Format and participants




June 2016

Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Pilot-sessions with 8 students from different departments



(Preparatory Year, Music Education, Composition,


Theory of Music, Practicum Musicae, Art of Sound)


being violin students in my class


Fall 2016


Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Sparring sessions with colleague violin teachers




Vera Beths, Jaring Walta, Janet Krause, Ilona Sie Dhian Ho


October 2016

Finland, Kallio Kunninkula


Workshop with colleagues during ICON seminar


cello, piano, flute, horn, violin

December 2016

Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Pilot-sessions with 8 students from different departments



this time also including Bachelor Violin students


December 2016

Academie Muzikaal Talent Utrecht


Pilot session with 4 violin students from Academie




Muzikaal Talent (age 11-15 year)


March 2017

Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Workshop with participating students of the Improvisation

bassoon, tuba, clarinet, voice, violin




March 2017



Work on improvisation during chamber music master classes

string quartet and cello quartet


as a part of the Tristan Keuris Chamber Music Competition


Over 2016-2017

Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Sparring sessions with colleagues Mieke van Dael,


bassoon, flute, piano, violin


Philippa Davies, Jan Willem Nelleke


Over 2016-2017

Royal Conservatoire The Hague

Sparring sessions with Mieke van Dael


bassoon, violin

Over 2016-2017

Royal Conservatoire The Hague, Academie

Muzikaal Talent Utrecht, private students

Work on improvisation during one-to-one violin lessons




Pilot sessions


What took place

Over the course of the research several activities were organized and performed to experience the working with the material (the ‘testing of the cake’), gain insight in how this work is received at the student’s side and what the educational potential of it is. The activities were of various formats: pilot-sessions with students, workshops for colleagues and guest-students, one-to-one violin lessons with students at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, one-to-one violin lessons with pre-college students from the Academie Muzikaal Talent in Utrecht (age 11 – 15 years old) and sparring-sessions with colleagues.



The violin students at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague that were involved in pilot-sessions are mostly students that have violin as a secondary subject – they come from different departments: Preparatory Year, Music Education, Composition, Theory of Music, Practicum Musicae1, Jazz department  and Art of Sound. A few Bachelor Violin students took part in the pilot-sessions as well. The Academie Muzikaal Talent  (Academy of Musical Talent, AMT) is a school for highly talented youngsters between 8 and 18 years of age. Lessons take place at the Utrecht Conservatoire, that is generously offering hospitality to the AMT. Many ex-students of the AMT have found their way to a music study at one of the Dutch conservatoires or to a successful career as a musician. A small percentage moves on to an academic career (having a deep love for music inside them, mostly spending a lot of time on it still).


An overview of what took place:                                                                                                                     



Feedback from students

There were three options for gathering feedback information: a questionnaire, narrative interviews, and reflective talks.

The chosen format has been reflective talks, meaning that the feedback was communicated directly from the students in an open moment of reflection after the sessions took place. A questionnaire would have been too formal, therefore creating distance to the ‘heart of the feedback’. A narrative interview would have been the ‘bigger brother’ of the reflective talks and could have been a suitable tool as well. The choice for the reflective talks is based on the advantage that lies in their spontaneity and the flexible possibilities of when to let them happen. Information is still fresh,  not ‘censored’ or thought about too much beforehand and it leaves space for ‘communication between the lines’.


Another way of gathering feedback on pilot-sessions is the presence of an observer during sessions. This has happened on two occasions: the workshop in Finland has been attended by my research supervisor Bert Mooiman and discussed afterwards. The renown Dutch violinist and violin pedagogue Jaring Walta (faculty member at the Royal Conservatoire) observed  in a pilot-session  with one of his bachelor violin students. Because of time limitations, more opportunities to work with the presence of an observer could not be created, but there is an intention to do so in the future.The masterclasses at the Tristan Keuris Chamber Music Competition were open to public and the response of members of the public has been a useful source of feedback as well.


Thoughts and remarks from the reflective talks with students and observers:

  • “What we did with Beethoven’s Romance – to ‘take of its cloths and then improvise on that’ – helped so much, because for the first time I sensed what knowledge of harmony can mean for the repertoire I am performing. Otherwise it stays so separated from the playing itself and therefore you lose interest more easily.” (Liesbeth van Dingenen, Music Education, year 1)

  • “In comparison with last year I feel that the violin has much more become an integrated part of myself when I play and I believe the improvisation work that we did helped a lot in that respect.” (Eva Lagemaat, Practicum Musicae, year 2)

  • “I have the feeling that I do not know the music I play well enough – I stay at the surface, because of lack of harmonic understanding. When I learned harmony it is too much calculating the chords, but that does not connect with my playing”…. “Some people tell you a chord is tonic, third, fifth, just three notes, but it is not that, it is much more than that.” (Joosep Ahun, Master Viola student year  1 -  he had followed the bachelor study and theoretical training at another institution. This was not a reflection after a pilot-session we did together, but a spontaneous ‘general reflection’ that underlined the urgency of the present research)

  • “I was not expecting to have improvisation in my violin classes, but I like it so much. It brings out the creativity and phantasy and gives me more sense of freedom.” (Wera Wrozsek, Art of Sound, year 1)

  • “You ‘touched the right tone’ in this class. Sometimes the steps you tried to make were too big for the participants to go along with.” (Bert Mooiman, after observing the workshop in Finland)

  • “It is difficult to improvise tonally, but I sense that it is a very good thing to do.” (Marjolein Spruit, Bachelor Violin student, year 2)

  • “Her sound was significantly more relaxed  during those improvisation exercises than normally during her playing” …. “I do believe strongly in working on Bach movements in the way that was happening here – I am ‘standing behind it’!” (Jaring Walta, violinist and violin pedagogue at the Royal Conservatoire The Hague, after observing a session with a Bachelor 2 violin student)

  • “That is so nice – because then you experience what the things we learn in harmony class are in ‘real life'". (Merel van der Meulen, Preparatory year, referring to the work on Rode etude nr 8)

  • “It was really difficult to do. For my voice it was not the best thing, because it did not free my voice well, because of the difficulty to find the harmony". But it was interesting to discover about harmony in this way (participant in Improvisation Intensive)

  • “When will we have our next improvisation class again….!? Because that was real fun…!” (Alan Mukriani, 13 year old violin student in the Academie Muzikaal Talent)

How to continue 
Apart from feedback from the students, the pilot sessions offered also new insights coming from my own point of view - as a facilitator of those sessions.
The positive observations are (amongst many others):
  • The enjoyment and fun there was in the sessions! 
  • Musical communication skills of the students enhanced strongly
  • The sessions showed the differences in personality and musical taste of the students even more clearly
  • Awareness of harmony - related to the own instrument - enhanced
  • The student's relationship with the violin (or other instrument) was influenced positively, the violin becoming more 'a natural voice', a 'part of the student'. At times the sound would become more relaxed, more natural. Technical difficulties could be tackled better at times, because of the improvisatory entrance. 
  • It was good to experience (at the Tristan Keuris Masterclass for example) that I can create the safe environment that is needed for sessions like this. Students felt comfortable diving into improvisation exercises, also if they had not done any of it beforehand
More reflections are found in the next chapter.
Aspects that ask for further exploration and growth with regard to facilitating sessions like this' :
  • At times it proved demanding to musically lead the 'invitations focussing on harmony' from the violin. It is my strong intention to continue exploring and gain more expertise in how to provide harmonic functions 'clearly' on the violin.
  • At times it proved difficult to work with heterogenous groups, because of a lack of 'real understanding' of the instrument's specific aspects and because of a limited capacity to guide and profit from the different colour, register, timbre and characteristics of the different instruments. It is my intention to gain more experience and insight in this respect.
  • There is much to be gained in how to build up the steps in the different exercises and within sessions. In these first sessions, the different games were presented in 'an' order, but more insight in how playing with the order and combinations of the games can yield better results in building harmonic consciousness, is desirable.
Next to the activities mentioned above, a lot has also not taken place yet, because the performative time period of one-and-a-half year  for a master research is short.


Regarding pilot sessions, the following things have not been taken place yet and are intended to happen in the future:

  • series of sessions/lessons with the same group of students on the material.
  • a series of lessons with youngsters devoted to the development of harmonic awareness over a longer period of time.
  • work on the bass line for Bach with the same students over a longer period of time.

A full survey of 'how to continue' is presented in the next chapter under 'future plans'.

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