As one of the founders of Fuse, the house band of the Dutch TV programme Podium Witteman, cellist Mascha van Nieuwkerk (1990) has specialised in making unconventional arrangements of pieces from the classical, folk and jazz repertoire. In 2015, we interviewed her about how she got her projects off the ground, and now once again in 2019: how’s she doing?
What are you working on currently?
“I have just come back from Berlin. I wrote a subsidy application there for a new project with Fuse. We want to focus on new music in the programmes of Fuse in the longer term by commissioning both national and international composers. It’s such a shame to only play a composition once.”
In what way do you want to make and draw attention to new music?
“We’ll be presenting this project at the beginning of 2020, so it’s still some way off. However, I can already reveal a secret: our dream is to make an album featuring just new music. We want to take the time to build our own musical world together with a number of our favourite composers. We are going to work on new pieces at various festivals for an entire season. It feels like a sort of creative ‘wellness’ for the band. There is also a business idea behind it. It is a long-term project which the audience will already come into contact with during the creative process, before subsequently seeing it develop into evening-long concerts and an album. This will hopefully lead to ‘returnees’ over the course of the entire project, who will in turn bring other people with them.”
Have you already got festivals in mind?
“Definitely. But which ones those are... we are only going to announce that in the coming months. The nice thing about music festivals is that you’re genuinely in a different world there for a while, a musical ‘microcosm’.”
“After seven years, it is an exciting, new phase in which you are told ‘no’ a lot, but you have to press on immediately and start sending emails again.”
How has Fuse developed in recent years?
“When we founded Fuse in 2012, we had our own place in Amsterdam-West: Club 8. We were able to experiment to our heart’s content there at our own monthly club evening ‘ConFuse’. After that, Podium Witteman became our new creative engine. Every broadcast is an experiment with Podium Witteman. However, our scope is limited; literally in terms of minutes and due to our own role in the format. Musical fantasies often arise in the bar, after a broadcast, which we cannot immediately express in a broadcast. We would therefore prefer to break free from that TV context and discover ourselves afresh. That is why we are now busy with that new project and we want to try to play more abroad. We will soon be playing for the first time in Berlin at a festival. We are trying to gain traction there, so we can play at more places in Germany. After seven years, it is an exciting, new phase in which you are told ‘no’ a lot, but you have to press on immediately and start sending emails again.”
Do you feel that you have achieved what you would like to achieve in the Netherlands?
"No, we we still have lots of dreams that we would like to fulfil in the Netherlands. However, I have noticed that we increasingly want to look beyond the borders as well, because of what we have experienced in recent years. We now know the network in the Netherlands well, but there are so many international artists and composers who we would like to work with. We want to continue expanding our world musically. I think that will give an extra boost to what we’re doing in the Netherlands."
“You start on something and hope that it’s sustainable. I find it really gratifying and moving if that turns out to be the case.”
Does Fuse have the same line-up as four years ago?
“Yes, we still play with the same people. I just turned 29 and realise that time has passed so quickly. You start on something and hope that it’s sustainable. I find it really gratifying and moving if that turns out to be the case.”
How do you keep developing yourself?
“That’s the key question which I am constantly preoccupied with. It is about finding a balance between not overburdening yourself, while continuing to stimulate yourself. Which things do you turn down and which ones do you accept? Which things do you do for your artistic development and which ones for your business development? In addition to the individual development, you have the development of the group Fuse. Long-term processes like Podium Witteman and the new project contribute to that, which provides a kind of infrastructure within which the group can develop. I am currently busy with a duo project with flamenco guitarist and composer Jeff Heijne It is a musical exchange of letters; he writes a fragment and then I continue writing. In this way, I stimulate the act of composing for myself. The other members within the group do that in their own way, but our main focus remains Fuse. That’s going well. We are already fully booked for next season. We even have to say ‘no’ regularly.”
Do you have any tips for students?
“Don’t be scared and dare to take risks. Above all, don’t play it safe, because you’ll go a lot further if you don’t. Have faith that it will all work out. Go and play with your friends/ensemble/group in a city you like to visit in order to build your (foreign) network. Or if you go to a masterclass abroad, make sure you explore the city. Who knows, you might establish yourself there as a musician."
“Go and play with your friends/ensemble/group in a city you like to visit in order to build your (foreign) network."
Where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?
“I hope that we will go abroad once or twice a year as standard to perform there; that our world has grown bigger in that way, also in terms of a network of fellow musicians. I am so curious how the Fuse family will do touring around in that case. We’re now at a stage in life where nobody has children, but who knows that may change in a few years’ time. I hope, in any case, that we are still together then!”
Mascha tells how she manages to get various projects off the ground with different people. She explains how she makes others enthusiastic about her dreams, which investments she has made and how she arranges the financial side, as a result of which she can earn a living from playing music.
6 July 2015