Taking an online course for educators on teaching via social media helps legitimize and make sense of the amount of time spent in it.
I’ve attended webinars. I’ve even organized online conferences and moderated presentations. But I’ve never participated as a student in an online class until yesterday evening. I’ve heard my colleagues talk about the challenges of giving an online class, but as a student, it was dead easy to participate.
…. please visit the new blog about this course at WED628 — as we meet Wednesdays from 6 to 8 pm HST !!
Four years ago, Anne Ku faced the daunting task of getting 40 musicians to play her music. She learned that those skills are transferrable.
This time four years ago, in the historic city of Utrecht, Netherlands, I was contemplating “how am I to do it.”
The task of recruiting musicians to study my music and perform (or rather, premiere) it for the first time and only once — without compensation — was a daunting one.
It would have been easiest to have just one performer play my music. And that performer could be me. After all, I know my own music. I wouldn’t need to find other musicians, convince them to rehearse, and take the risk of playing music that’s never been performed or heard before. And to play it just once? After all that studying?
Next easiest would be to write music for a duo or a limited number of players. Why did I challenge myself with producing a half-hour-long opera with a sizable ensemble, choir, and soloists? There had to be separate rehearsals with the choir. This was not the path of least resistance.
Where could I find these musicians? Ask their teachers? Approach them one at a time?
How would I get musicians to do it? I asked other composition students. How did they do it? Nobody had written a chamber opera with so many performers before. Orchestra yes. But not opera.
What I learned from those months from February to June 2008 was how to produce a concert with no budget. What was involved? It was a collaborative effort.
getting the musicians to arrive on time
getting the musicians to show up
getting the musicians to commit
organizing the music (making the part scores)
changing and editing the music
preparing the programming notes
preparing the slides for the overhead projector
setting put the stage
getting the event photographed and recorded
doing the publicity
getting help (stage manager, stagehands, usher)
ordering flowers to thank the musicians and selecting wine to thank the conductors
arranging post-concert refreshments for the audience
arranging dinner for the musicians
getting sponsors to pay for printing programs (PDF) and posters and the rest
getting the posters and programs printed
Thinking back, these skills are transferrable, for now I am managing an expanding team of volunteers. I am not paying them. They are not paying me. But we all work to the same goal.
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.
Had he not been ill, he would have served as a panel discussant in the most recent Monument House Concerts.
“Henk, would you write something for my piano guitar duo?”
We premiered Henk Alkema’s “Sailor Talk” in Cortona, Italy. We performed it in Amsterdam and La Coruna. We performed and released the CD of the live recording in Maui 2007. The score is now published with Donemus.
Henk Alkema taught composition at Utrecht Conservatory. One student remembers the early days and the last visit with CD.
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.
Henk Alkema, Dutch composer, pianist, and teacher, passed away on Thursday 4th August 2011. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday 9th August at 12 noon at the Koeshuis van Boerderij Mereveld at Mereveldseweg 9, Utrecht followed by a funeral at the Soestbergen, Ganstraat 152, Utrecht, Netherlands.
Henk Alkema (20 November 1944 – 4 August 2011)
On a sunny Thursday morning, I cycled by the home of my composition classmate Mari-anne Hof to post a letter and see if she was around. I had not seen her for a year. I felt the need to tell her that I had gone to see our teacher Henk Alkema recently and that he was not well. In fact, he was dying. But he didn’t want to tell the world about it because he had only a few productive hours a day and he wanted to finish his last opera.
It’s like that with composers. You feel the urge to compose. You don’t want to be interrupted. You want to write before it disappears.
We live less than 1 km apart — a mere 12 minute walk from my house to Henk’s houseboat — which translates to a 2 minute cycle ride. Mari-anne’s house is even closer. In this radius, there are other musicians. There’s no excuse not to get together. But we work for ourselves, and time to create music is precious.
What do you do, if you know someone is dying? I struggled with this. Knowing he didn’t want to be disturbed and that I was leaving shortly, I wanted to tell others before it was too late. But even if I told others, like Mari-anne, what were they to do?
The answer came too early.
This morning I received several e-mails that Henk Alkema had passed away on the same Thursday 4th August 2011.
Gistermiddag is Henk Alkema tot ons groot verdriet overleden. Ik stuur je hierbij een pdf van de rouwkaart en een persbericht. Ik vraag je namens Anna Schweizer of je zo lief wilt zijn dit bericht op grote schaal te verspreiden. Het is vakantietijd dus veel mensen – studenten en docenten – zullen dit bericht missen. Misschien heb je zelfs in je oude emails een groepsmail van of voor leerlingen, die we kunnen gebruiken. En misschien wil je ook iets zeggen bij de herdenking. Dat zouden wij allemaal heel fijn vinden.
Edwin Rutten en ik zijn goede vrienden en regelen de begrafenis met Anne. vandaar dat ik je dit bericht stuur.
hartelijke groet Annett Andriesen-Rutten
Thursday, 4th of August, our great friend and teacher Henk Alkema passed away. He has been ill for some time, but no one was prepared for him to leave us this soon. This Tuesday his funeral will be held. He’ll be buried on Soestbergen, in Utrecht.
Sunday 7th August 2011 from 13:00 to 14:00
a small gathering to pay condolences to the family at the rouwcentrum in Yarden at Floridadreef 9, Utrecht.
Tuesday 9th August 2011 from 12 noon
Memorial service: (a larger gathering than the previous) at the Koetshuis van Boerderij Mereveld at Mereveldseweg 9, Utrecht. From there (around 13:30), we will proceed to his final resting place at the Soestbergen, Gansstraat 152, Utrecht. Parking is limited thus preferrable to park at Kovelswade, Koningsweg 49 where a gathering with the family will take place after the funeral.
The economics of benefit concerts is the subject of another blog. Three benefit concerts in Boston, Amsterdam, and London are taking place this week 30 March – 6 April, showcasing a wide range of talent and genre from classical to rock.
The earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan on 11th March 2011 has ignited various fundraising events for the Red Cross and other relief organisations. Among them are benefit concerts organised by musicians.
At time of writing, I have been notified of three forthcoming benefit concerts for Japan that are initiated and/or given by my musician friends. It’s a brave undertaking that requires extra effort beyond a normal concert. As I am unable to attend any of these concerts due to my current location in Maui, I share these here and invite my readers to pass it on.
Linda Kernohan, composer, pianist, organist, and prolific blogger of Miss Music Nerd, will be giving two concerts in Boston. I met Linda at the first concert of 5-week USA tour on 21st October 2010. Her husband had worked in Okinawa, where I spent 11 years of my youth. Since meeting Linda, I have followed her on Twitter and her blog. The concert features herself on the organ together with a host of other musicians, including countertenor Yakov Zamir.
Friday 1st April 2011 @ 8:30 pm Amstelveen (a neighbourhood of Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Doors open 8 pm for 8:30 pm start
Pop concert at Poppodium P60
Keiko Kotari, my classmate from Utrecht Conservatory, and her husband Marten Tilstra, both concert pianists initiated this charity pop concert. Keiko was in Kobe when the previous big earthquake hit Japan in 1995.
I had immediately assumed when Keiko mentioned her intention to organise a charity concert on the Facebook wall that it would be a classical concert and that she would play. What a surprise to learn last week that it was to be a jazz, latin, rock and pop concert.
The concert features highly acclaimed blind Dutch pianist Bert van den Brink whose performances have inspired many people. I don’t know the other musicians, but you can hear the sultry voice of Latin singer Denise Rivera here. The website of the 5-member experimental rock band NiCad takes awhile to load, but it’s worth visiting to see how they met and skyrocketed to fame. The concert ends with the 14-member party band “Night Flight to Rio.”
Tickets are € 15 and can be ordered through the website of P60. The complete revenue of this concert will be donated to the Japanese Red Cross, for immediate relief for the victims in Miyagi prefecture. More info at SOS Japan Website.
Wednesday 6th April 2011 @ 7:30 pm Central London (near Warren Street tube station)
Bolivar Hall, 54 Grafton Way
Algerian singer and artist Houria Niati and her duo Habiboun will be performing in a mega concert featuring many artists of that genre: flamenco, arab-andalucian, and latin music. Tickets are 12 pounds each by reservation or at the door.
The economics of benefit concerts is the topic of another blog. Concert production is an activity that involves high transaction costs. Benefit concerts require that extra mile to attract people to come, get people to pay, and generate the income that more than breaks even.
One way is to ask musicians give their time and talent (for free or for a reduced fee) while the public (the listeners) pay more than what they would normally pay for such a concert, resulting in above average income for a good cause. For this to work optimally (i.e maximise the funds raised), the venues should have large capacity and need to be filled. Listeners are persuaded to give as much as possible to maximise revenue. Profit maximisation requires not just revenue maximisation but cost minimisation or elimination. In other words, hire the venue for free, get piano tuners to tune without charge, get additional sponsors to defray other production costs, and get all of this done as efficiently as possible.
Everyone is wearing orange in this period of orange fever. How are music and sports related? Many have compared the music business to that of sports. Personally I think sports and music are totally compatible and complementary. I exercise to stay fit and focussed for my music. But some parents feel they have to choose between after school sports and music lessons for their children.
On 3rd July, I received a one line e-mail from a concert producer in Texas: GO DUTCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
When Netherlands beat Brazil, my Finnish pianist friend in Paris congratulated me in a text message (on mobile phone).
After Holland beat Uruguay, I got an e-mail from a Singaporean friend recalling her trip to Utrecht 4 years ago, the previous World Cup.
Today I opened an e-mail from a young Californian congratulating the Dutch on getting into the finals of the World Cup.
Everyone is wearing orange in this period of orange fever. The only other time orange is worn widespread across the country is on Queen’s Birthday, the national public holiday that falls on 30th April every year. Human beings are social animals who like to herd. There’s a sense of belonging when everyone is wearing the same colour. This reminds me of a house concert in London in which everyone wore purple, removing the usual demarcation between performers and listeners.
As orange is my favourite colour, I fit right in. I have been wearing orange long before I ever set foot in the Netherlands. Not that I am pro-Dutch, I simply feel good wearing my Kenyan orange T-shirt and shorts in orange crocs.
How are music and sports related? Many have compared the music business to that of sports. Only a few winners get to the top and reap most of the rewards. The rest scrape along at the bottom, making a living not entirely in performance. On the consumption side, Michael Hinz argues that music goes deeper than sports, that’s why we still play and listen to music of dead composers.
The way you watch a soccer game matters as much as the way you experience live concerts. Last Saturday I sat on a comfortable sofa at a house warming party. The English astrophysicist next to me explained the rudiments of soccer as I watched Spain and Paraguay. It was a comfortable feeling to sit among friends with cold Pimms and beer after a barbecue. The situation was entirely different a few days later when I tried to squeeze into a busy pub packed with orange-clad fans back-to-back, shoulder-to-shoulder rallying for Holland to beat Uruguay. I had a side view of the big screen in a room full of strangers. I left during half-time.
I’m sure those football fans sitting in the outdoor stadiums in South Africa experience the World Cup totally differently from those of us who watch the games on television at home or at the pub.
I recognised the differences when I compared the rehearsal of the Baroque orchestra of the Nieuwe Philharmonie Utrecht at the Utrecht Conservatory vs the outdoor concert the next day in the Kade Concert. Rehearsal or not, Handel’s Water Music when heard in a concert hall was authentic and incredibly beautiful compared to the amplified live outdoor performance on the canals. I was only one of three, maximum five people, in the concert hall who were lucky enough to either know about the afternoon rehearsal or stumbled upon it by accident. All three double doors were open to let the breeze pass through the 200-seat capacity concert hall. Compare this with the 10,000 who watched the same orchestra on Cultural Sunday the next day, I couldn’t say I felt the same magic. In fact, the outdoor smoking and chit chat annoyed me to no end.
Personally I think sports and music are compatible and complementary. I exercise to stay fit and focussed for my music. But some parents feel they have to choose between after school sports and music lessons for their children. It’s not uncommon for Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers to get disappointed when a student gives up guitar lessons for soccer practice.
The most important concert in a music student’s years at a conservatory is the final exam recital. Aside from passing all required subjects, the final year student must also pass the final exam concert, which is free and typically one hour long without intermission. Three musicians who performed at the Glass Vase Concert will give their final exam concerts this week.
The most important concert in a music student’s years at a conservatory is the final exam recital. Aside from passing all required subjects, the final year student must also pass the final exam concert, which is free and typically one hour long without intermission.
For performance students, the final concert consists of a balance of solo and non-solo repertoire spanning various styles, e.g. from Baroque to contemporary periods. For composition majors, this consists of performance of original works. A jury decides on the final grade.
In the Netherlands, a PASS mark is a 6. A perfect mark is a 10.
Two years ago I organised 40 musicians to perform my compositions at Utrecht Conservatory. It was a huge project that nearly sucked the life out of me. What I learned from it was the need to get the experience of producing concerts much earlier on. Since then, I’ve been encouraging my younger classmates to get this experience so it would not be a shock when the time comes.
Utrecht Conservatory is the oldest of eleven conservatories in the Netherlands. It’s located in two old buildings a few minutes’ walk from the central station (Utrecht Centraal) in the famous Museum District. The classical music concerts are usually held in the yellow building called K&W which stands for Kunst en Wetenschappen (Art and Knowledge). The concert hall inside is built to modern acoustical standards (perfect reverb ratio for classical music). The other building (brown) contains a chapel where many early music concerts are given. The brown building is a former men’s hospital.
A few weeks ago, 23rd May 2010 to be precise, we held a Glass Vase Concert (4 concerts + dinner + jam session) to help some of the younger musicians prepare for their final exam concerts. These “tryouts” were meant to allow them to play in front of an attentive (and appreciative) audience.
Because of the timing of various competing activities, I was not able to blog about the importance of these tryouts for final exam concerts. Two of the musicians have already passed their exams. The remaining will give their concerts very soon. Let me introduce them here.
Thursday 17 June 2010 at 18:00 in the concert hall of the K&W Building
Maria Pozdynakova, Russian harpist, will give a concert for her Master of Music final exam. Some of the pieces include
J.L.Dussek: Sonata Es major
M.Flothuis: Pour le tombeau de Orphee
She gave the first outdoor concert in the Monument House Concert Series, her concert harp having acclimatised to the Garden House overnight. Her choice of repertoire was very daring but this being a house concert, the audience loved it.
Earlier in December 2009, she gave a solo concert of works of Russian composers. Hailing from Moscow, she gave the audience a feeling for music at a Russian tea house. See video, photos, and guestbook comments at “Sold out, full-house, standing room only.”
Maria played the harp in two of my compositions in my final exam in 2008: Culture Shock! and Elegie for Ensemble.
The month of June is busy with final exams and auditions. On Friday 18th June, several pianists will be giving their Bachelor of Music final exam concerts. Two of these pianists played in the Glass Vase Concert.
Leonie de Klerk will give her exam at 10:30 am. Her programme is as follows:
JS Bach (1685-1750) Toccata in e, BWV 914
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) Sonate in D, KV 576
Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953) Suggestion Diabolique, opus 4 nr. 4 ‘Prestissimo fantastico’
Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) Ballade nr. 4 in f, opus 52 ‘Andante con moto
Alexander Skrjabin (1872-1915) Etude in cis, opus 42 nr. 5 ‘Affannato’
On Friday 18th June at 14:00, Thijn Vermeulen will give his final exam concert. His programme includes
Triana by Albéniz,
Haydn’s c-minor sonata Hob.16/20 ,
Les Soireés de Nazelles by Francis Poulenc and
works by J.S. Bach and Ligeti.
Also Trio ART (Anna Sophie Torn, violin; Remco Woutersen, cello; Thijn Vermeulen, piano) will perform Rachmaninoff’s first Trio Elégiaque in g-minor.
Once upon a time, about 5 to 6 years ago, I would go to all final exams, which are typically organised by instrument and major subject. You can expect Friday 18th June to be piano day, for the jetsetting piano teachers (all master performers in their own right) to convene for their students’ most important moment. However, this Friday I won’t be attending any concert. I will only be able to go to Maria’s concert on Thursday the 17th.
The best time to learn about succeeding as a self-employed musician is after conservatory studies. But this is where the conservatory is no longer obliged to educate you or to ensure that you do make it in the real world. As conservatory students, we didn’t learn how to get gigs.
Now that many of my musician friends are graduating, I would like reflect upon what I learned in the past two years after conservatory.
My hypothesis is that even if the following topics are taught at conservatory, students would rather spend more time on performance or composing (their main subject). The best time to learn about succeeding as a self-employed musician is after conservatory studies. But this is where the conservatory is no longer obliged to educate you or to ensure that you do make it in the real world.
The black hole after conservatory is felt by many people, including myself.
I felt this void today when I met with the director of a local residence for elderly patients with dementia.
The 600-year old building has gone through extensive renovation such that it feels like a 5-star hotel. Conveniently located in the Museum Quarter of central Utrecht, a Roman city of cobbled stones, the impressive building has a brand new concert hall that seats 80 to 100 people. The new Yamaha grand piano gives a velvety soft sound, perfect for my piano guitar duo.
Yet as I sat in her office with my various marketing material, I am confronted with a disturbing reality.
“I am flooded with enquiries from musicians and people who know musicians,” she exclaimed. “Everyone wants to play in our concert hall. I have conservatory students willing to play for free.”
A knock on the door interrupted our conversation at 10:30 am. One of her staff complained that they’ve run out of bread.
“Call the baker,” she said.
“Nothing is open until noon.”
“Call the baker after 12,” she said.
As conservatory students, we didn’t learn how to get gigs. We were happy to play for free. We didn’t know how to get people to come to our concerts unless we told them to come to the conservatory where every concert was free.
After conservatory, we compete with musicians who are willing to play for free.
What differentiates us from the not-yet-graduated musicians?
We need an income. We can’t perform in the conservatory anymore. Where can we play and get paid?
So the first thing that we should have learned at conservatory is how to get paid concerts.
We’re taught to find students to practise our teaching on. In the training for a piano teaching diploma, my teacher told me to get started early. Learn to build a piano teaching practice.
What if you don’t want to teach? What if you want to perform? What if you want to compose for a living? None of my compositions teachers told me how to get a commission, how to apply for funding, and how to get paid as a composer.
If anyone is interested in this topic, please LEAVE A REPLY below and mention whether you want your comment published or not. I have learned a lot more things not taught in the 4 years I was at conservatory. And I’d like to continue onto another blog about “what they don’t teach you at conservatory.”