Julien Palluel – 'Use the time while studying to explore'

The Jazz programme at the Royal Conservatoire is a launching pad for many musicians and ensembles that go on to perform, record, compose and produce music in often innovative ways. There is a lively interaction between the community of the Jazz Department and the professional circuit as well as with other cultural and educational institutions, and many of our students, alumni and teachers have been recognized nationally and internationally as important exponents of the current jazz scene. Welcome to the Royal Conservatoire, start exploring your future career the moment you walk in.

We interviewed Julien Palluel, 3rd year Jazz Piano Bachelor student, on choosing to come to The Hague and his development as an artist.

“When people ask me, I tell them I come from Switzerland, but the story has more to it than that. My dad was born in Algeria, moved to France and met my mother – who is Belgian/Italian – during their studies in Switzerland. My dad tracked down some of our roots to Eastern Europe and this mixed background always fascinated me.”

“My dad played the flute since he was young and my brother played the violin, so it came kind of natural to try out an instrument. Going to music school at 5 years old was a bit frustrating at first, because the school had a two-year program using different methods to get you acquainted with music and theory, before you could start your instrument. But when I started studying the piano it became rewarding fast, already knowing how to read music and understanding rhythm.”

Getting to know tradition through contemporary Jazz

“At 14 years old my teacher introduced me to a piece of Satie, the Gymnopédies, which I really liked and we both noticed I picked it up way faster than the classical repertoire I started out with. When I switched to a school where they taught pop, rock, and jazz, I got to play all these tunes that were more familiar to me. I clearly remember my new teacher giving me a piece to study by the Esbjörn Svensson Trio, called ‘Elevation of Love’. And from there I got inspired by contemporary artists like Avishai Cohen. Listening to these artists I found there is a common language they all share and started learning more about Jazz tradition.”

“At first, I did not even know it was possible to study music at University level, but I knew sitting in a big lecture hall for four or six more years was not for me. Already a few of my friends did a preparatory bachelor year at a local Conservatoire and after high school I took two years to get prepared for this as well, since I started quite late in playing Jazz piano. The more I got into the Jazz tradition, the more I got inspired to study.”

Moving to The Hague

“A big aspect that motivated me to come to the Hague was the incredible teachers. I already was listening to the music of Wolfert Brederode back home, and the prospect of studying with an artist like that was a dream. I visited the Open Day before I enrolled, and the atmosphere was wonderful. Everybody knew each other, there were great ensembles playing and the entrance exam was such a positive experience. Not in the sense that it was all praise, but I got on point valuable feedback, which really encouraged me.”

Finding my artistic identity

When entering the Conservatoire, a lot of my writing sounded the same. I had been playing with the same group for years. A lot changed when I met students from the Classical, Sonology and Art of Sound department, which are all in the same building. I used to just write for a typical jazz quartet, and it helped me to expend on what I know and how I write. I had a few compositions which I didn’t yet finish and started looking at them from a different angle, incorporating string players for example.”

“The teachers really encourage your personal development. You always feel welcome to bring your compositions to class and not only their input is valuable, but even a rhythm or theory teacher will offer their view, which might be very different, and it all adds up.”

“The opportunity to follow a minor in the Sonology department, was a mind-blowing experience. They have this way of perceiving music that is entirely new to me. Good friends from the department show me how they go about creating a piece. I do not know where all of this is going to lead me, but I know I am stocking up on skills, training my ear to different sonorities. I cannot see yet how this will affect my writing, but I am confident it will surface at one point.”

“I don’t like everything I hear, but be it Britney Spears or Beethoven, be open to everything. You can find something interesting in different styles and approaches.”

Full circle

“Recently I have gotten into traditional music and started asking people around me, what are traditional songs from your country you really like? Finding similarities in Iranian music, Armenian music, Macedonian, and even Russian music. And now even getting back to my roots in classical music. I get that I need to focus and there is a program to follow, but we have so much time on our hands as students. I would advise everyone to have an open and curious mindset and use the time while studying to explore.”

Even in times of Covid-19, I really feel the department stepped it up. Susanne (Susanne Abbuehl, head of the Jazz department) and the department connect to every student individually. They are so supportive. We all feel the amount of work they put in.”

Interested? Go to our 'Apply now' pages for more information about the Royal Conservatoire and the Jazz Department.