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By making music together, you can connect with other people and even create a whole new community. Twelve years ago, together with Yamila Bavio, I initiated a new project in my neighborhood. We aimed to create opportunities for all children in our neighborhood to learn a musical instrument and play together in an orchestra. We provided instruments and offered free lessons for those who could not afford them. And we started with orchestra lessons from the very beginning. All children are welcome, including those with mental challenges like ADHD or autism. We have children from different cultures, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds playing together. They can choose any instrument they want, so we combine violins, cellos with (bass-)guitars, recorders, ukuleles, and djembés.
But how does an orchestra function when you combine children with different challenges with those who are talented? And what happens if children from all different cultural backgrounds play together in an orchestra? How do we make it interesting for everybody? In this workshop, I want to share our methodology with you. We will do some improvisation exercises and play flexible ensemble arrangements, combining very easy parts with more advanced ones. To experience these differences ourselves, I will invite you to swap instruments or try to play a part on the recorder, guitar, or djembé.
To our surprise, children stay much longer in this orchestra than expected. Initially, we thought it would be a beginners’ orchestra, and that more advanced students would prefer to play in the youth orchestra in the city center. However, to our surprise, they stay, highly motivated to help each other and stay together. They form a community themselves, where all the differences between them are no longer felt.
Participants are welcome to bring their own instruments.
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About the speaker
Esther Damsma – in ‘t Groen, Violin and Viola
Esther Damsma – in ‘t Groen, born in The Hague, is a viol(in)ist, a violin/viola teacher, conductor, and psychologist, specialized in stage psychology. As a musician, she is aware of the psychological impact of music on the listener. As a teacher, she is conscious of the learning processes and the psychological development of the students. As a conductor, she understands the group dynamics of the orchestra. As a psychologist, she is inspired by music.
She studied violin with Ineke Bredenhorst, Mary O’Reilly, Emmy Verhey, Marguerite de Waal, and Eeva Koskinen. She had viola lessons with Gisella Bergman, conducting lessons with Michel Havenith and René Gulikers. She studied psychology at the University of Utrecht, focusing on the psychological well-being of musicians on and offstage. Esther is the artistic leader of “Muziek in de Wijk,” a social music education program in Utrecht that aims to make music education available for every child, regardless of economic or cultural background and possible limitations in their development. In this project, children learn to play an instrument and form different ensembles together. In these ensembles, children, beginners, and advances, between 7 and 18 years old, play together.
Furthermore, Esther is a conductor at Viotta Youth Orchestra in The Hague and the “Orkestcollectief” in Zoetermeer. Esther is a member of ESTA (European String Teachers Association) and one of the editors of Arco, the magazine of the Dutch and Flemish ESTA branch. As a viol(in)ist, Esther plays in different chamber music ensembles and has been invited several times as a soloist in different orchestras.