Lovers of classical music have the opportunity to enjoy a rare treat next week Thursday, when the Leerorkest presents performances by true prodigies at cultural business center No Limit. Visiting African American musicians Gareth Johnson (violin) and Khari Joyner (cello) will share the stage with pianist Aljosja Buijs and young Leerorkest student Princess Marfo (violin/piano). AmsterDo was granted a preview Thursday of this US embassy sponsored performance and we attest: true talent simmers in the innercity neighborhood and it’s only fortunate that the Muziek Centrum Zuidoost (Foundation Music Center Southeast) and Leerorkest (Teaching Orchestra) exist to help develop it and present it as what is possible when nurtured. “The face of classical music is changing. We want to bring a new energy and together with Princess and Aljosja we found that energy. This genre of music has always been seen in a certain way, but we’ll bring the proof that it’s evolving. That it is not out of reach anymore,” said Johnson.
Muziek Centrum Zuidoost and its associated Leerorkest are NGO initiatives started a few years ago to bring music to children of Amsterdam Southeast; it is the second time the organisation is hosting Gareth Johnson and Khari Joyner, both gifted young Black musicians. “Our organizations uses music to reach kids of different backgrounds. To many of the kids here classical music is ridiculous. Gareth and Khari are role models whose presence here helps to open their eyes that ‘yes you can’ reach higher heights. They help us bridge a gap,” said Martje Diemer, Adjunct Director at the Music Center.
Aljosja Buijs is concert musician and piano teacher at the Conservatory of Arnhem (ArtEZ). Ghanaian teenager Princess is exceptional on the violin and piano. When she climbed behind the piano and flowed off with a piece she had written herself, the Director beamed with pride. “That now is a product of Leerorkest,” she said.
Johnson, who hails from Miami and Joyner, who traveled here from Maryland, agree that this is what they’re involved in these types of projects for. “Without organizations like Leerorkest you would never have had the knowledge that this girl could play like this. That’s what you get when you nurture talent,” Johnson said, in awe of Princess’ skills. “Leerorkest is an amazing program that starts off children on the path of music on a very young age. You’re not going to find your talent unless you start.”
Both travel the world –and their own country- giving lectures and performing classical music with young talent of all backgrounds. “I’ve been to Taiwan and South Africa and next month I’m heading to the center of the US, to work with innercity kids to help bridge the gap of unfamiliarity with classical music,” he said.
To Joyner, doing these projects is about even more than giving back. “It’s also about honoring my parents. I obviously had the talent and I was fortunate enough that my parents could afford to get me the proper training. This is also in honor of their investment in me,” he said.
At their concert next week Thursday, attendees will be taken on a classical music rollercoaster ride that will make stops at the opposite ends of the genre’s spectrum. Johnson: “We will not play pieces that the audience will not relate to, but we’ll bring music they’ll be able to enjoy.” He will play two solo pieces: Henryk Wieniawski’s ‘Scherzo Tarantelle’ and Nikolaj Rimsky- Korsakov’s ‘The Flight of the Bumble Bee’. “Everybody knows that piece, but not many people know it in its classical form,” he said.
Joyner pitched in: “What we’ll present is music that bridges the gap between the modern day flows and the deep classical pieces, because we are aware that some of the stuff is way out there. Doing that is important for today because artists are realizing that that is the way to reach audiences. Music is still meant to entertain people. We’ll present pieces they know so we can all have fun. This shouldn’t be so serious because it is supposed to get the children into the halls.”
After the performance No Limit Cultural Director Angelo Bromet will moderate a debate about “Excelling, what to and what not to do when one wants to be better.”
Leerorkest extended an open invitation: Come, listen and join the debate.
NoLimit: Geldershoofd 80, 1103 BG Amsterdam Zuidoost (near metro Ganzenhoef).
Entree: € 2,50 (consumption free)