House set to get a formal roof

3rd May 1996 at 01:00
NETHERLANDS. The Netherlands, one of the most progressive nations in Europe, is surprisingly reactionary when it comes to music education, according to the Dutch pop music foundation SPN, which has unveiled plans for the country's first rock academy.

"We have one of the most vibrant rock music scenes in Europe but none of our conservatorio have rock music on the curriculum," said Jaap van Beusekom, SPN's director. "It's ridiculous in today's world a student can't learn slide-guitar or, say, a finger-picking technique. Rock was born 40 years ago. It's not new-fangled any more."

The academy will offer 30 undergraduates a year a broad education in the music industry as well as lessons on playing technique and composition. "There will be courses on sound and lighting, royalties, band management and fiscal matters. The rock industry here is screaming out for skilled labour, and the academy will hopefully help fill the gap," said Jaap van Beusekom.

SPN estimates there are 70,000 bands and 200,000 musicians in the Netherlands (population 15 million). The club circuit is generally seen to be one of the best in Europe.

The academy will not try to force Dutch culture on its students. Dutch youth are heavily influenced by UK and US pop culture. Teenagers poured into Amsterdam last month to say farewell to British band Take That, who recorded their final concert in Holland. More tears were shed last week when house duo 2 Unlimited, one of Holland's most successful groups, announced their decision to split.

However, apart from house music and the Smurf song, most international Dutch pop music successes hark back to the 1960s and 70s and the Golden Earring band.

A business plan for the academy will be presented to the education ministry in June. The venture wants the government to recognise the academy as a vocational college, making it eligible for state funding and allowing students to receive grants. A ministry spokeswoman said the government "applauded" the venture but would not provide funding directly. "We would have no problem recognising the college if it met our standards. The best solution would be for the academy to become part of an existing consortium," she said.

The academy is likely to be housed in a new concert hall complex due for completion in 1998. But will a formal institute stifle the rebel spirit which is the essence of rock and roll? According to Jaap van Beusekom: "You will always be able to learn to be a rock musician on the street the hard way. But why can't we help talent develop instead of forcing youngsters to re-invent the wheel each time?"

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