Online course about social media for educators

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 !!

Transferrable skills: from music to ?

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.

Conductor Henk Alkema greets first violinist and soloists, June 2008. Photo: Some 40 musicians performed in my final exam in composition on 2 June 2008 at Utrecht Conservatory. These photos were taken by Fokke van der Meer
Conductor Henk Alkema greets first violinist and soloists, June 2008. Photo: Fokke van der Meer

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.

  • recruiting musicians
  • scheduling rehearsals
  • 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.

The audience at the final exam concert of 2 June 2008. Photo: Fokke v.d. Meer
The audience at the final exam concert of 2 June 2008. Photo: Fokke v.d. Meer

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.

Relationship of teacher and student in music

When you have individual lessons, you develop a close relationship. In music, the teacher becomes the mentor.

My music collaborator in Hawaii wrote, “Losing a teacher is like losing a parent.”

She knows. She is a singer.

In music we have individual lessons. We develop a one-on-one (or one-to-one) relationship with our teachers. It’s like that in doctoral studies, too.

I still keep in touch with my piano teacher from Okinawa though it has been decades. Last year my piano teacher at university organised a concert for my piano guitar duo.

The same goes for composition. When a composer accepts you as his student, he takes on the responsibility of getting you to compose and develop as a composer.

What if you lose interest in composing? What if you stop composing altogether?

The teacher would be disappointed surely. Most would give up or lose contact.

But we continued to collaborate.

“Anne, I just wrote a concerto for euphonium. I’d like to perform it at your Piano As Orchestra house concert on piano with euphonium.”

It was the first time we had a brass instrument in the Monument House Concert Series.

At the next concert, he performed with cello in “Chamber Music Tapas Style” and with voice and cello in the “Glass Vase Concert.”

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, do you have any piano duets I can use?”

Henk Alkema, who taught me composition, became a performer in the concerts I organised and a composer of a work I performed.

In music, your teacher becomes your mentor. The relationship is life long. When one dies, part of you dies.

After Henk Alkema retired from Utrecht Conservatory, he continued to volunteer his services, as teacher, conductor, and composer. Below is a clip featuring the Utrecht International Harp Competition.

Remembering Henk Alkema

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.

Henk Alkema speaks at Utrecht Conservatory final exam concert, 2 June 2008
Henk Alkema speech at Utrecht Conservatory final exam concert, 2 June 2008 Photo: F. vd Meer

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.

On Friday 22 July 2011, I saw Henk for the last time. I gave him a copy of our piano guitar duo’s new CD “Live at Makawao 2007” produced in Hawaii – containing his “Sailor Talk.”

Henk Alkema, composer, conductor, pianist, teacher

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.

Henk Alkema conducted "Culture Shock!" at Utrecht Conservatory, 2 June 2008
Henk Alkema conducted "Culture Shock!" at Utrecht Conservatory, 2 June 2008 Photo: F. vd Meer

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.

Benefit concerts to fundraise for Japan

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.

Wednesday 30 March 2011 @ 5:30  pm
Church of St. John the Evangelist
35 Bowdoin Street, Boston

Thursday 31st March 2011 @ 7 pm
JP Concerts
1 Roanoke Avenue, Jamaica Plain (a neighbourhood of Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

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.

Miss Music Nerd, Linda Kernohan flute extract from her website
Miss Music Nerd, Linda Kernohan flute extract from her website

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.

SOS Japan Benefit Concert, Amstelveen, Netherlands 1st April 2011
SOS Japan Benefit Concert, Amstelveen, Netherlands 1st April 2011

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.

Aid for Japan concert in central London, Bolibar Hall 6th April 2011
Aid for Japan concert in central London, Bolivar Hall 6th April 2011

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.