Making a move from the Netherlands to Spain

Dave (in the blue shirt) invited us to his boat house in the spring of 1995

Melissa and I really enjoyed living in the Netherlands. We had great dog-owning friends that we would meet at Ooster Park. Dave and Els. They had a beautiful Dalmatian named Djedje. I remember how, during the winter, Dave said how strong the ice got–he said you could easily walk across the Ooster Park pond. He put one of his legs out on the ice to demonstrate, and–you guessed it–his leg went through the ice, getting wet all the way to his knee. He laughed and laughed at this!

Djedje and Béla

We also went to a re-make of the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians in a small village in Holland. The event was organized by the Dalmatian society there, so there was a little Dalmatian parade. After that, we all went into a movie theater with our dogs and watched the movie. In the movie there are a lot of barking dogs, and every time there was barking, all of the dog-audience barked, too. It was hilarious.

Els, Melissa’s mom and Melissa exploring the beach

Dave and Els took us to the beach in the winter, and we watched our dogs run around. It was cold, so Dave offered us Zout Drop, a salty type of licorice. It was so different than American licorice, but strangely  good on those windy, cold beaches.

Melissa’s mom, Lori, got a chance to visit with us, and they went on a little trip around the country, while I was doing baroque gigs.

Towards the end of the year, , my teacher, pulled me aside to encourage me to study one more year at the Sweelinck Conservatorium. He said that I would soon be getting the lion’s share of gigs in the Netherlands. That was a real temptation for me, but I didn’t have permission to really legally work in the Netherlands, so I only got paid in cash. Melissa and I realized we needed to find steady employment with benefits to keep us going. We couldn’t stay.

Aigi Hurn, principal trumpet of the OSG

However, one of my friends put me in touch with Aigi Hurn, the principal trumpeter of the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia (“OSG”). Aigi was an American graduate of . He had also played in the Hong Kong Philharmonic. The OSG was doing a two-week Mahler project at the end of the program year, and they needed another trumpeter. They also had an opening for a third/assistant principal in the orchestra–there would be an audition during the Mahler project. So, I was offered a great gig with travel expenses paid for. And I would be there for the audition. Of course, I was excited about this, and I think Melissa was, too. It was a chance for us to continue to extend our “honeymoon!”

The Palacio de Congresso where the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galica performs

Of course, it was great to visit Spain and play with this really nice orchestra made up of a mixture of Spanish and international musicians. Most were pretty young. It was fantastic to play next to the other to get an idea of how they liked to play. When the audition happened, I felt really great about it–and, I am happy to say, I won!

But now we had to move again. Now we had to start learning Spanish. There were to be a lot of opportunities in the near future for me to mangle that language–as you will see.

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My own journey: doing gigs in Europe

Mark Vondenhoff and I eating too much free dessert at a reception

Studying at the Sweelinck Conservatorium in Amsterdam was a great experience, but doing professional work outside of the the school was even better. Mark Vondenhoff, who has remained a great friend over the years, in large part helped me get these opportunities. He had already organized a brass ensemble called the Tell Brass, so he had good connections and a knack for contracting.

One of the first projects I did was a , B-minor Mass with Mark and another Dutch baroque trumpeter, Ralph Henssen. I remember how cold it was in the Utrecht Dom Kerk (Cathedral)–because after the performance, there was about a cup of condensation that had been blown out under my . But so many people came to hear this wonderful performance (sitting in their coats). It was gratifying. Ralph is now a musicologist at the University of Utrecht and is a fantastic collector of old brass instruments.

Mark Vondenhoff, Henk van Benthem and me–on our German adventure

Another interesting project was with Mark and Henk van Benthem, another student at the Conservatorium. Henk had gotten the gig (Bach’s Magnificat) and was going to drive us to the rehearsal in Düsseldorf, Germany, in his car. When we started, he handed his handwritten directions to me, so that I could help with directions, but there was no way I could read these little Dutch scribbles. He said it didn’t matter, because all we had to do was go to the Kaiser street in Düsseldorf, find the Evangelisch Church, and we would be there. No problem.

We got to Dusseldorf, found the Kaiser street, found the Evangelisch Church–it even had a sign in front of the church about the Magnificat musical program. It was near Christmas time, so there was a lot of traffic. We decided to find a public parking lot and walk back to the church. We got in the building about 20 minutes later–lots of musicians were getting ready for the rehearsal. We asked one of the musicians where our contact was–the conductor. The musician said there wasn’t a conductor there by that name. We said that we were there to play the J.S. Bach Magnificat. But this other musician said that at this church they were playing the Magnificat by Johann Christian Bach.

The Evangelisch Church in Haan

After finally getting back in the car, we finally asked directions. It turns out that we needed to go to a nearby city called Düsseldorf-Haan, a much smaller, nearby city, which had a Kaiser street, an Evangelisch church, a J.S. Bach Magnificat rehearsal (already underway when we arrived).

There were quite a few other great gigs that I was able to do while a student in Amsterdam. The music making and the friends I made were terrific.

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