II Approaches & Practical Examples

II.c Portrait of NAIP Students

It just was curiosity, (...) I found out they have this masters of NAIP, I read a bit about it and I was like, "I am curious, what this is", because it sounded really interesting to me.

Who are NAIP students? How did they come into contact with the NAIP programme? What were their aims and personal goals before they started their journey on the NAIP master? What kind of attitude did they enter the programme with and how do they reflect about their own situation as NAIP students today?

We asked three NAIP students, or “NAIPers” as they call themselves, from three different institutions offering the NAIP Music Masters programme; Prins Claus Conservatoire (Groningen), Royal Conservatoire (The Hague) and Iceland Academy of the Arts (Reykjavík). All three of the students are active performers within a manifold musical milieu, handling different musical styles such as jazz, pop, klezmer and/or classical. They are all well experienced in performing in a diverse range of venues and contexts, from playing for children to playing in jazz clubs. The interview took place in The Hague during a NAIP meeting in January 2016.

Identity and curiosity
Our opening quote shows some striking characteristics of those students; their curiosity, their diverse interests and their open mind. They seem to be “hungry” for the new, for the different, for other art forms, for new audiences and for a deep connection with their peers. By the time of the interview, in their first year of study, they have already developed a strong identity as “NAIPer’s” as the following dialogue shows:

-       I [was] studying bachelor (...) and our coordinator (...), she kind of saw me doing a lot of different kind of things, not doing only really classical stuff, not only recording and doing stuff outside conservatory (...) she is like: “Your attitude is really for NAIP maybe, so think about it”. At first I was like: "No!" (laughing) (...) because the students years before me, for me they were not really into musicianship and they were not good from my point of view… And that changed in my final year: I saw different things in NAIP and it improved and, yeah because of that, I was really: “Ok, maybe this is actually an option for me”. And the end, because (...) our school in general improves every year a lot, and they listen very carefully to students. That is why I did the bachelor also there. I was like, “That is really something for me“, so that is how I became a NAIP student”

-       A NAIPER?

-       A Naiper, yes!

In this dialogue the three students have labelled themselves as “NAIPers” and present a common belonging to the NAIP programme, showing a balanced approach towards their identity as “NAIPers”. They show this through their confident, easy way of interacting amongst each other, they seem to trust each other and seem to feel safe enough to also talk about more difficult matters in the interview. Such as the new challenges in their life as musicians, their preparation of their Professional Integration Project (PIP) and research project and their experiences with their peer musicians from other departments, who don’t know the NAIP programme, even though they are studying in the same institutions.

Our three students show self-confidence as individualists, they are looking for artistic quality and show a strong will for personal development:

I did everything from Klezmer, contemporary, classical to orchestras... And I started working in hospitals with mental health and music (...) all those things – working on festivals, and just did everything cause I loved this – having all these different things on my plate and doing something different all the time.

Another student explains her approach to NAIP:

I came here just for doing everything possible, like playing Jazz, contemporary music, recording sessions, orchestra projects, instrumental lessons, attending a leading and guiding course. I had the possibility to make so many things – it kind of opened my mind to many different possibilities.

The three students all show a critical attitude toward the so-called “classical” field - and the “classical” job market. They share the experience of playing within an orchestra as just one narrow possibility to express themselves through music, a possibility that obviously has not met all their artistic and musical expectations. All three have decided to look for new ways of dealing with music.

And after having this vision in my mind, that most musicians do – I want to be in an orchestra – I got to the stage, where I did play in a professional orchestra and it was like – “this is not what I want at all. AT ALL!” (laughing).

Later in the interview the same student explains his process this way:

I knew it, because I like to have different interests in different things all the time, and an office job, 9-5, would not work for me! And then, realizing that an orchestra is almost a 9-5 job for a musician... (laughing) I mean, I still just love playing in orchestras, but I could not do that ALL the time. (...) So it was kind of natural to go into NAIP – I want to do all this different projects, I don’t want to be just a “classic school musician”, I want to do everything! That was how I came to NAIP and it has been really nice having this freedom to explore different music, and not feeling judged.

Ideas and job plans
NAIP students appear to be well aware of the challenging conditions that today’s job market provides. In this context NAIP seems to be an effective pathway for the student to get where they want to be; namely, a professional musician with manifold, challenging and interesting job prospects. The students seem to feel that in order to capitalize on their NAIP education they begin to create their own “niche”, a topic they often address in their PIPs.

Especially nowadays, I keep on saying to myself, I have to create my own job, I don’t want someone waiting for me – I just take my time and create my own stuff!

I try to create my own personality with music, so I am not finding any jobs around, but I start creating my own path. And the NAIP is just right for how to focus on your own interests.

My aim for my PIP is to generate music material for me to play in an ensemble, where I have a certain form of freedom, because I miss freedom as a classical musician. To put it in my own artistic values, which is not only improvisation, but like choosing the form of the piece, and having the choice.

The freedom of choice appears to be something of great importance for the students, that underwrites the basic condition for their creativity and work, as the following quotes show:

We are quite free to choose now what to do, and what to be…

And it has been really nice, having this freedom to explore different music, and not feeling judged.

So you can play in an orchestra, if someone needs someone for a gig in a club, you can go there, you are not "No, why are you calling me? I am a professional player – you don’t need me." (laughing) No! Of course you need me, I can do whatever I want, I feel free!

Becoming a “NAIPer”
The three interviewed NAIP students are looking for and creating new challenges and learning opportunities in addition to the “normal classical/jazz pathway” offered to them. All three show open-minded attitudes and follow their inner drive and interests in collaborative cross-culture and cross-sector art in a proactive way. One of the students says:

My aim is to create a music ensemble, first of all, and then to interrelate the art of music with any kind of art that can contribute to perform on temporary exhibitions, like museums and concerts, in any kind of spot, auditoriums, theatres or whatever. I have a group with dancers and actors and architects and photographers, painters (… ) It is kind of a stable collective, people that can work together. And the research would be, trying to find the new audience to this innovative practice, new ways to perform in new places (...) So, just basically to find out new ways of communicating with people and audiences – that is what I want to achieve with this NAIP Master.

The students are very clear on the importance of having mentors and coaches supporting their individual pathways, especially when it comes to Research and their PIP. However, the students also want to be flexible with their choices of with whom they work and how regularly they want to meet. Since they seem to be reflective learners themselves, the students show a critical attitude towards their teachers and the format and content of their curriculum, providing creative ideas on how to make their learning process better and more suitable to their own interests. This new creative approach to being a professional artist is explained here:

I mean, for me, my creative process is very organic, I just let it come, when it comes... I write down ideas, dreams, things, or collect little bits, and then it forms to something... I try not to force anything... The real struggle is, for me artistic research is my creative process and reflect and how it changes, shifts, how I actually get my ideas and form my ideas, the whole timeline thing... And that is essential that my PIP is going to be like that, over the whole two years, looking at how my creative process changes…