Meet Bo Van der Werf

10 Nov 2020

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.