Henk Alkema (20 November 1944 – 4 August 2011)
Since 9 am this morning I have been thirsting for words to inform my musician friends, particularly those non-Dutch classmates who have left the Netherlands, of the sad news.
Henk Alkema taught me composition and arranging; conducted my chamber opera in my final exam, delivered the final grade announcement speech, and actively performed and participated in our Monument House Concert Series.
I knew he was dying. When the news came, it was too soon.
The Dutch press release sent out by his friend Annett Andriesen-Rutter has now reached many Dutch newspapers, radio, and television. The English papers? Not yet.
I have often, since my graduation in 2008, regretted not taking advantage of the proximity of Henk’s houseboat to visit him and get coaching on composition. He lived a mere 2 minute cycle ride from my home in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The truth is — I stopped composing when I graduated from composition. There was no longer a yearning to compose. The hunger that drove me to apply to study at Utrecht Conservatory where Henk was head of composition in 2004 waned as my interest in chamber music performance and cultural economics ballooned.
In January 2004, I began contract lessons with Henk Alkema. He asked me to start from scratch. On alternate weeks, I’d take lessons from the other composition teacher. Their approaches were very different. I blogged about those lessons: food for the soul, composing the Suite Bussum, composing wrong notes, and his honest feedback about my music.