Every two months, we're introducing you to someone connected with the orchestra, whether it's one of the players or someone behind the scenes. This time: meet Bo Van der Werf (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet).
How long have you been part of BJO?
Since the very first concert!
What do you do in the orchestra?
I supply the low range in the orchestra's sound, along with the bass trombone, contrabass and left hand of the piano.
Why did you choose this instrument?
I must have been about 11 or 12, and was rummaging around in my grandmother's attic when I came across my grandfather's saxophone. I never knew him, and I didn't know he was a musician. Once my grandmother saw how curious I was about the instrument, she gave it to me as a present, but I didn't really work on it until I was already 18.
To prepare myself for the Hilversum conservatoire entrance exam, I took lessons for a year at the Jazzstudio in Antwerp. I had lessons with several teachers, including Frank Vaganée and Ton Van de Geijn. Ton taught baritone... the tone, the tessitura, the vibrations coming out of that instrument were a challenge to me, and they urged me to expolore it in more depth.
What do you do besides playing in the orchestra?
I'm fortunate enough to play in a very diverse range of productions in Belgium and in Paris. I also teach a bit at the Antwerp Conservatoire and the Luca School of Arts in Leuven. And I'm finishing up a doctorate at KUL (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, ed.) about the use of Messiaen's melodic and harmonic languages in improvised music. But most importantly, I'm a fulltime dad!
"Ton Van de Geijn taught baritone... the tone, the tessitura, the vibrations coming out of that instrument were a challenge to me, and they urged me to explore it in more depth." - Bo Van der Werf.
What's your favourite BJO memory?
The concerts in New York with Kenny Werner.
What was the last CD/Spotify track/radio hit you listened to?
This week I've listened to a lot of Django Bates, the vocal works of Ligeti and Gérard Pesson (a French composer). A few days ago a friend introduced me to a fascinating Hungarian composer I hadn't known about before: Sandor Veress. I've been listening to him non-stop since then.
Who would you like to invite to play a production with BJO and why?
I love it when the musicians we invite take the orchestra to another level - like with Ambrose Akinmusire, Dave Liebman, Kenny Werner, Maria Schneider,... And every time we play with Bert Joris something really special happens. But if I can dream aloud, then I suggest a production with Greg Osby and Gary Thomas, arranged by Kenny Werner! But to be honest, I don't think that will interest any organisers.
As a musician, how are you dealing with these unusual times (as a result of COVID-19)?
Most of today's major sociological thinkers and philosophers agree on one thing: COVID is requiring all of us to shift the paradigm and be more empathetic. And the music sector, like many others, will have to reinvent itself and re-think its modus operandi.