A chat with musician Tijn Wybenga about talent development

22 May 2019

At this year’s inJazz, Developing New Creatives is one of several panels and presentations focusing on how the vulnerable jazz sector is – and could be – dealing with talent development. Taking part in the discussion from the Netherlands, are musician, composer and conductor Tijn Wybenga and Mijke Loeven, director of the BIMHUIS, who initiated BIM Productions and made Wybenga its first ‘maker’. inJazz interviewed Wybenga in the run-up to the conference: “I can do whatever I want, as long as it is artistically justified.”

A presentation to remember
On April 29th of this year, inJazz visited a packed BIMHUIS and saw the debut performance of the 14-piece AM.OK (Amsterdams Modern Orkest) led by Tijn Wybenga. It was an adventurous concert in which jazz and contemporary classical music were combined in a stimulating way. A hint of electronics added an alienating edge to the compositions, while Wybenga’s enthusiastic presentation was downright disarming. More than just promising, this was a presentation to remember. AM.OK, as conducted by Tijn Wybenga, consists of: Alistair Payne (trumpet), Kika Sprangers (saxophones), Odei Al Magut (trombone), Federico Calcagno (bass clarinet), Andre Lima (violin), Pablo Rodriguez (violin), George Dumitriu (viola), Pau Sola (cello), Angelo Boltini (live electronics), Felix Back (synthesizers), Vuma Levin (guitar), Allesandro Fongaro (double bass and bass guitar), Alex Brajcovic (drums) and Ruven Ruppik (percussion).

BIM Productions
On the BIMHUIS website, BIM Productions is described as supporting “talents with a vision, musicians who want to achieve something special”. Everyone who saw Tijn Wybenga on stage conducting AM.OK, will be aware that he fits the description perfectly. Born in 1993, Wybenga studied to be a jazz pianist, but his attention shifted to arranging and composing. After producing his multidisciplinary performance Prikkel in 2018, he now gets all the room to manoeuvre and develop as an artistic director under the wings of BIM Productions.

How did you come to the orchestra line up that makes up AM.OK?
“I wanted a band that would function as a musical community that reflects on what is going on in the jazz scene around Amsterdam. A band with people with different backgrounds and different characters that would inspire me and, more importantly, each other. Also, I was searching for a band with an orchestration that could give me the possibility to produce all the sounds that I am dreaming of. To find a group like that is not easy. It took me months to carefully select the musicians that I thought would fit into the group. I went to concerts, played together and talked about music with each member. All the musicians in the band I deeply admire in the way they play and how they think about music. Funny enough almost all the members are bandleaders themselves, which shows that they are all exploring artists. I am very happy with the 14-piece band now, and I think this band can really help me grow as a bandleader and composer.”

Can you explain how you elaborate on those field recordings?
“I have always been fascinated by music that is strongly connected to a certain time and place. After a tour with Aurelio Project (my former band) in South-Africa and Mozambique, and a trip I made through Namibia and Botswana, I got excited about music rooted in these areas. I bought a record and I was smashed by the sounds, the musicality and the honesty of the music. I had to do something with it myself. Inspired by Vuma Levin – who writes beautiful compositions influenced by South-African music and European jazz – I started to figure out which elements of music were new to me, were touching me. I extracted these musical elements to a little musical cell, that would eventually be my starting point of the composition. From there on I compose the music, letting me be influenced by music that is around me, the musicians I play with and the emotions I go through while composing.”

What does BIM Productions do for you and your art? And what are their expectations?
“First of all, BIM Productions gives me the confidence that the things I do matter and that my ideas about music and my dreams can come true. BIM Productions gives me the support to step out of my comfort zone and offers me a stage to present this musical journey. Isn’t that fantastic! They give me a space to compose and to rehearse at the BIMHUIS, I can go to all the brilliant performances that take place there, they teach me and help me with PR, music management and entrepreneurship. Basically, they support everything you need to know that you don’t learn in school, but you learn by doing in the ‘real world’. “With BIMH Productions, the BIMHUIS gives an impulse to the Dutch jazz scene and young Dutch professional musicians. As one of the world’s most renowned jazz stages, they see it as their job to guide young artists in a world where culture is struggling. Therefore, they mostly expect from me to use these two years fully to develop myself artistically. So you could say I can do whatever I want, as long as it is artistically justified.”

What can the audience expect next? Do you have two years of creating and performing all mapped out?
“I will perform at the String Quartet Biënnale in Amsterdam with the AM.OK quartet on the 31st of January 2020. Then, on the 28th of May I’ll present my debut album that I’ll record in winter. After the release I am organizing a small Dutch tour with the band. That will be in the summer of 2020. After the tour I will form a smaller group that would fit in a van so that I can travel through Europe to play the music of AM.OK. The music will be a combination of intense compositions, daring improvisations and exciting live electronic sounds. All influenced by the band members themselves and the music we are surrounded by.”

Panel ‘Developing New Creatives’
Excited to hear more? Grab a seat at inJazz and join the ‘Developing New Creatives’ panel with Tijn Wybenga, Mijke Loeven, Barbara Canepa, Anne Erm and Martel Ollerenshaw. For the conference is a registration needed. Buy your ticket now.