande artistieke kwaliteit

1. TechniekEen goede techniek is essentieel om als musicus te kunnen functioneren. Musiceren is een ambacht, net als meubelmaken. En dat ambacht moet je leren. Techniek moet je namelijk niet in de weg zitten als je alleen of met anderen muziek maakt.
Daarom krijg je in het eerste jaar veel études en toonladders te studeren. Deze toonladders behandelen in de basis al het materiaal voor je toekomstige repertoire. Ik gebruik in het eerste jaar de étudeboeken van Klosé. De toonladders beginnen bij Bes en zijn parallel, g mineur. De toonladders worden in secundes en tertsen gestudeerd, de drieklanken worden kort en lang gebroken.
In het tweede jaar ga je verder met Études d’après Terschack & Berbiguier. Je herhaalt indien nodig de toonladders en gaat verder met de chromatische toonladder. Die studeer je in kleine secundes, grote secundes (moelijk!), kleine tertsen, etc., tot en met het octaaf.
In het derde en vierde jaar ga je verder met de Ferling études & 'Messiaen' études van Guy Lacour. Dit zijn études waarbij de speler geen houvast meer heeft aan een tooncentrum zodat je je alleen nog maar kan vasthouden aan de lijn. Ook rond deze periode gaan we de prachtige concertante études van Karg-Elert studeren en gaan we op zoek naar études die jij op dat moment nodig hebt. Zo heeft Christian Lauba een aantal avant-gardistische études waarbij je circular breathing, multiphonics, slap tongue, en zo verder kan studeren.

2. Embouchure
Mijn visie op embouchure is erg eenvoudig: ontspanning, waarbij slechts enkele spieren gebruikt worden om ervoor te zorgen dat de lucht het mondstuk in gaat. De meeste studenten doen namelijk teveel!
Met de Ferling études wordt in de praktijk meestal te vroeg begonnen. Deze études komen bovendien altijd in paren: een langzame en een snelle. De snelle worden vaak overgeslagen. Maar juist de combinatie van de twee maakt dit étudeboek zo goed. De langzame études trainen onder meer het spelen van lange lijnen op een vrije manier, naast natuurlijk het spelen van sostenuto en egaliteit; de snelle zijn bijzonder virtuoos en hebben elk hun eigen specifieke moeilijkheid.
De mondhoeken gaan naar voren, de onderkaak naar onderen en de onderlip vult de ruimte tussen het riet en de tanden. De achterkant van de tong is hoog en bevindt zich tussen de kiezen. Het is net als met fluiten, daarbij gebruik je de tong om te intoneren. Zo werkt het ook op saxofoon.

3. Repertoire – techniek & voordracht / solo & ensemble
Naast techniekstukken zullen we ook voordrachtstukken spelen die afgestemd zijn op waar jij op dat moment het meeste aan hebt. Voorbeelden zijn: Aria van Bozza, Fantasie-Impromptu van Jolivet, Historiesvan Ibert en La Malinconia van Badings.
Ik ben van mening dat je op zijn minst alle ‘reguliere’ stijlen binnen de saxofoonwereld geprobeerd moet hebben. Op deze manier word je qua techniek, smaak en mogelijkheden breed opgeleid. Hoe verder je komt in je studie, hoe meer je je eigen smaak en artistieke voorkeur zal ontwikkelen. We gaan dezepraktijkgerichte zoektocht samen aan. En natuurlijk gaan we veel nadenken over hoe je je artistieke voorkeuren op (inter-)nationale podia kwijt kan.
We gaan ook het ensemblerepertoire verkennen. Er is veel repertoire voor saxofoonkwartet, maar ook voor diverse andere combinaties met strijkers, andere blazers, piano en slagwerk. AMPA biedt uitgebreide mogelijkheden voor ensemble aan.

B. Masterclasses & Projecten

1. MasterclassesMijn collega, Andreas van Zoelen en ik proberen de masterclasses zo breed mogelijk aan te bieden. We sluiten geen stijlen uit, maar naast saxofonisten worden ook experts op andere instrumenten uitgenodigd. Er is overal wat te halen!

2. Projecten
Ook in projecten werken we zo veel mogelijk samen met andere instrumenten, maar er wordt vanuit AMPA ook gestimuleerd om met andere kunstdisciplines samen te werken. We kunnen enorm veel van elkaar leren, bijvoorbeeld van de manier waarop dansers bewegen, of blazers ademhalen. Zo leer je op een heel veelzijdige manier muziek te maken kan jouw muzikaliteit op allerlei manieren worden ingezet in een breed interdisciplinair werkveld.

C. Zelfstandigheid - zelfmanagementEen van de belangrijkste dingen die ik je wil meegeven is zelfwerkzaamheid en zelfstandigheid. Ik wil namelijk dat je na je studie op eigen benen kunt staan en sterk genoeg in je schoenen staat om een eigen artistieke en praktische lijn te bepalen. Die lijn begint al tijdens je studietijd.
Mijn stijl van lesgeven kan soms lastig zijn omdat ik een grote zelfstandigheid van je eis. Ik wil al snel dat je zelf beslissingen gaat nemen. We werken onder meer aan het maken van repetitie- en studeerschema’s, en kijken na elke week hoe het studeren en repeteren is gegaan en hoe het (nóg) beter kan. De motivatie hiervoor moet vanuit jezelf komen. Ik ben je coach die probeert het maximale uit jezelf te halen.
Zo kun je bijvoorbeeld een periode naar het buitenland in het kader van Eramus-uitwisseling.

D. Eindexamen
Het eindexamen bestaat uit twee delen: je speelt halverwege je laatste studiejaar een recital waarin je laat horen hoe je je de afgelopen jaren op je instrument technisch en muzikaal hebt ontwikkeld. Je geeft een visitekaartje af van jouw technische en muzikale mogelijkheden en voorkeuren. Daarnaast werk je in de tweede helft van het vierde studiejaar aan een geheel eigen interdisciplinaire productie. Gedurende je studie ben je namelijk intensief geconfronteerd met andere muzikale genres en kunstdisciplines. In de productie staat ‘samenspel’ dus centraal; samenspel met andere musici, maar vooral ook met andere kunstenaars.

zaterdag 3 november 2018

I did it!

After yesterday's concert with the uncomparable Rembrandt Frerichs Trio and Benjamin Glorieux during The Hague's Crossing Border Festival I finally get to rest again. I had such a great and inspiring three weeks with this group. It was fantastic to come back from another year of illness and immediately have such a series of concerts ready for me to play. It also was a test, a physical and mental one. Can I play three to four concerts a week already? Can my body deal with that? Can I mentally handle the stress? Yes and no. I am writing this while I am sick, the common cold, but it still hits me harder and more often than a couple of years ago. My body is saying 'Enough! Please sit down and breath.' On the other hand I did play the concerts, and I played well. The performances gave me so much energy and inspiration. My chops are back (on all saxes! I had the quartet on stage :-), but more importantly, this kind of music making is what I need and want from music. This is it. These guys, this way of handling music, improvisation, playing composed notes the best we can, finding the right balance between being constructively critical and positive remarks, this was just perfect. Thanks guys! Rembrandt Frerichs Vinsent Planjer Tony Overwater Benjamin Glorieux And also Hugo Ticciati Klaartje van Veldhoven

woensdag 17 oktober 2018

Deep Purple and autumn is coming!

I was cooking with my son yesterday. And while we were cooking we were listening to music. I always play either jazz, classical or soul/funk for him. But he wanted to hear AC/DC. Why not? So we did. Then I started listening to more music like this. And I stumbled upon Deep Purple's Live in Japan ( ). Wow, what a great album. I didn't listen to this music in 25 years or so. And I was blown away. The musicality of these guys. Jon Lord's organ playing is magnificent. He even quotes a bit of Ellington! It's obvious these guys have had musical influences coming from all sides. And also, I felt I needed to hear this album on an excellent sound system. Nowadays music is compressed and fit to sound well on little earplugs and small BT speakers. But this is something else!
Check this album. It is really worth it.

This is my 6th week of working 'normally' again. Until this summer I was rehabilitating. At least I gave myself the time to do so. I am an independent musician so I basically determine my own hours. I still have to take care and sleep enough. I already had yet another bacterial infection some weeks ago. This time I was more in time with antibiotics. I also have to sleep enough. At least 9 hours per night seems to be working for me. I can sleep less, but I have to take care afterwards.

Autumn is finally on its way. We had a great summer with high temperatures. But the farmers weren't happy about the rain: there was none.

Coming weekend some concerts with Rembrandt Frerichs:

Really looking forward to these concerts with these fantastic musicians! We will play some jazz, classical, renaissance music... Basically just anything!

zaterdag 17 maart 2018

I just had an unexpected passionate conversation about classical music

I never published this blog, which I wrote during my stem cell therapy. I was uncertain about it. But reading it again I think I actually wrote a good piece. Here it is:
I just had an unexpected passionate and coherent conversation about classical music with one of my nurses in the hospital where I am residing while my resistance is too low to be outside due to my stem cell transplant.

It all began two months ago. I realized that there is so much lying going on in classical music. A lot of times it's too much about persons, about personalities, anything, but not about the music itself. I got cynical. I wanted to get out of the music world. I didn't want to join in anymore. Maybe do a different study and find a different profession. This lasted a week. The realization that I could just stop and do something else set me free and made me not think about it anymore.

But this period left something in me. Something I hope to be able to use when I come back again in 2018. I am not sure how yet. But I know my vision on music has broadened yet again.

The nurse came in and asked me why I wasn't watching Maestro, a popular television in which famous Dutch people try to conduct a professional orchestra, judged by three musical experts. With sometimes hilarious results and sometimes touching beautiful moments where you would least expect them.

But the thing is. I don't watch it, I zapp by it, and go on. This program has an obvious good side. It invites people to find out about classical music, music that they might not know and broaden their horizon. But t's really not about the music. It's entertainment with the goal to get people to listen to a seemingly dying art form. And that's fine. But I need music. The aficionado maestros study their music with a conducting teacher (the magnificent Bas Pollard! Someone that is 200% about music!) and perform their theater show for the jury and the orchestra. The jury gives them marks based on how well they lead the orchestra. And some people are remarkably musical, I have to admit!

But is this it? Is this classical music? At least 100 year old music performed in clothing that is the same age with an orchestra. No, of course not. I am a 'classical' musician as well. I largely gave up performing in orchestras when I was asked one time to play 'less musical' to not stick out so much.

Classical music is so much more. It is 500 years of music history. And it consists of so much more than just orchestras, operas and old (genius) composers. 5 years ago I started a Twitter thing to find a different name for classical music. Like Floris Kortie last week in Podium Witteman I think the term is not good enough. It refers to old music, a stuffy, boring, and old-fashioned scene. But in the end I couldn't find a new term. I think it's best to refer to music in general. Now that I think about it. Maybe classical music should just die, finally! And then incorporate it in the music world as a whole. Could you imagine? Stages where one evening the popular rockband De Staat performs, the next night a saxophone orchestra plays Bach and the following week there's a Beethoven Festival. Wouldn't that be fantastic? No more labels. Just music.

Don't get me wrong. Classical music as entertainment is fine. Of course. I read Dan Brown. Good books, easy reading, short chapters. But I also read Reve and Grunberg. There are also radio and tv shows that focus mostly on substance. But it's less likely that these shows will have a substantial audience.

And that is for the most part because of education. When I brought my kids to school for the first time, the principal thought it was a good thing when he told us that their education focusses on social skills, mathematics and language. And of course these are important things, but there's so much more. When I was in school we got very thorough literature education. Now I know why Dan brown is entertainment (and it is excellent entertainment!) and why Reve is true literature.

But we never learned this with music. When is music entertainment, and when is it 'art music'....?

Dangerous things to ask, especially in these days. In a time when low art becomes high art and the other way around. And that's all fine. But there is music that is just music, honest music.