Happy teachers, better lessons

16 June 2022

Percussion teacher Pepe Garcia was asked to curate the music for the concert ‘In the Dream House’ for the festival Winternachten. Ten students from the percussion department will perform the concert on the 19th of June. We took this opportunity to ask Pepe about his views on being a teacher, and his opinions about the percussion department.

This week Pepe Garcia plays with his ensemble Slagwerk Den Haag at Oerol Festival, but he has all the trust in his students to professionally deliver the concert of Winternachten.

‘For me, it's very important to be active also as a player. Every time I can bring new ideas to the lessons which I got from things I encounter in the projects I do. But my students give me so much as well and they come up with so many ideas. That also has to do with the way I try to teach my students: it’s important that they develop their own thinking, their own way of approaching music. The sooner they develop their ideas, the sooner they will become independent musicians. So that once they finish the conservatoire, they will be ready to start creating their own projects.’

Since 1995 Writers Unlimited organizes the international literature festival Winternachten in Den Haag. The festival brings together writers, poets, thinkers and scientists from all over the world to discuss literature, art, science and society.This year several artists from the conservatoire are part of the festival.The theme of the festival is Whose House is This?

Of course, in putting together the program for ‘In the Dream House’ Pepe also asked the students to think along.

‘It's very important that they feel like they have the ownership of this program because then they can get more involved in the whole music part. I really need their input. We discuss what to put where. And I ask their opinions about ideas I came up with. This brainstorming together is a win-win situation for all of us.

Winternachten is a literature festival, so part of our role is to emphasize the text of the poems that will be read in the concert. They will play pieces from John Cage, and Philip Glass, but they will also create some atmospheres to illustrate the poems in a musical way.

We try to work with the spacing. When the people come in, they are playing on the stage, but also in the audience. It is nice for the students to do this project. They learn so many things. Not just about playing, but also about being on time for rehearsals and working with a theatre director.’

Percussion students performing new music at KOnStruCt.22

‘The percussion department is very diverse and very inclusive. The students all have different backgrounds, different ways of thinking and even different ways of approaching music. It doesn’t just have to do with the students and the teachers and the program that we follow at the conservatory. But it also has to do with our instrument: the percussion instruments. I would say that they are the most inclusive instruments because there are just so many instruments. And for us, it goes beyond playing just one instrument.

Even though percussion instruments are the oldest instruments around, they are the newest when it comes to the repertoire, so almost all we play comes from the 20th century or later.
Anything can become a percussion instrument, I really love that. You learn about different ways of producing sound. We are sound researchers. That is what makes it very special.

I find it very special that our department invites all people to join our monthly performance class. The percussion students perform their pieces there, but we also always talk and everybody gives feedback. Everybody learns so much from what the others have to say.

I feel very supported by the school, in very big projects we do, we get all the support. The students really grow in projects outside of the school, and they get a lot of opportunities there. It’s really valuable that the conservatory is so open-minded and gives us a lot of space to brainstorm. This makes me very happy. And when you have a happy teacher, the lessons get better and it is reflected on the students.’

The percussion students Miguel Varela, Joao Borralho, Te Ping, Gonzalo Martins, Porter Ellerman, Joao Brito, Joan Piles, Dimitris Pliatsikas, Ricardo Mendes and Diogo Marques will perform In the Dream House on Sunday 19th of June at 16.00h in Amare.

Click here for more info and tickets.