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“We live like professional musicians”

“We live like professional musicians”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Eduardus Lee

MAASTRICHT. The students of the Dutch National Student Orchestra rehearse ten hours a day during the days prior to their eleven-day tour ‘Vrij’. Together with pianist Arthur Jussen, the ninety members play pieces by Claude Debussy, Trevor Grahl, Ravel and Béla Bartók in various cities (in Maastricht on 14 February). Second-year Biomedical Sciences student Pieter Dijkstra (percussion) is one of them.

He was almost sure that he would be chosen – “not too many percussionists audition” – but still Pieter Dijkstra was nervous when he auditioned for the NSO in October. “There are four people sitting in front of you who hear every wrong note. The NSO has a reputation to keep up, so the level must remain high. For the double bass, for example, only one of the thirteen players who auditioned was accepted.”

Dijkstra played in various orchestras in The Hague, his hometown. “Now that I’m studying, I play a lot less. I love symphonies, but here in Limburg the focus is more on brass bands. And my marimba (a type of xylophone, ed.) is a little too expensive to have lying about in my room. If there is a party, everyone would want to play on it. The great thing about this year is that there are ten other people from The Hague in the NSO. I know them from other youth orchestras where I used to play.”

As a percussionist, Dijkstra especially has to practice his timing. “When you are out by half a count, everyone looks at you. We play relatively modern pieces. Grahl’s work in particular is experimental. In one piece, I have to rub my finger around the edge of a glass. Try doing that for twenty beats while maintaining the same tone.” He is really looking forward to the solo piece by Arthur Jussen. “Ravel’s piano concert for the left hand, but he plays it so well that when you close your eyes you don’t notice he is only playing with one hand.”

It is an intensive time for the members of the orchestra. After they have rehearsed almost non-stop for nine days, the tour starts in Someren on 6 February and ends in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on 16 February. After that, they will go to Madrid, where the NSO will give three concerts. “We live like professional musicians. Every concert has to be good; you have to remain on top of your game. After a concert, you try to catch up on some sleep and then travel to the next place. Fortunately, I was able to make arrangements with the university. I now come under the top athletes' arrangement, so that I can miss part of the study programme.”

Dijkstra is looking forward to Madrid and Amsterdam (“The Concertgebouw!”), but also the concert in Maastricht. “Then my friends who know nothing about percussion can see that it is something more than hitting a triangle.”

NSO - Vrij, Sunday 14 February, Vrijthof Theatre, 15:30hrs. www.nso.nl

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