Two world-class carillon students have the unique opportunity to study under Gardens’ Carillonneur Geert D’hollander thanks to a new fellowship program made possible by a gift from Paul and Carol Collins. This also means visitors will enjoy live carillon music seven days a week through early May 2015.
For six weeks throughout the 2014 Christmas season, Julie Zhu studied under Geert and shared holiday performance responsibilities. Julie attended Yale University where she studied art and mathematics, and learned to play the carillon. She loved the instrument so much that she studied at the Royal Carillon School in Mechelen, Belgium for a year. Upon her return to the U.S., Julie played the carillon regularly at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago where she was also an economic consultant. She now lives in New York City, studying for an M.F.A. in Painting at Hunter College.
“The six weeks I spent at the Gardens as a carillon fellow inspired me to write new compositions, elevated my playing, and encouraged me to pursue carillon as an integral part of my life. My painting practice also flourished, resulting in two large paintings about music and imagination.”
In early January, Joey Brink arrived at the Gardens to begin his fellowship. Like Julie, Joey also began his carillon studies at Yale University, under the guidance of Ellen Dickinson. In 2011, he graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a thesis on the design of realistic-touch practice carillon keyboards.
After graduation, Joey traveled to the Royal Carillon School on a Belgian-American Educational Foundation (BAEF) fellowship to pursue intensive study in carillon performance, composition, and instrument design. He graduated with “greatest distinction” in June 2012, and just two years later won first prize in the seventh International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition. Joey currently lives in Salt Lake City with his wife and fellow carillonneur, Vera.
Carillonneur Geert D’hollander talks about the tradition of music at Bok Tower Gardens:
“We have a long history when it comes to composition and carillon students. It started back in the early 1930s with Sam Barber, Gian-Carlo Menotti and Nino Rota. All three would eventually become world-class composers, and it’s incredible to think they wrote music for our instrument while studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Some of the most important American carillon composers of the 20th century were inspired by the beauty of this place and wrote music for it.”
The inaugural Collins Carillon Fellow supports the Gardens’ mission by promoting the art of carillon performance.
“Inviting top performers to Bok Tower Gardens for master classes and commissioning compositions will help keep us at the forefront of the carillon world. Julie and Joey both are fascinating artists with a lot of potential, and the future of this unique instrument relies on our support of their generation.”
Reflecting on her time at the Gardens, Julie Zhu was especially grateful for Geert’s mentorship, as well as her opportunity to interact with visitors:
“The carillon at Bok Tower is special in its tradition of the carillonneur greeting listeners after concerts, and I was honored to share the moving experience of playing the carillon each time. During Christmas especially, as audience numbers swelled, I felt my personal impact on visitors’ experiences. Geert D’hollander, as a dedicated and impassioned teacher, not only imparted wisdom bestowed only to those as experienced as he, but also taught by example, in playing technique, improvisation, and composition. I will certainly miss his precise instruction and walks between concerts amongst the camellias.”
Joey Brink is excited to once again be studying with his mentor and friend:
“A weekend of master classes with Geert last year helped me take first prize at the Queen Fabiola competition. With several months of lessons and studying ahead, I hope to reach even higher levels of performance. I do not yet know what the future holds for me, but I am certain my time here will be instrumental in shaping a lifelong career in the carillon. Nowhere else in the world would I be able to practice on such a remarkable instrument.”