Every two months we introduce you to someone connected with the orchestra, whether on stage or behind the scenes. Today we’re talking to Betty Vanlangendonck (press and communication officer).
How long have you been working for the BJO?
I started in August 2019. I remember very well how I saw the job posting online and thought, 'This job sounds very cool'. At that time I was in Russia, in the middle of the last leg of a world tour with my husband. It was not easy to arrange assignments and job interviews remotely, but fortunately the BJO team was flexible and I could fit everything in between planned rides on the Trans-Siberian train journey. It was during a Skype call with Koen (Maes, manager), in a tiny hotel room in St. Petersburg, that I was told I had the job. I remember the disbelief and shortly afterwards the joy.
What do you do for the orchestra?
As press and communication officer, it is my job to communicate everything the Brussels Jazz Orchestra does, to the outside world. This ranges from writing press releases and posting messages on Facebook and Instagram to writing project texts, making videos, coordinating printed material, maintaining the website, calling journalists and sending out the newsletter. That makes this interview a bit schizophrenic, because this time I asked myself the questions.
Why did you choose this job?
After my studies in theatre studies at the University of Ghent, I gradually rolled into the world of communication. It is a broad responsibility in which several of my skills come together. I love to write and to be creative. I'm a big music fan, film lover and bookworm. Since I work for Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the function has also evolved. Because of everything that COVID-19 has brought about, it was important to expand the online presence of the orchestra, and I started to immerse myself more in making videos, for example. But despite these online projects, the most magical moments are still the live concerts. You have to hear the music, feel the love for jazz of all the BJO musicians and witness the ambiance to be able to communicate it properly. Besides that, Koen, Frank and the Board really give me the chance to experiment, learn new things and take initiative. Very rewarding!
What do you do besides working for the orchestra?
My job for BJO is a part-time job. Since September, I also work as a freelance press and communication officer for Brussels Jazz Weekend. It's a nice combination because that way I look at communication from two perspectives: on the one hand there is the orchestra and on the other hand there is the festival. Until August of last year, I worked on all kinds of PR and communication assignments within the visual arts.
I also read to children in the neighbourhood where I live (as a volunteer) and occasionally take on an extra freelance assignment. A few months ago, for example, I made illustrations for the magazine of kunst-zetter, a platform for contemporary visual art in Limburg.
Which of the projects are you looking forward to the most and why?
To the premiere of Night 352. We have launched the first short video centred around that project: I went to visit the composer and qanun player Osama Absulrasol for it and was really blown away by his interesting life story and the different layers this project contains. It is not just a reinterpretation of a story from One Thousand and One Nights, but for Osama it is a way of addressing various universal themes and an answer to the question: what does the concept 'home' mean?
For Night 352, Osama's compositions are combined with the voice of singer Jahida Wehbe and the powerful sound of the BJO. The premiere on January 22 at Handelsbeurs (Ghent) will be a beautiful experience.
"Apart from my favourite BJO memory, I cherish every concert I can attend. Then I sometimes think: 'And this is my job!? Awesome!' That is why I find it so important that the cultural sector remains open, even in these times. We now know that everything can be done safely and that art is indispensable in our society."
What's your favourite BJO memory?
The last BJO concert before the first lockdown in 2020. Many BJO musicians also chose this moment: the double concert with Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, conducted by Wynton Marsalis. For me, those were wonderful days in BOZAR: constantly something to talk about, journalists eager for an interview, the musicians incredibly enthusiastic and the general, exciting atmosphere. I will never forget how Wynton Marsalis himself pulled my chair back to let me sit down for lunch. But apart from being a gentleman, he is also modest, warm and a born storyteller. The double concert was downright impressive.
Apart from that memory, I cherish every concert I can attend. Then I sometimes think: 'And this is my job!? Awesome!' That is why I find it so important that the cultural sector remains open, even in these times. We now know that everything can be done safely and that art is indispensable in our society.
What was the last CD/Spotify track/radio hit you listened to?
My taste in music is very eclectic, but I learned to appreciate jazz through my job with the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. My 5 most recently listened to songs on Spotify are: 'Nothing Really Ends' by dEUS, 'Kop Zonder Kip' by Don Kapot, 'Wrong Side Of The Road' by A Murder in Mississippi, 'exile' by Taylor Swift & Bon Iver and 'String Positive' by Michel Herr.
Who would you like to invite to play a production with BJO and why?
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. I don't know if it would ever be possible, but it would be amazing. They both have a connection with jazz in one way or another. Ellis recently wrote a book about the chewing gum of Nina Simone that he kept for 20 years: a trinket that served as a kind of talisman in his musical career. It would be great if one day Brussels Jazz Orchestra would also be part of Cave's and Ellis' palmares. I keep on dreaming!