Wageningen student Ruben Kuijpers and his violin will be inseparable in February, as Ruben is spending this month performing with the Dutch National Student Orchestra.
Photo: Aart-Jan van de Glind
For a month, Ruben Kuijpers’ life will consist entirely of music from the moment he gets up until the moment he goes to bed. Ten days of rehearsals, eleven days performing in various Dutch cities followed by three concerts in Madrid. All 95 musicians in the Dutch National Student Orchestra (NSO) are temporarily putting their studies on the back burner to concentrate on the music. Ruben is lucky as he did not have to resit any exams and he is not missing any compulsory modules. ‘I would have done it anyway even if I was behind. It’s such a special experience that it’s worth it.’
Ruben, who is 20, has been playing violin since the age of five. ‘I used to tell my parents that I wanted to play the saw guitar but they never understood what I meant. Until we were standing in front of a shop window, I pointed to the violin and said: that’s what I want.’ His parents did not hesitate for a moment – ‘You can’t start early enough, can you?’ – and the Nutrition and Health student has been a violinist ever since.
Ruben often picks up the violin when he gets back to his Dijkgraaf room after a long day at the university. ‘Then I’ll play a couple of old favourites that I know really well and once I’ve got going I feel the stress disappear.’ He also feels totally refreshed when he has been rehearsing with the orchestra and cycles home afterwards. ‘When you play together, you’re in a flow; you are completely absorbed in the music and forget about everything else for a while. Together you try to play the piece perfectly, and if you succeed, that gives you a kick.’
What is so magical about the violin? Ruben finds it difficult to explain. ‘The sound is melodic and warm, and it’s easy for you to play with other people. That’s not the case for the piano. The only way to play in a symphony orchestra then is to be a soloist, like Arthur Jussen in the NSO concerts.’
For years Ruben just played for fun but he has started taking the violin more seriously since becoming concertmaster with WSKOV, the Wageningen student choir and orchestral society. ‘I sit at the front next to the conductor, I lead the first violins and the string section and I’m responsible for the tuning at the start.’ As the concertmaster, he has to study harder and he noticed that he got more enjoyment from the music as a result. The NSO audition seemed like the logical next step.
In the NSO, Ruben plays pieces by Claude Debussy and Béla Bartók among others. He will be performing in such places as Leeuwarden, Eindhoven, Utrecht, Groningen and Leiden. In Nijmegen, a special concert is scheduled for refugees. The tour will end with a week in Madrid, where three more concerts are scheduled. ‘I’ve never been to Madrid so that should be pretty cool.’
Ruben is afraid it will be an anti-climax once the series of concerts ends. ‘It will take some getting used to, being back in the normal world without a concert every evening. On top of that, other orchestras seem less good after the NSO because that has the best students. It is musically more proficient and purer.’ Even so, he will definitely return to WSKOV. ‘It is a nice society and you also join for the social side. So the fact that it’s of a lower standard technically is not a problem.’
In addition to Ruben Kuijpers, Wageningen International Land and Water Management Master’s student Sarah Zernitz also plays in the NSO. She too plays the violin.