If you are a fan of the trumpet it’s more likely than not that you are familiar with Andre Heuvelman. He’s been playing since he was just 10. However, his musical career didn’t start with the sound of booming brass, rather in the wind section and the recorder. By his own admission playing was a challenge, but he absolutely loved it. The sounds and tones, especially from Baroque music transfixed him – sounds that appeared to come from nothing. But what made playing for Andre so difficult? He was born with a rare condition leaving him with a slight handicap on his left arm, a really weak wrist and four fingers. It’s easy to understand that the recorder was tough to play. When his father came home one day and suggested he played the trumpet, Andre accepted the challenge. As he says, ‘The Instrument is just a vessel for sound’. And Andre has been engaging audiences with his marvellous sounds ever since. His life is really all about the music.
How has the trumpet helped you find your path in life?
Unbeknown to me, the reason my father came home one day with a trumpet instead of the recorder was because my music teacher at the time, had just commit suicide. In order to protect me my parents decided not to tell the real story – instead they just altered my life path by presenting me with the trumpet. It’s hard to imagine, but I only found out about the real truth much later on in life. What I loved about playing was that at that time, my music was a distraction from my hand. So often I felt ‘looked at’ or ‘discussed’. The trumpet was my shield. I could hide behind its sounds, which gave me freedom, confidence, a new lease of life. For me, the trumpet resembles life – it can be a soft whistle or a killing blow. It’s a very honest instrument, what you put in through breath, you get back via sound.
It was at my first Christmas concert in secondary school that I had an epiphany moment. My nerves had gone into overdrive, I was facing an audience and playing a trumpet solo! However, I loved it. And when talking to a fellow musician who told me he was going to study at The Conservatorium Van Amsterdam (music school) – I knew this could be and would be my ticket to freedom. It did require some perseverance – I needed better grades – but I think through sheer determination I got what I needed. My father, with his formal outlook on education, told me when I started at the Conservatorium that within three years I needed a ‘life-plan’. Three years later I was playing for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra.
Where are the most memorable places you have performed?
I started mostly playing in the church. This was really at my father’s insistence – he felt strongly that my instrumental tone was my voice and that I would be lost in a larger band. On reflection, I think he was right. So, you can imagine when I took the stage with Pavarotti years later, that that was a real spine tingling moment and so far away from my early trumpet days! Perhaps my all time great. I will also never forget playing with Marco Beasely, the renowned Italian tenor, and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. Plus the fabulous Ana Moura, Portuguese fado singer. However, occasional music can sometimes be the most emotional. For me, 1990 and the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Rotterdam, was an unbelievable moment. Playing for the war veterans and heros made for a remarkable audience. It brought the whole occasion to life.
Since leaving the Philharmonic, what are you doing now with your music?
I left five years ago – it felt like the right decision and time. The large audiences, the applause, it all started to feel a little futile, lonely even. I realised that music is more than just a sound or a product. For me, it felt marginal, so I started working on projects using music as a means. I was crossing boundaries, creating other concepts allowing me to contribute to society in other ways. For the past five years I became Manager of Creations and Innovations of my own orchestra. I’ve done projects, the first one being a collaboration with Philips and their new MRI machine, whereby patients experience visuals from the newly renovated Rijksmusem combined with our sounds. We also put out an online Beethoven 9 symphony, filmed individually at home, during the early days of the pandemic, and edited to create something spectacular. Shared even by the likes of Oprah Winfrey!
In a nutshell – what can we expect from your TED talk on September 29th?
Desire and Freedom – the ability to hold space and connect with the world through your own being. Finding your trumpet, your true face.
Text: Louisa Bijker
Photo: Marjory Haringa