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Deborah Nemko (Bridgewater State University)


Nation/Culture(s). The Netherlands has for centuries provided a safe haven for ethnic minorities fleeing from discrimination and persecution, with each minority influencing Dutch culture in its own way. Many Jews from Spain and Portugal and Protestant merchants from the Spanish-ruled southern Netherlands sought refuge in the Dutch Republic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The twentieth century was characterized by the influx of guest workers from the Mediterranean, migrants from former Dutch colonies, and refugees from war-torn countries.


The Netherlands is divided into twelve provinces. Amsterdam ( app.730,000 inhabitants) is the capital, but the government meets in The Hague (440,000 inhabitants). Utrecht (235,000 inhabitants) is the transportation hub, while the port city of Rotterdam (590,000 inhabitants) constitutes the economic heartland. These four cities together with a string of interconnected towns, form the Randstad, which has a population of 6,100,000. (CIA Factbook)

A country of almost 17,000,000 people, The Netherlands is gradually increasing in diversity. According to the CIA Factbook, the country includes ethnically Dutch, which make up 80.7% of the population, EU 5%, Indonesian 2.4%, Turkish 2.2%, Surinamese 2%, Moroccan 2%, Caribbean 0.8%, and other 4.8%. The average age is around 42 years old. The official languages include Dutch and Frisian.


The Netherlands is situated in northwestern Europe and borders on Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North sea to the west and north. The name "Netherlands" means "Low Lands". Almost one-quarter of the landmass is below sea level—the Dutch are master engineers who have kept the sea at bay for centuries and reclaimed much of the land under it for their ever expanding nation. The Netherlands is also a fairly small country (13,297 square miles) which has very few natural bodies of water.


Music: Features, Genres.

Art music and Jazz. With Amsterdam as both the national capital and artistic soul of the Netherlands, the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the National Ballet, and the Netherlands Dance Theater take center stage. The Early Music Festival of Utrecht is known for its concerts featuring medieval and Renaissance music. The North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague is world-renowned. The Holland Festival in Amsterdam is the most important annual presentation of the new programming season of contemporary Dutch performance arts.

Folk music. The Dutch style of folk music generally has a strong bass line and a cheerful melody. The tempo of the music is usually slow though the music is meant for dances. The famous Dutch “clogs” have a musical function in that they supplement percussion instruments. Folk music engendered somewhat of a revival in the 1970’s (as in the States) though was supplanted by a stronger interest in pop music after 1974.


Pop Music. Often the country's biggest names are mistaken overseas for being British, American, or German as it is not in the Dutch tradition to be overtly nationalistic. The neutral tendency may also be related to the Dutch talent of inhaling international influences and incorporating them into Dutch popular music. From the aggressive 60s psych-rock to today's heavily accented dancefloor techno, the prevailing story of Dutch pop music is its ability to steal and revitalize. The Pinkpop and Low Lands festivals are two major events for popular music.


Music in Schools. Fortunately, music is still taught at all levels in the Netherlands. In primary education music is part of the core curriculum and taught to all. In the core curriculum of Basic Education (12-15 years), two arts subjects must be chosen out of four. These four arts subjects are music, the visual arts, dance and drama. Research shows that about 90 percent of the pupils choose music as one of their two arts subjects (Voogt 1994: 31).

In the second phase of secondary education music is an optional subject leading to a final examination.

Traditionally, vocal and instrumental training is the responsibility of the municipal music schools. Due to severe cuts in their budgets, a growing number of music students are taught by private teachers or in private institutional settings. In most cases, practical training (vocal and instrumental private lessons) takes place outside of a child’s own school.


Music in Higher Education. The Netherlands is home to one of the world’s oldest and most highly respected systems of higher education, dating back to the 16th century. Thirteen Dutch universities rated in the world’s top 500, and an impressive 11 are in the top 200.

The nation’s highest ranking institution is the University of Amsterdam followed by Leiden University (the country’s oldest institution) and Utrecht University not too far behind. Nearly 45, 000 international students studied in the Netherlands in 2009 in part due to the fact that the Dutch are generally fluent in English and many courses are taught in English.

Music is generally taught in a conservatory setting. Due to the recent economic downturn and a movement toward a more American, degree driven style of higher education, conservatories in recent years have associated themselves more with Universities. The following is a brief list of some of the major conservatories in The Netherlands: Amsterdam Conservatory, Prins Claus Conservatory, Rotterdam Conservatory, Royal Conservatory of The Hague, Maastricht Academy of Music



Utrecht Conservatory


Amsterdam Conservatory


Royal Conservatory of the Hague


Maastricht Academy of Music


Prins Claus Conservatory


Recommendations for Listening.

Four Hundred Years of Dutch music, Residentie-Orkest (Hague, Netherlands), London, Olympia (1991) (several volumes)


Recommendations for Viewing.

Gustav Leonhardt: The Dutch Classical Music Meeting


Ton de Leeuw- And They Shall Reign Forever


Holland Traditional Dance-Santoso


Recommendations for Reading. (all books in English)

Composer's voice : Dutch contemporary music on records : catalogue 1978. Amsterdam: Stichting Donemus, 1978.


Kelly, Alan. His master's voice : the Dutch catalogue : a complete numerical catalogue of Dutch and Belgian gramophone recordings made from 1900 to 1929 in Holland, Belgium, and elsewhere by the Gramophone Company Ltd. Westport Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1997

Lenaerts, Rene Bernard. The Art of the Netherlanders. Cologne: Arno Volk Verlag, 1964.


Reeser, Eduard, 1908-2002. Contemporary Music from Holland. Amsterdam: Donemus, 1953.


Whitehead Kevin. New Dutch Swing. New York: Billboard Books, 1999.