This page gives us an opportunity to introduce one of our members “up close and personal”. Our featured player is Jan-Willem Jochems, Euphonium.
My name is Johannes Wilhelmina Margaretha Jochems, known in the Netherlands as Jan-Willem and here everybody calls me Jan (pronounced as Yahn). I am named after both my grandfathers and both my grandmothers.
I was born and raised in Maasbracht-Beek in the south of The Netherlands, where I played with the World Championship winning, Royally Acknowledged Fanfare Band “Eensgezindheid” (Unanimity) for over 15 years.
I moved to the USA in July of 2001 with my –then fiancé and now- wife Jem, who plays trumpet with the Montgomery County Concert Band. We first lived in Oneonta, a small city in upstate New York, near Cooperstown (home of the Baseball Hall of Fame). After we got married, we moved to the Philadelphia area (Elkins Park). While living in Hatfield we found the website for the Band and have been members since 2003. We moved back to Elkins Park in 2004 where we still live.
I started playing euphonium at age 11, receiving education through the town band music program as well as taking private lessons from the renowned Dutch euphonium player Renato Meli who plays with the “Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy”.
I was musically educated much in the same way the musicians of British Brass Bands are educated, through town music programs. Many of the after school activities such as Music, Art and Sports are organized locally instead of in schools throughout many countries in Europe.
After 2 years of learning to read music playing on the recorder, I wanted to play the tuba. The Band did not have a tuba available and put me on a German 4 rotary valve baritone/euphonium. I cannot say I regret sticking with the Euphonium…I still love playing it after 28 years.
Besides playing with the Fanfare band every week, there were a lot of solo competitions in the area where young musicians were encouraged to play solos while being accompanied by the piano. There were years where 20 to 25 competitions were held. I was fortunate that my music teacher, Hub Mestrom was very dedicated…so dedicated that it happened more than once where the phone rang at 1AM with the question if I had time to come over to practice. Being the good boy I was back then, I got dressed, took my instrument, tied it to the back of my bicycle (how Dutch) and left to practice…many times till about 3 or 3:30AM.
All the hard work paid off as I got selected to play in some of the best regional youth bands in the area. Many conductors from other town bands started calling to see if I was able and willing to help them out with competitions.
A fanfare group consists of brass players, percussion and saxophone players…this makes for a very interesting sound, not quite like a British Brass Band, but also nothing like a concert band. There are many Concert bands and Fanfare Bands in the area I grew up in and all are members of an association, which requires them to participate in a competition every 4 years. This way the quality of the band, the players and the music is very high. The band I played in growing up is a 4-time world championship winning organization in the highest division for fanfare groups at the “World Music Contest” held every 4 years in Kerkrade, the Netherlands.
After high school I considered going to music Conservatory, but because of the insecurity in the job market for professional musicians I decided for a career in Civil Engineering. I’ve never regretted this decision because I still enjoy playing as a hobby.
I guess one can say that music is in my blood, my great grandfather was the first chairman of the Fanfare band in my home town I am a third generation Euphonium player. Both my Grandfather and Dad played the Euphonium.
This is a picture of my hometown band in 1928. My great grandfather is fifth from the left in the front row and my grandfather is the young man standing in the top row all the way to the right…holding a Euphonium. This was still when it was a good old boys club.
One of the things I will never forget is the concert trip I took with the Youth band of my hometown band to England. Growing up, we have always had many visits from Veterans from the UK to our town to celebrate the end of World War II. We’d played concerts for them in our hometown, but one day, they invited us to come to the UK to perform a few concerts. This was a great experience I will never forget. The people were so thankful for us being there and truly enjoyed the music of our youth band. I also had a great opportunity to have a drink and talk with a guy you might not know called Bill Millin, commonly known as Piper Bill (Look him up on Wikipedia). He is known for playing the pipes whilst under fire during the D-Day landing in Normandy.
Growing up in the southern Catholic part of the Netherlands, meant that each year we celebrate Carneval (derived from the Italian Carne Vale, meaning good bye to the meat) to celebrate the beginning of Lent leading up to Easter (what we call Mardi Gras). People dress up and there is a plethora of music. I had a lot of fun playing with good friends during this week long celebration.
I’ve been lucky to have been able to keep playing after moving to the USA. Besides playing with the Montgomery County Concert Band, I play with the Merion Concert Band, The Doylestown Symphonic Winds, The Philadelphia German Brass Band and the R-5 Music Ensemble. I’ve played as a soloist with the Montgomery County Concert Band and the Philadelphia German Brass Band.
Besides playing music, Jem and I like to travel to places, usually to see family and friends. Lately we’ve been traveling to run and exercise.