EJN Staff Exchange Programme

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Previous participant: Rebekka Paas

From: Club Unterfahrt, Munich (Germany)
To: Bimhuis, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
06 - 16 June 2017

Exchange Report

Day 1 @ Bimhuis
The way from my airbnb apartment to my working place for the next 10 days is just a nice 10 minute walk. I pass the beautiful NEMO sience museum, I cross a few modern bridges and all the time I can see the giant and modern Muziekgebouw aan't Ij, where the Bimhuis is located. I’m very exited but also a bit nervous about this upcoming adventure.

I’m very overwhelmed by the big building of the Muzikgebouw. And there it is „hanging“ directly at waterfront: the impressive Bimhuis. One of the best Jazzclubs in Europe and I will be a part of it in the next two weeks. My plan to arrive in Amsterdam two days before I start working was very usefull, so I allready discovered a bit of the city and I checked out the best way to get to the Bimhuis and even find the entrance and the way to the office in this huge building.

I have an appointment at 9:30 with Alexandra Mientjes, she is the head of production and we were already in contact via mail in the last weeks. She welcomes me very friendly, introduces my to all the colleagues, shows me the production office with the amazing view (see picture below) and we are doing a tour around the Bimhuis. Of course the rooms of the facilities are mostly the same as they are at Unterfahrt: there are the backstage rooms for the musicians, a little kitchen for the staff, the storage room for the technical equipment and the concert hall, of course. But there is also a separate meeting room, a rehearsal room for the musicians and the Bimhuis radio station. Everything is so big, so modern and very beautifull. This is a place where you like to stay, from the first moment on.

At 11:00 there is a team meeting with all the departments of the Bimhuis crew. This is just perfect for me to meet everybody from the team on my first day, I can introduce myself and explain the situation of my stay. Everybody is very nice and directly interested in an interchange. The meeting is in English today, especially for me, this is so nice! The team meeting is about a review of the concerts of the last two weeks and an outlook to the following productions. I take a lot of notes in these first hours and I also have some ideas how to transfer processes to Unterfahrt. In the afternoon I get an instruction of the working structures of the production team, I get my access to the online data base and an own mailbox account. Alexandra and Jurgen from the production team planing the week and the possible jobs for and with me.

A great first day with already a lot of input!

Day 2 @ Bimhuis
Today I have the chance to walk with Joanie, the floor manager for today's concert. She is a part of the production team and she shows me around the club: the box office, the restaurant, the concert hall and the backstage area. I meet all the staff of the restaurant, the technician-crew and, of course, the musicians for tonight: Simone Sou on drums and percussions, Guilherme Kastrup on drums and Oleg Fateev on accordion will play the sounds of Brazil as the band SOUKAST.

I learn so much about their processes on the floor and it is very useful to talk with Joanie about all the big and small problems of this job on the front side of a concert. She is doing the floor manager job for 9 years now and even after all this time, it is still the same: you have to find solutions for problems you can not imagine before. What I did not imagine is, that the Amsterdam Jazz audience is so similar to the Munich Jazz audience, some of them look and act so familiar, I really have to remember that this is another club. So there is obviously an own east European client base.

When it gets dark in the second set, the blends behind the stage open up and the audience can see the great view over lightened Amsterdam. It is a real goosebumps moment, when you see it the first time. At least, it was for me! On my way back home, after this first wunderful concert at Bimhuis, I still can feel the drums of wunderfull Simone Sou. And I'm still thinking about the intense talks with Joanie tonight: It doesn't matter how modern and almost perfect the Bimhuis looks like, it doesn't matter how big and organized the team is: the everyday problems need to be solved quickly and conscientiously when you work with a lot of different people. And it is a very intense job that occupies a lot of your energy, even if you really love what you do.

Day 3 @ Bimhuis:

Today I have the opportunity to assist Anouk from the education department with the Soundlab. This is an event that takes place 1-2 times a week at the Atriumzaal at the Muziekgebouw. Classes of primary schools can book this event to teach the children about instruments and sounds. They discover different stations with a lot of various instruments: old instruments, classical and electronic instruments, rhythm drums from other cultures and even fantasy instruments. After that discovery part, they create little compositions in small groups with special themes. Even if this course is in Dutch, I can follow the instructions. And for the emotions, the curiosity and the excitement of the pupils is no language needed. It is very fascinating for me to see and to hear how naturally the kids building their small stories with music. For some of them it seems, that they discovered a whole new way of expression for themselves. I'm very impressed by this early musical education!

In the afternoon I have a meeting at the press and marketing department. Onno and Anne tell me about the daily press work, about their marketing and social media strategies. We compare practices and talk about the cooperation with the local journalists. They show me also their recent situation of creating a new website. I'm very curios about it because we also plan to update our website at Unterfahrt in the next months At the end of the meeting, I get some tasks for a video research from Anne for the next days.

Day 4 @ Bimhuis
It’s already Friday and the weather is getting better, so I can finally rent a bike on my way to Bimhuis. How can you stay in Amsterdam without a bike? Now I feel like a real Amsterdamer! The press department gave me a few jobs to do for them yesterday, so I can start the day at the office with checking the videos on the website and searching also for new or better videos for the following concerts.

After that, I will help my colleague Jurgen from the production tream with checking some hotel reservations. I get more and more used to their database and word processes.
In the afternoon I join the soundcheck of the great American saxophone player Lew Tabackin, who will play with his trio tonight.

Day 5 @ Bimhuis
Jimmy is a former Jazz musician and he is like a walking book of Jazz history in the Netherlands. He tells me about the old Bimhuis and about so many Jazz musicians he played together in his live. The train has a delay and I`m happy to listen to my private Jazz lesson a bit longer. As the three Brazilian musicians finally arrive, we help them with carrying their luggage and lead them to the shuttle bus to drive to the Mövenpick hotel, wich is directly located next to the Bimhuis. After assisting the band with the hotel check-in, I'm done with my work for this week and I’m having my lunch.

At night: I have tickets for the Holland Festival at the Muziekgebouw aan't IJ: Robots/No Robots- An electronic proejct by the DJ collective Mouse on Mars. No Jazz tonight!

Day 6 @ Bimhuis
Office work: I'm finishing some tasks that are left from last week. I learn more about the everyday work flow of the team and I prepare a presentation of the data base of Unterfahrt to present it tomorrow in a production team meeting.

In the afternoon I have a meeting with Henrika from the venue rental department. She tells me about the way they rent the Bimhuis and the Café for extern events: how they promote the venue for renting, how to do the contracts and of course, how to organize it. Henrika proposes me to assist her at the Expert meeting on Wednesday. That will be so interesting for me, because the venue rental is a very new field and maybe we can think about that at Unterfahrt, too.

At night: I visit the Monday Match. This event is usually happening every first Monday of the month,where dancers and musicians collaborate to create unique improvisational performances on-the-spot in front of a live audience. The unusual pairings will inspire performers and audiences alike. Also a very new project that we should think about at Unterfahrt, especially as my Colleague Maida is a former Ballett dancer and she would love to adopt that idea for our future programme.

Day 7 @ Bimhuis
11:00: Meeting with the production team: I already learned a lot about the production processes here at Bimhuis. Today we compare the daily work flows and the communication strategies in the team. I introduce them into the Unterfahrt data base and we talk about contract and infosheet templates and also about problems with invoices and tax policies. Afternoon: assisting Henrika with the preparation for the expert meeting tomorrow : day schedule, dinner & drink voucher, info sheets.
19:30: Team dinner at Reastaurant Homeland.

Day 8 @ Bimhuis:

Today I assist Herika from the venue rental department to prepare the “Expertmeeting: Old Vinyl, New Views- the A & B side of Our Musical Future”. And I also have the chance to participate in the lecture.

The main theme of the meeting is the preservation and management of world music heritage with panels, discussions and presentations like:
  • The importance of preserving old African popular music recordings by Professor John Collins (Legon University, Bokoor African Popular Music Archives Foundation)
  • An archive in the UK – the British Library’s popular music collections by Andy Linehan (British Library, National Sound Archives)
  • The Why on Preservation – a discussion by Fred Gales (IMMS- Instituut Multiculturele Muziekstudies), Harry van Biessum (Beeld & Geluid), Bernard Kleikamp (Pan Records)

At night: I am joining one of the exam concerts at Amsterdam Conservatoire. Nina, a student of “Jazz voice” is working at Bimhuis at the box office. She has her exam concert today and I'm curios to see her on stage. The concert she prepared is already very professional. The other musicians she invited, the songs she choosed and the arragements she did sum up to a very good concert. Her voice is nice and clear and she seems so confident on the stage. I’m thinking about the Munich Jazz students: they will have their exam concerts next week at Unterfahrt. The young European Jazz scene is growing and there will be so many great musicians in the next years. Maybe Bimhuis, Unterfahrt and also other EJN Clubs can work together with a special program to support the young musicians...

Day 9 @ Bimhuis
I asked for another meeting with Onno from the press/marketing department to talk about their concept for the 40th anniversary of Bimhuis three years ago. Unterfahrt will celebrate the 40th anniversary in 2018 and we are planing for it at the moment. I get a lot of different ideas and I'm once again impressed by the profit of sharing and mutual enrichment. This is the most important thing of this exchange and it wouldn't work without it, I think. I'm so thankful for that open-minded attitude of everybody in this club.

In the evening there is another special event: it is a monthly “Borrel” (casual meeting with drinks and snacks, very typical for Amsterdam) for the Amsterdam culture staff scene. I can join the invitation with Alexandra and Onno. It is a very cool and urban place at “De School”, a cultural project for musicians, artist and the creative scene with galeries, rehearsal rooms, a bar and a restaurant. We meet the guys from the agency who planed the new website for the Bimhuis, it is very interesting for me to have a little talk with them.

Day 10 @ Bimhuis:
This is already the last day of my exchange, that went by very fast!
I bought a carrot cake this morning and I invited the crew for a little good-bye- and thank you- lunch break. I have the chance for a last little chat with everybody.
In the afternoon I complete my last tasks with the video- and spotify-list for Onno and Anne.
Alexandra and I go out for an early dinner and we have the last resume talk about the last two weeks.
After that we go back to the Bimhuis and I can join another concert, today with Mark Schilders' Fabrik:

I'm joining the last concert at wunderful Bimhuis and the still stunning view from the Bimhuis café. I have to come back to that special place and to those amazing people here. The whole crew made me feel so welcome all the time and really made me feel like a part of their Jazz family. I’m looking so much forward when Alexandra will visit Munich next month. I can give her at least a short look behind the scenes of Jazzclub Unterfahrt and invite her to a concert at our club. And it feels good to know that I will see her again in a couple of weeks.

Short resume:
I'm flying back home with loads of wunderfull impressions and ideas for upcoming projects, for some small and maybe some bigger changes in the structure and the everyday business and also in the team comunication processes. But it feels also good to see, that we are on a very good way with doing 350 concerts per year in a small team with only 3 people in the office. We are already pretty good organized and so productive in our work flows.

I really hope that this exchange programme will continue in the next years for other participants. I think it will be a great chance for the Europe Jazz Network to grow even more together and support the interaction of the members.

Thank you so much, EJN for that unique experience.