Classical guitar lessons in your home in Newton, Massachusetts

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers offers private guitar lessons in the comfort and convenience of your own home, in Newton, Massachusetts.

Breaking news!!

Classical guitarist Robert Bekkers is offering private guitar lessons in the comfort of your home in Newton, MA (ranked 4th out of 100 best places to live in the USA).  He brings a wealth of experience from years of teaching pupils aged 3 to 80, in Dutch, English, and German. Here is a chance to study under a sought-after and versatile musician.

Currently Mr Bekkers teaches at the prestigious South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA, lauded for the continuum model of artistic education and recognized as a national model for success.

When not teaching, Mr Bekkers gives concerts as a soloist and chamber musician, most recently appearing at the anual Boston Guitar Festival. He specializes in custom-tailoring music for guitar solo or guitar and other instruments for any occasion. At time of writing, he is preparing for his own arrangement of music requested for a wedding for flute and guitar, July 13th.

Prior to moving to Boston to pursue his doctorate in musical arts (DMA) at the New England Conservatory, Mr Bekkers toured as a guitar soloist across the USA for three weeks, and earlier with his piano and guitar duo for 5.5 weeks coast to coast, and sojourned on the island of Maui in Hawaii for the 3-month winter season 2010-2011. Before relocating to the USA where he is now based, he taught all genres of guitar, performed actively as classical guitarist, arranged music for guitar and other instruments, and transcribed music for flamenco guitar. Needless to say, he is a prolific musician catering his music to the needs of his audiences and pupils.

Robert Bekkers, classical guitar teacher, tel: (832) 231 5518 Newton, MA
Robert Bekkers, classical guitar teacher, tel: (832) 231 5518 Newton, MA

For more information about Robert Bekkers, visit his website at http://www.robertbekkers.com

For more information about Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo, visit http://www.pianoguitar.com

Wanted: home for a Steinway

Steinway grand piano from 1909 New York model A 188 cm is up for sale, rent, or loan. Resident piano in Keulsekade, Utrecht, Netherlands, Monument House Concert Series performances and chamber music rehearsals. A fine instrument.

My relocation to the Netherlands in 2003/2004 coincided with a refund of monies from Singapore. It was a milestone for change.

Frustrated by the daily challenge of finding a good piano to practise at the conservatory in Utrecht and the inadequate upright piano at home in Bussum, I decided to find a grand piano of my own.

First I visited the local piano shop whose owner led me to a room full of Yamahas. I could not find a piano that was special enough to be different. I abandoned the idea of a Yamaha and went for a Steinway instead. The story of how I found that piano and the piano technician who helped me negotiate the price is an interesting one, perhaps for another blog post. He did request that I visit his atelier after I got back from Taiwan. A month later, the French polished, restrung Steinway grand arrived in Bussum.

It was a glorious moment — to finally have a Steinway Grand Piano in my home. The Steinway was not from Hamburg but from New York. Made in 1909. All 188 CM of it. Model A. Ivory keys. One celebrated concert pianist, Dutch winner of the Liszt Piano Competition who commuted between Vienna and Utrecht, remarked that it was a Rachmaninoff piano for it had that romantic sound.

Here’s how the Steinway sounds: Intermezzo by Allan Segall, performed by Anne Ku, recorded by Robert Bekkers.

I held a Steinway Warming party for my piano friends. With the upright piano, four pianists could play on both pianos. We tried all sorts of duets.

Once I got accustomed to being the proud owner of a Steinway, it was time to let go of my Gerhard Adam, a German mahogany grand piano from the 1920’s which I left behind in London. I wrote a decision making guide to buying a second-hand piano to help sell that piano online. Once again I walked down my memory lane of buying a piano. I wrote an Adieu which used all 88 keys on the piano, a way for me to say goodbye thru the new owner I did not meet.

Here is a recording of my playing on my Steinway. Adieu to a Piano by Anne Ku

Steinway Grand Model A 188cm, 1909 New York, before recording session
Steinway Grand Model A 188cm, 1909 New York, before recording session

In summer 2006, the Steinway moved with me to Utrecht. We launched the Monument House Concert Series with a violin and guitar concert by Duo 46. That December we chose the theme Piano as Orchestra, featuring several concertos (harp, euphonium, guitar). The following year we combined food with music in Chamber Music Tapas Style. Every year we committed to organizing two house concerts. Often we had several mini concerts, including a kitchen concert, garden concert, impromptu concert. Each time we became more adventurous and more professional. We outsourced food and wine to professional chefs and wine sommeliers. We included art exhibitions.

On my last trip back to the Netherlands, I felt compelled to host two concerts back to back. Despite being time-challenged with only 2.5 months to sort out my things, I felt it was important to organize these concerts for two American pianists on their way to the Italian alps. Why? Maybe instinctively I knew it was the last time my grand piano would be heard in a concert setting. Sure enough, 2nd July 2011 became the last house concert.

And the last recordings were that of piano duets I had collected from a Call for Scores from Hawaii to Holland. Here’s Brendan Kinsella and I playing my late composition teacher Henk Alkema’s piece.

APPEAL:

This Steinway Grand, made in New York in 1909, model A – 188 cm – needs a home. SALE. RENT. or LOAN.

Steinway for Sale with new photos and sound clips.

Interested parties please use the LEAVE A REPLY field below.

Steinway Grand at the Monument House, Utrecht
Steinway Grand at the Monument House, Utrecht

First international Alkema composition competition

The first international Alkema composition contest calls for scores for piano and saxophone, deadline April 2012, in honor of the late Dutch composer Henk Alkema.

While researching for my forthcoming paper on “call for scores” I came across an announcement in English and in Dutch, calling for scores for saxophone and piano, deadline April 2012.

I recognize Alkema, the last name of my late composition teacher Henk Alkema. I see the announcement is made by Matching Arts and Utrecht Conservatory. I recognize the name of one of the jurors, Jeroen D’Hoe who had also taught me composition at Utrecht Conservatory.

Once upon a time, a Chinese classical saxophonist from Szechuan (Sichuan) had shown me different effects of the alto saxophone to interest me in composing a modern piece for him. I did not write a solo work for saxophone. Instead I included the four kinds of saxophones in an ensemble piece as part of a composer-in-residence project. That’s when I learned of the saxophone’s range and versatility. Saxophones could sound like flute, clarinet, or French horn.

In my last conversations with Henk Alkema, he had urged me to start composing again. I see he has not given up.

The contest is open to composers of all ages and nationalities. I am glad to see that. During my four years at conservatory, I found that most competitions posted on our bulletin board had imposed age restrictions. I did not know then to look online. This contest has been announced in many composition forums and newsletters. I will for sure follow the results of this competition in 2012.

Music of Henk Alkema

Henk Alkema was a prolific composer. Not all his music are catalogued on his website though you can hear many mp3 recordings.

Henk Alkema was working on his last opera “Job” when I visited him last.

On Friday 22nd July 2011, I told him that I had gotten to know the music scene in Maui where I would return in mid-August. He showed me the flute concerto that had not been premiered. He showed me a waltz that he was sure Americans would love. He showed me an unpublished piano duet that he orchestrated for ensemble. I asked him for piano solo works so I could introduce unfamiliar works among more familiar titles to new audiences. He had plenty.

Henk was prolific.

One summer he was busy arranging music for the Metropole Orchestra. He was also giving private composition lessons. The last time he played at the Monument House Concert Series was the last set “Dichter op Muziek” at the Glass Vase Concert with Anna Schweitzer (cello) and Marianne Verbrugge (vocals). He had accompanied Harm Vuijk on the piano for his new euphonium concerto “All in Good Time” at the Piano as Orchestra concert in 2006.

As I write this blog, I am listening to the beautiful voice of his daughter Femke Alkema singing some of the songs he told me about. Henk’s website has full mp3 clips of his works. The muziekfragmenten page contains the vocal pieces with piano. They move me to tears.

Henk had not catalogued all his works on his website.

When he showed me the piano version of “Black Heat” I recognised it. He had given me a copy in 2008 but I had never tried it. I found the recording on his “Nog meer muziek” webpage. He wrote “Black Heat” for concert band. Sample scores are available here.

Black Heat for solo piano by Henk Alkema
Black Heat for solo piano by Henk Alkema

Retrograde by Mari-anne Hof: from trombone quartet to quatre mains

Mari-anne Hof arranged her trombone quartet Retrograde for four hands, one piano duet. It was the first piece that was selected for sight reading at the Piano Soiree in San Francisco in May 2011.

As I cycled westbound from central Utrecht in the late afternoon, I passed by the annual Festival de Parade near the train station. It reminded me that exactly this time last year I had gone to see the premiere of a new opera with my composition classmate Mari-anne Hof. I had told her that I could get us both press tickets if she would translate my review into Dutch, hence published in Le Bon Journal: “Ricciotti Ensemble premieres Pinocchio in Love” in English, and De premiere van Pinocchio in love van het Ricciotti Ensemble in Dutch.

Mari-anne Hof created a 4-hand one piano duet out of her trombone quartet entitled Retrograde. She sent me the midi version to ask if it’s not too hard to sight read for the Call for Scores of Multi-hand Piano Duets project. It sounded easy, if played more slowly.

The score is nicely laid out and easy to read. There are rehearsal markings from A to K, which, in addition to the bar numbers in each system, make it easy when rehearsing with the other player. Given the 7 pages, it’s important to discuss which player will do the page turns. In fact, I’d like to request all composers to lay out their scores to enable performers to turn pages easily. Reading a piece is already challenging enough, without having to figure out the page turns.

Retrograde by Mari-anne Hof
Retrograde by Mari-anne Hof

Now compare the midi version below with the recording of my version with Brendan Kinsella.

Retrograde for 4 hands one piano by Mari-anne Hof – midi version

Ours was much slower though we did try to follow the metronome marking of quarter note = 130.

Retrograde for 4 hands one piano by Mari-anne Hof — recording of Anne Ku & Brendan Kinsella, Utrecht 4th July 2011

Retrograde was the first piece I selected for the sightreading workshop I conducted in San Francisco in May 2011. I thought I’d start with the easiest piece, but my judgment was wrong. It wasn’t so easy for the two sightreaders. One fell behind and played with just one hand while the other struggled to keep the rhythm going. I thought they would give up at some point, but they persisted. I can’t say it’s enjoyable to listen to people sightread when we are so used to polished performances of pieces we’ve studied.

What next? I would love to hear what the original trombone quartet sounded like! I should cycle by her house before I leave Holland for Hawaii next month!

Peter Cottontail sheet music piano, guitar, lyrics

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s own arrangement from Gene Autry’s version of Peter Cottontail song is now available.

In the quest for sheet music for “Here comes Peter Cottontail,” the song made famous by Gene Autry in 1950, I discovered I could not download the plug-in successfully to a computer attached to a printer. Thus I could not order the sheet music for the Easter Sunday lunch concert tomorrow.

That version is not the one I heard on youtube.

A Dutch oboeist friend commented on my Facebook status that a Dutch French horn player friend had the wind quintet version of “Peter Cottontail.” This led me to suspect that wind instruments were used in the original version.

Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers captured that in his transcription from the Gene Autry (1950) version of this popular song.

Click on the image below to get page 1 of the 3-page arrangement in PDF. This is a result of a cross-world collaboration through Facebook, phone, email, Sibelius notation software, Adobe PDF-maker, …. Utrecht — 12 hour time zone difference — Hawaii.

Peter Cottontail arranged by Robert Bekkers and Anne Ku (April 2011)
Peter Cottontail arranged by Robert Bekkers and Anne Ku (April 2011)

If you would like the remaining 2 pages of the above piano arrangement with guitar chords and lyrics, simply order a CD from us via CDBABY, and I will be happy to email you a copy of the PDF for free.

More on likeability: Bob or Robert?

The likeability of Bob Sommers to Bob Bekkers: To make others like you, don’t make them feel uncomfortable or insecure or confused, such as pronouncing your name. Give them a name that’s easy to pronounce. Something that can’t go wrong.

I deleted a blog post “What’s in a name? Bob or Robert? Ann or Anne?” because it was premature. This morning I found out why.

Over breakfast, I told Robert Bekkers an article I read yesterday about the virtues of being named Bob. In “The Best Business Bobs or Arising Above Any Name,” the author Jeremy Nulik, who awarded himself the grand title of Creative Energy Officer (CEO), mentions different people named Bob. He clarifies what I did not in my earlier blog post “Likeability and transactability.”

“Likability is not your ability to make everybody like you. It is your ability to make others feel liked,” quote from Bob Sommers, likeability guy.

I said to Robert,”You’ve got a great name. Everyone I know that has the name Robert has been good to me.” The late composer/pianist Robert Avalon. The Maui-based composer Robert Pollock. My friends from school, the Atlanta-based artist Robby Judkins, Phoenix-based Bob Fraley, Virginia based Robert Duke who inspired me to apply to Duke University, Boston-based Bob Falstad, …. the list goes on.

“Wait,” he interrupted me. “Say that again.”

“What? Robert?”

“Yes, say my name again.”

“Robert.”

He repeated after me, “Rwobert. How do you say it?”

“Robert.”

He tried again, “Wobert.”

His thick Dutch accent is unusual to many who don’t know him. As fond as I am of his accent, even my mother has trouble understanding his English.

“People always get my name wrong. They look at me quizzically and say, Wobert. They ask if I’m German or Danish. I tell them I’m Dutch. Isn’t Robert a common English name?”

I said,”Ah! They don’t hear the ROBERT they are used to. So they try to guess, and they get it wrong. And they don’t remember your name afterwards.”

“That’s right! You got it!” Robert cried enthusiastically.

“How about Bob?” I suggested. “Are you happy with people calling you Bob? I’m sure they can’t get that wrong.”

He grinned. “Yes, I like it. Bob. Bob Bekkers, classical guitarist from Holland.”

To make others like you, don’t make them feel uncomfortable or insecure or confused, such as pronouncing your name. Give them a name that’s easy to pronounce. Something that can’t go wrong.

Like Bob, for instance.

Bob Bekkers, Dutch guitarist on Maui
Bob Bekkers, Dutch guitarist on Maui

Zeeland tour: 5 concerts in 3 days

Zeeland (pronounced zay – land) is the southern-west-most province of the Netherlands. This 3-day concert tour was arranged for us by Stichting Muziekinhuis, the foundation that places musicians in places where the residents are unable to travel to concert halls. It was a treat to have everything taken care of: concert venues, publicity, payment, accommodation, meals, etc.

Zeeland (pronounced zay – land) is the southern-west-most province of the Netherlands. On the drive from Utrecht through Rotterdam and Rosendaal, I asked Robert what Zeeland was famous for.

“The flood of 1953,” he replied.

Later we learned from our friend Annelies, whose grandmother had experienced the flood firsthand, that memories of the flood stayed with the residents and future generations. It explained why the Zeeuws preferred to sleep upstairs, not on the ground floor.

It was a good 2 to 2.5 hour drive from Utrecht to our first concert in Zeeland. We took a wrong turn towards Vlissingen and then backtracked until we saw signs for Domburg on the northwest coast of Zeeland. The minute we got out of the car, we felt the force of the September wind. Some buildings appeared permanently diagonal from the wind.

For a name as grand as that, Domburg was surprisingly walkable, with a population of 1,200 (last count in 2001). It’s famous for the special light that has attracted artists such as Piet Mondrian. After our concert, we headed for the beach.

Domburg by the North Sea in Zeeland, Netherlands
Domburg by the North Sea in Zeeland, Netherlands

Having grown up on an island within walking distance of a beach, I expected the water to be blue not grey and white. The North Sea was nothing like the East China Sea. It was fierce, unstoppable, relentless, and not friendly. I stared at the constant pounding of the waves and wondered how anyone would dare dive into it.

After a trek through the dunes and the beach, we decided to take our dinner in a restaurant with a conservatory. We sat among the German tourists and ordered the catch of the day.

Restaurant in Domburg, Zeeland The Netherlands
Restaurant in Domburg, Zeeland The Netherlands

This 3-day concert tour was arranged for us by Stichting Muziekinhuis, the Dutch foundation that places musicians in places where the residents are unable to travel to concert halls. It was a treat to have everything taken care of: concert venues, publicity, payment, accommodation, meals, etc. Thank you, Nico!

We drove east to Middelburg which dates back to 8th or 9th century. Even the so-called New Church (below) is pretty old. There was plenty of time to explore the capital of Zeeland the next morning.

New Church in Middelburg, Zeeland, The Netherlands
New Church in Middelburg, Zeeland, The Netherlands

I should write about our concerts in Domburg, Terneuzen, Middelburg, and Goes (pronounced hoos). They were all greeted with warm welcome and enthusiasm. The Zeeuws audience wanted us back. We will have to return when the weather is more conducive to more extensive concert touring and windsurfing.

As we packed to leave the House of Lombardij, the owner of which claims to be the first Bed & Breakfast in Middelburg, I thought how nice it was to go on tour. Unlike attending conferences or speaking at conferences where you meet out-of-towners, we actually met and conversed with locals. In other words, we were able to go into a community and make a difference through our concert performances. It was a different way to travel.

Could this be repeated elsewhere?

[Below: Robert Bekkers practises before the last two concerts on day 3 in Zeeland.]

Life in the USA vs that in Europe

Now that I’ve lived outside the USA for more than a decade, and in particular, on continental Europe for most of the past decade, I daresay that I have absorbed some of that European attitude, especially when compared to the way I was. I’m not sure if going to the USA will bring it all back. I notice the differences when I converse with newly arrived Americans.

My late friend, the London-based architect Ayyub Malik, often critisized me for sounding too American in my attitude towards life. He told me to stop trying to optimise and be a go getter. Just sit back and have some slack. Relax. These were not his exact words, but I concluded that’s what he disapproved of. The fast pace of life, the competitiveness, and the 24 by 7 existence was what he wanted to avoid when he turned down that job in Chicago many years before he met me.

Bekkers Duo with Ayyub Malik and Mayor of London Ealing, 30 May 2003
Bekkers Duo with Ayyub Malik and Mayor of London Ealing, 30 May 2003

Now that I’ve lived outside the USA for more than a decade, and in particular, on continental Europe for most of the past decade, I daresay that I have absorbed some of that European attitude, especially when compared to the way I was. I’m not sure if going to the USA will bring it all back.

I notice the differences when I converse with newly arrived Americans.

They are surprised that they can’t get from A to B by car. I patiently tell them that they can hop on a bus (which seems very foreign) or cycle (which requires renting a bicycle or buying one). “I’ll walk,” they say. But they forget what distances are when they are not used to walking.

American students complain of a lack of flexibility and attentiveness of Dutch administration. Having studied in the USA, I do admit that American universities do a much better job of ensuring new students are provided for. They certainly don’t need to sweat for accommodation after they arrive. It’s all taken care of BEFORE they arrive. It’s almost as if their needs are anticipated before they are voiced. In the Netherlands, I learned that if you don’t ask, you won’t get it. Those were the exact words of a student administrator at the Dutch conservatory where I studied for four years.

I explain the recycling rules. Americans that have lived in Germany nod in understanding. Those that haven’t think it’s novel to separate your waste into different compartments: paper, plastic, glass, refundable glass or plastic bottles, compost, and real trash. It does require getting used to. It does take up extra space before the weekly collection or trip to the depot.

I warn them to get their grocery shopping done before end of day Saturday. Unless it’s the first Sunday of the month, expect all stores to be closed and not reopen until Monday 11 am. Restaurants are even worse. I have starved myself trying to find outdoor seating on a warm summer’s evening, only to be turned away at 10 pm that the kitchen has closed. In some smaller towns the restaurants close at 9 pm. [This happened in Doorn on a Friday evening in July.]

One Dutch-American observed that the Dutch seem so much more organised than the Americans. “There are rules for everything, and the Dutch abide by the rules,” he said. On the flip side, the Dutch are not as flexible or spontaneous as the Americans. You could say that the way of dealing with uncertainty is different: rules vs flexibility.

As I plan how to travel from our upcoming concert in Newton, Massachusetts on 22nd October 2010 to the next one in Hampton, Connecticut on 23rd October, I’m amazed that no public transportation is adequate. “You’ll have either get someone to give you a lift,” advised an American friend, “or rent a car.”

Thank goodness gasoline prices in America are not $8 per gallon as we pay here in the Netherlands!

Cold calling tips for musicians

A cold call is a phone call to someone who has never heard of you, whom you’ve not spoken with before. We don’t always have the luxury of warm calls. We don’t always meet the right people, let alone get introduced to them. How is a musician going to get gigs? How will get expand your concert attendance to beyond your circle of friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours?

COLD CALLING 101: learn from database marketing

A cold call is a phone call to someone who has never heard of you, whom you’ve not spoken with before. Cold calls are difficult to make because

  1. it’s hard to get the right person on the phone;
  2. it’s hard to get the right person to stay on the phone;
  3. it’s hard to get the right person to respond to you;
  4. it’s hard to get the right person to do what you want him/her to do.

In other words, the chance of getting it wrong — getting rejected is very high. And nobody likes to be rejected. So people tend to avoid cold calls unless they have to.

We don’t always have the luxury of warm calls. We don’t always meet the right people, let alone get introduced to them. How is a musician going to get gigs? How will you expand your concert attendance beyond your circle of friends, family, colleagues, and neighbours?

Cold calls, just like cold emails, are inevitable if you are to go beyond what’s and who’s familiar. You will step out of your comfort zone —- and be uncomfortable talking to strangers.

Unless you get used to it…..

This means cold calling takes practice… until you get used to it.

Here are my notes taken from a conversation with a successful musician who has cold called to make his database of contacts. Year after year, he renews the contracts, builds the relationships with these contacts, and gets enough gigs to sustain a living: 250 gigs per year.  Although these tips make a lot of sense, I have not taken steps to implement them.

Why not? For one, it’s not easy to make cold calls in a language you’re not good at, in my case, Dutch. Two, it’s hard to get hold of someone who doesn’t work full-time or keep regular hours, as do a great majority of the employees in the Netherlands. Flexible working hours is more than the norm than the exception, especially in my line of work (music). But I’ve learned over time that cold calling can be fun. Just as I enjoy meeting strangers, for the lure of discovering something unexpected and refreshing, I shouldn’t shun from speaking to strangers on the telephone.

The following are tips I’ve summarised from that successful musician who shared his secrets with me – and my own experience of making cold calls.

To make a cold call, you must warm up first.  Call someone you know. Get into the swing of chatting on the phone. Get over your nerves. Never make a cold call in the cold.

Before you make any calls, warm or cold, make sure you prepare yourself. Do your research.

Make a list of the decision makers you need to talk to. There will be gatekeepers you have to get through. These are receptionist, partners, assistants, and anybody who picks up the phone, takes notes for the decision maker, and get in the way.

Write a script, i.e. exactly what you will say on the phone. Never attempt to “wing it” —- don’t vary the script, but you have a choice what happens. Type this script so you can read it clearly.

Get a feel for objections. Anticipate the 5 or 6 standard objections. Write out your responses for each objection. These objections may consist of the following situations:

  1. the person is not there
  2. the person is busy and will get back to you
  3. the person answers but can’t talk long
  4. the person doesn’t want to talk to you
  5. the person says he knows what you want but doesn’t want to give it to you

When you are on the phone, make sure you listen well. Get connected with the person. Take notes. It’s not about how great you are but being able to fish out the person’s needs and make a connection.

Never get someone to call you back. They won’t.

Keep a calendar. Take notes. Suggest a follow-up call after a few weeks.

Persist. Don’t give up.

———

Why am I writing this blog on making cold calls? I was once very good at doing it. I was paid handsomely to get through the fierce receptionist at a bank and set-up an appointment with the decision makers for a technical service provider. I called in London and while on vacation in France. I didn’t give up until I got the appointment. I was highly motivated to do it because of the pay and the deadline.

Nowadays, nobody pays me to make cold calls. I start the process and stop. I don’t follow the steps listed above. I lose momentum because of it. I get demotivated by rejection or the lack of results. I am like all other musicians who would much rather make music than cold calls. Without the luxury of an agent or plentiful warm leads, I will have to bite my lip and make cold calls.