Watson Fellow explores music in Amsterdam

Amelia Perron

Recent Lawrence graduate Ben Klein has had a spectacular start to his post-college life. Having been awarded a Watson Fellowship before graduating last June, Klein is now two-and-one-half months into an exploration of new music that will take him across the globe.
The tuba and music composition major’s first stop was Amsterdam, a hotbed of musical innovation. He has spent his time there working with a variety of different groups, including the improvisational dance company Magpie and the Gaudeamus Foundation for new music. He has performed in different venues, from old film academies to abandoned shipyards, and has met many other musicians. During his short stay, Klein was even asked to write music for a church in Amsterdam.
Much of Klein’s experience has been defined by his encounters with other musicians. “I have met some really cool people with amazingly interesting ideas,” he says. Particularly exciting was the Gaudeamus Foundation’s international new music festival, held last month, where he met performers and composers from around the globe, ranging from Syria to New Zealand. Working with Magpie has also resulted in a number of exciting connections for Klein with arts communities in Amsterdam. “These places are once-vacant buildings that are taken over and reclaimed communities of artists, converting them into unique spaces that harbor a lot of new and exciting creativity,” says Klein.
Not surprisingly, Klein describes his work as having a “leave-no-stone-unturned approach,” and he has made the most of his time in Amsterdam. But there are more places to see, and he is now on his way to London. During his two months there, he plans to visit and meet with Touch Records UK, the London Musicians’ Collective, and “avant-tubaist” Oren Marshall.
If Klein’s year continues as it has begun, it will have been a tremendously worthwhile fellowship. “There are so many interesting people that I have met who have succeeded in completely changing my outlook,” he says. “This is happening day after day after day, and I think that is one of the most exciting aspects of my fellowship thus far.