Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherlands

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Matt Butcher
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Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherlands

Post by Matt Butcher » Mon Dec 26, 2016 5:58 pm

This comes out of discussion on another thread but I've put it on here as it's got nothing to do with the original subject of that thread (viewtopic.php?f=3&t=4262" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;). We heard on that thread about the efforts to put in place standardised and well-organised systems for education on the accordion in Belgium and the Netherlands. This must be a hugely positive thing for lovers of the instrument as the chances of getting started earlier in life and gaining technical competence must be that much greater, and there must be a lot of good players around for the rest of us to learn from and listen to.

What I was wondering was, what has been the impact of this on musical life? Does it mean you'll find accordionists on the platform at your local town hall / concert hall as a matter of course? Does it mean the player playing standards in a restaurant near you will be playing them to a... very high standard? Accordionists taking their rightful role in the media, on the radio etc.? Is someone triggering beats off their midi accordion in every school in the country?

A genuine question, as all this skill and teaching must surely mean a different world of accordion music, in some way.

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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by maugein96 » Mon Dec 26, 2016 8:11 pm

Matt,

As much as I hate to say it, given the decline in popularity of the instrument in the popular genres, it would seem that the accordion's role in classical music with all the associated debates regarding formal tuition, is the main reason it continues to survive.

Classically trained players tend to have the confidence to dabble in various other "popular" genres, and quite a few of them can switch between styles, even if their tongues are firmly lodged in their cheeks at times. Where these players feature in the cafe or restaurant environment, then they are often there to perpetuate a notion that a certain type of music may be appropriate for the venue. These days, they are often the only players capable of providing such entertainment, with the self taught brigade seldom rising above the level of playing in the home, or for family and friends. In the times we now live in, only perfection seems to be acceptable in most of life's experiences, and there do not seem to be any vacancies for second or third rate accordionists.

When the accordion was more popular, loads of players of varying standards strapped on their instruments for the benefits of their audiences, who were appreciative of their efforts, much in the same way that they listen to second and third rate guitar bands these days.

If I was a young man today contemplating accordion, all the talk about "proper" tuition, how many screws were allowed to hold the thing together etc, and what syllabus I was required to undertake so that I could gain respect from fellow players, I would be down at my low key local guitar store pronto leaving the accordion to the "Serious Brigade".

Technical proficiency seems to have overtaken the fun element of playing musical instruments these days, and that does not just apply to the accordion.

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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by debra » Mon Dec 26, 2016 9:31 pm

The situation in both countries differs in two important aspects:
1) In Belgium only CBA is allowed, using C system or B system. In the Netherlands CBA with both systems and PA are allowed.
2) In Belgium music education is paid for by the government and is rather cheap so many people can afford it. In the Netherlands it is up to the town or city to subsidise music education and as a result it is very expensive in many places and few people can afford it.
In practice, young people are very busy with many things like Pokemon Go and other on-line activities and it is rather unlikely that they start learning music and playing an instrument for which it takes upwards of 5 years to master it well enough to produce something others might enjoy listening to.
So there are many more older accordion players than young people and I fear it isn't going to get better any time soon. And as people then get too old to play or even die there are more and more reasonable instruments on the used market which leaves a shrinking market for new instruments which then causes accordion factories to go out of business...
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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by maugein96 » Mon Dec 26, 2016 10:42 pm

Hi Paul,

Subsidy by the government or local authority to learn a musical instrument is an alien concept here in the UK, where formal musical theory and study is still often regarded as a prerogative of the rich.

A large proportion of UK musical performers, even in "pop" bands, have only ever got to be professional musicians because of the fact that their parents had the wherewithal to facilitate their musical studies, then had the contacts to promote their talent.

I am from a working class background, and in the 50s and 60s when I was growing up, formal music study above the basic levels taught in schools was just a pipe dream for us. University education was for the privileged few, but the accordion was regarded as an instrument of everyday people, and the music played on it was relatively simple. We all know that is not the case today.

If it has reached the stage that once again here in the UK only the rich can afford to buy and learn to play an accordion, then that writes most potential British students off straight away. As you say, kids would rather go for an instant thrill with a computer based game, than condition themselves into at least 5 years "hard graft" learning an instrument that their peers would probably mock them for choosing over the modern mainstream offerings.

I know I'm possibly out of my depth here, as I have absolutely no idea of what constitutes the feasibility of accordion study in any country these days, but most of the reasons why have been outlined above.

In countries like Brazil, where formal musical study seems never to have been a requirement, or perhaps even desirable, it looks as though there are enough young players to keep their styles going for some time. If the instrument has fallen out of favour on our doorsteps then we have to accept that fact, and just be grateful that it has at least retained a degree of popularity elsewhere.

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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by debra » Tue Dec 27, 2016 9:49 am

My parents were also just working class, meaning that we could never have got proper music education had it not been heavily subsidised. I took something in the order of 12 years of piano lessons, solfège, harmony, music history... and apart from the study books it was all free. People in Belgium complain about taxes being so high but then forget the free services that they get in return (and it's up to them to use these services or not).
In the Netherlands music education is still subsidised but much less. It is so expensive that you can just as well get private lessons as go to an official music school. (The subsidy barely covers the cost of the school building and administrative overhead.) But that then opens the world for "every jackass calling himself a music teacher". Not that this is necessarily bad, because a trained teacher who was trained 40 years ago and never kept up with the evolution of the instrument and its music may know less than the partly self-educated jackass who discovers all the possibilities of the accordion by himself.
In Belgium the ban on PA discourages older people who learned the PA as a child from going back to music school to keep their skills up to date. Fortunately there are a number of teachers who (perhaps not entirely legally) do allow adults who already play PA. And they even attract students from the Netherlands (who pay the same low Belgian rates).
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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by Stephen » Tue Dec 27, 2016 10:22 am

debra wrote:In Belgium the ban on PA discourages older people who learned the PA as a child from going back to music school to keep their skills up to date. Fortunately there are a number of teachers who (perhaps not entirely legally) do allow adults who already play PA. And they even attract students from the Netherlands (who pay the same low Belgian rates).
Watch out for the music police , the inspection
LOL

In Flanders inspection evaluation reports on music academy visits are online (in Flemish):
http://data-onderwijs.vlaanderen.be/ond ... spx?hs=316" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Accordion has to meet the same quality standards as any other music instrument. I have read online reports on some accordion courses in public music schools that were considered below required standards.

Public music education in Flanders and Belgium has a long history, dating from the early years of Belgium, 19th century. It is a complex history, and the influence of the French revolution and ideas of French music pedagogues have influenced this history.
Public music schools and the finance/budgetary implications are a permanent balancing exercice for the government. Indeed it is a great effort for the government in terms of budget, but a political and social choice. Music education is important in life.
In Belgium, it is much much cheaper than private music courses. And the quality and public control is higher.
Private music lessons are very expensive in comparison to public music school education. And private music lessons means the teacher "will not bite the hand that feeds the teacher"...


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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by JerryPH » Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:21 am

Amazing, that is incredible that there is any such support for the accordion. I think that if music was subsidized here where I live, I would be sorely tempted to try again, even though I am so far from my prime and no longer have the skills to complete such a task, it would be fun, I think!
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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by maugein96 » Tue Dec 27, 2016 12:06 pm

Well Stephen,

Wish I had been brought up in Belgium. Free accordion and electric guitar lessons. Great!

Music police aside, it's refreshing that the Belgian authorities encourage people to learn to play various types of musical instruments. It must be a bit of a nightmare keeping tabs on what is going on in all the learning establishments though.

We simply could not imagine anything like that here in the UK, where finding anybody playing any musical instrument other than a guitar, bass, piano keyboard, or drums these days is a rare occurrence indeed. Folk music bands are still relatively popular, but the members usually have to teach themselves to play.

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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by Stephen » Tue Dec 27, 2016 12:10 pm

And in some public music schools they also welcome the electric guitar in the pop music / jazz department.

Wooden recorder teachers having a hard time if there next door... :D

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Re: Impact of accordion education in Belgium and the Netherl

Post by debra » Tue Dec 27, 2016 2:11 pm

maugein96 wrote:Well Stephen,

Wish I had been brought up in Belgium. Free accordion and electric guitar lessons. Great!

...
Well, how old are you?
I was brought up in Belgium, and in the period that I went to music school, roughly between 1965 and 1977, not only was the accordion not taught, it was so much a forbidden instrument that if the music school knew you were playing the accordion you would never get good grades because if you abused your music talent on that lousy instrument that only belonged on the street you simply could not be any good.
My piano teacher was the only one in the music school who knew I played the accordion and made sure to keep that hidden from everyone else (for instance by complaining about my left wrist position which was typically too high because of the position on the accordion) so that my (good) grades would actually reflect my talent on the piano.

Younger people are so lucky that the accordion is now taught like any other classical instrument.
In the Netherlands accordion education in music schools started in the fifties already. They were so far ahead versus Belgium I almost regret not being raised in the Netherlands. (But then, education in general was always so much better in Belgium that I cannot really complain. It still amazes me which topics, especially in math, we learned in school that we cannot now expect our students to know from high school when they enter the university in the Netherlands.)
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