An interview with 17 year old Dutch cellist Ella van Poucke
Ella van Poucke turned 17 in April. Since October 2011 she is a new member of our group of Young Soloists for Kronberg Academy Masters. The professor who will be taking care of her musical development is cellist Frans Helmerson. Last week, shortly before our conversation, Ella had finished a masterclass with Canadian cellist Gary Hoffman, who is also a permanent Professor in Kronberg.
Asked how to run this interview, Ella smiled and said “My first language is Dutch, second is English and regarding German I can understand quite a bit, speak a few words, but it isn´t enough to let the interview flow in German.” So we switched to English.
Before we entered Studio 1 in the KAM facilities at Kronberg´s Streitkirche, we took a look at her cello. “It looks quite old“, I remarked. “No, it isn´t! It was made in 2009, but I would love to have an old one” answered Ella, smiling.
Ella has two brothers and a sister. Her parents provided for a good musical background. Ella´s father is a trained trumpet player for Netherlands Radio Symphony Orchestra (NRSO). Her mother used to play viola but in recent years she has turned to cooking, professionally and in the family.
Following is a short conversation with Ella, who grew up in a little city near Amsterdam.
1 ) How do you feel in Kronberg?
Ella: It´s a big honour for me to be here! Staying with the best teachers for string instruments and being part of that group of so talented young musicians is very inspiring. It´s a prestigious place to study music.
2) How did you just arrive in Kronberg?
Ella: Well, I took the train, which is so convenient. I like train rides a lot! There I can sleep,
read and eat! It takes only about 5 hours from Holland.
3) Are you here for the first time?
Ella: I was in Kronberg last year for the cello masterclasses in September which was a great experience! It all started when I was 15 and taking classes with Frans Helmerson in Cologne for about a year. He mentioned Kronberg Academy and proposed that I should opt for an audition. So, during 2009 I travelled to Kronberg the first time and met with Stephen Potts, director of Kronberg Academy Masters. Then I had my first audition. Also I travelled to Kronberg only some weeks ago for attendance of the masterclasses with Gidon Kremer and Volker Biesenbender. Volker lectured on improvisation and Gidon Kremer spoke about music and musicianship. Two very different personalities and styles. Both masterclasses provided a wealth of information.
4) What did you know about KronbergAcademy?
Ella: I heard about the Academy from a friend when I was nine. Later I looked at Kronberg Academy´s homepage on the internet and I found it very appealing.
5) How did your love for playing the cello evolve?
Ella: I started at age 4, taking violin classes. Honestly, I didn´t like it so much, it was kind of weird. I quit the classes when I was five and a half. Later at age six I discovered the cello and this is what I liked a lot! Then my parents sent me to the Utrecht music school. Looking back I must say the classes became more enjoyable for me and when I was eight it really became more serious and it was fun. I began practicing for myself and at age twelve I was attending the Amsterdam conservatory. Prior to Amsterdam I was also taking classes at Den Haag for about a year. When I was ten I joined a group of young violinists called the “The Fancy Fiddlers”, founded by one of my teachers at the time, Mrs. Coosje Wijzenbeck. There were 20 players in that group and we began to perform concerts.
6) How was musical life in your family?
Ella: I liked to play chamber music. Throughout the day, while at home I also listened to music from my brother and my parents. One of my brothers listened to hip-hop and pop music, my father is a great Jazz fan and he likes the Beatles very much and of course Jazz singers such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. This kind of music I do like as well. In earlier years my mum was playing viola. So I am used to hear her viola sounds from time to time. But in recent years she has concentrated on her cooking job and music became a side activity. On the other hand her vegetarian cooking style is very good for my health. So, overall, music was ubiquitous in our home. And I was exposed to different styles of music.
7) Who was a strong influence for you?
Ella: As I had already mentioned the “The Fancy Fiddlers” were founded by my teacher Coosje Wijzenbeck, and she had a very strong influence on me. Playing together under her leadership was great fun. We often rehearsed string quartets. Another great influence was and still is British cellist Colin Carr, who is a very good friend of my parents. In fact, I very much loved his way of playing, very different from what I learned through Coosje Wyzenbeck. I play with Colin from time to time in famous concert halls such as the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. At age 13 I played with him Vivaldi´s Double Concerto in that hall. Another influence was Godfried Hoogeveen, whom I met during the Amsterdam Conservatory years. Godfried is a great player, he told me all about music, not technically but rather aspects related to emotions, musicality and various musical styles. He was a student of renowned cellist Gregor Piatigorsky and became my mentor. Attending the cello masterclass at Kronberg Academy in September 2011 was also a great experience. And not to forget: at age 13 I joined the Amsterdam Chamber Music Society and I am still a member of that institution. There I met Christian Bor who was a student of violinist Jascha Heifetz. Christian as well as Godfried Hooogeveen influenced me over the years quite a lot.
While I was attending the Verbier musical festival in 2009 I had the great opportunity to attend masterclasses with Bernard Greenhouse, about 3-4 lessons, an hour each. Mr. Greenhouse told me so much about phrasing. This was very inspiring for me.
How do you relax ?
Well, I love cooking, walking and jogging. Especially jogging is something I enjoy so much. Also right now. Jogging is hard to do here in Kronberg because of the various hills. So it is quite challenging. When I am at home in our house in Holland I enjoy the great kitchen that we have and do cooking activities with great enjoyment.
Which type of music do you play with great enthusiasm? And what kind of music do you listen to, today?
Ella: I listen to a lot of chamber music. Dvorak´s Cello Concerto performed by Colin Carr is something I like to listen to, over and over. And I listen to a lot of CDs, mostly classical music. And I like to listen what other fellow musicians play.
Playing and rehearsing daily, how many hours a day do you play and how much of sacrifies does this mean?
Ella: Currently I am playing 5-6 hours a day. The act of rehearsing is fun, I enjoy it! I can´t think of any sacrifices. I am really happy when I am playing, every day! But after so many hours each day other things are getting painful. Like carrying the cello case uphill, biking with the cello or sitting long hours in really unhealthy positions. Those things can be a bit of a burden, but I can´t call them sacrifices.
10) Which expectations do you have with view to your enrollment with “Kronberg Academy Masters”?
Ella: I am working hard! I will learn things that I need to change in my playing. One can never play complete or perfectly. There is always room for improvements and changes. I want to become a solo cellist and play chamber music. But I also could think of myself as becoming a teacher in the future. All Young Soloists know each other and together with the members of the Kronberg Academy team we belong to a family. This is stimulating. We are inspiring ourselves and the lessons and all the work are quite intensive. The good thing is, all is very well organised by the team. The Academy is not just a music school, it is an institution where so much help is available all the time. I am not waiting here for big things to happen, I concentrate on my work and continuous improvements of my playing.
11) How do you use the internet, how often and how long are you online?
Ella: I am not a typical young internet user or TV person. What I like is using Google for searches. I check my email every day but I don´t stay long online. I am on facebook and using this means staying connected with my friends – this is a good thing. And for background information and easy questions I go to Wikipedia. But otherwise the internet is a waste of time. I am not a heavy internet user, I see the stupid part of it.
Ella, thank you for this interview!
Michael Heinz/Kronberg Academy