As I approached the Koninklijk Conservatorium of The Hague, I became aware of an odd feeling. When I looked at the brutalist nature of the design of the building, with its grey bricks it only reminded me of another building. A while back, I had spent 5 years at another conservatoire, The Royal Northern College of Music.
My memories and present thoughts are mixed. What would it be like to be a student again?
So, they have set up a whole week of workshops and some look interesting, like Bollywood Dancing, and Free Improvisation. Great stuff. I also find out about the ‘Welcome Concert’ at the SchoenbergZaal which means the Schoenberg Hall. I go in and find a seat next to an incredibly young-looking piano teacher who teaches here at the conservatoire. What a good job to be in. Nice.
A guy stands in front of the hall and starts to speak in English. He’s welcoming everyone to the school and hope’s that we will find the time spent here encouraging and useful. He starts to talk a bit about the current situation in The Netherlands about severe funding cuts. It has affected many organisations drastically and they have all felt it. Most musicians who earn money as musicians now have to start thinking outside the box if they are to survive. This is an essential and necessary attitude if the wish is there to succeed.
I want to mention his speech as I was quite enamoured by it. I will try to describe the essence of it.
Whilst under the umbrella of education, whilst we are here, we must think about cultivating our own voices. If we do not then why are we here at all? The barriers are stacked against us. We are the underdogs ( I can’t remember exactly what he said..) and we need to encourage the otherwise non-motivated public to get behind us in order to support our causes. You (the students) are the future cogs in the musical wheel (I’m extemporising now) and You are important. You have to find new ways to represent yourselves in this ever increasingly difficult world of ours.
I applauded! Who was he? I ask the young piano teacher who promptly points to the programme, which suggests the man is the Principal of the college. Well, I’ll be damned. Principal! Now that commands some respect. I have never ever experienced a Principal ever speak to his students in such an honest, respectful and encouraging way. And, to all the students. Placing responsibility onto their shoulders from the start, treating them with trust. Amazing.
We’ve all seen the YouTube clips of a single busker performing to the public. Suddenly the whole orchestra starts to appear and the effect is huge, and powerful. Whomever thought of these ideas did well, if perhaps shown a tad too late. Let’s show the ‘Mighty Powers’ of the orchestra, outside the concert hall, where it is free. Catch the public unawares and show them why orchestras are still worth supporting. Keep them funded and get stuck into understanding them more, of how this particular kind of beauty still really affects us all.
Unfortunately, I think 1 or 2 dutch orchestras have now been given the death knell with the present funding cuts, and as such no longer exist. I didn’t get confirmation of this til I went to a luthier recently to fix the loose sound-post in my cello. He talked about how many musicians have now had to sell their back-up/second instruments due to the current situation. I clearly empathise about how upsetting this must have felt. Once an instrument is yours, you develop and resonate together. It becomes your baby. Sadly there will be many more depressed musicians now.
From my knowledge, The Netherlands have been, for the last 30 odd years, a great representative of funding for the Arts. I guess they have been pretty lucky to have sustained this, and it must have worked. People from all over the world flocked to their shores to graze in the opportunities, and to bathe in their appreciation. The Netherlands was able to reap an active and cultural exchange with so many interesting folk. On the side, the UK was also very badly hurt through continuous bombardment of Arts cuts. But perhaps the hammer that dealt the blow here in The Netherlands has had an even more devastating aftershock? I will have to find out more. It seems that the way the cuts were dealt here had a very severe time-line in which to find alternative subsidies to survive – one year. That’s just impossible. I don’t know how many have managed.