Meet Collin Leijenaar
Owner and founder of Novae Popschool a modern music school from the Netherlands.
What’s the name of your teaching studio?
Novae Popschool, we are based in Ede in the Netherlands.
What inspired you to start Novae Popschool?
When growing up I quickly learned that improvement comes by teaching others to improve. I firmly believe in multiplying your talent in others.
The talent we receive and develop is not just for ourselves, but we have the moral obligation to multiply our talents by stirring up the talent in others.
So it was just natural that I started teaching drums as a private teacher at a young age. And I was successful at that. But at a certain point it was difficult to keep scaling up, and have enough time to keep playing myself, and have a social life. So I started hiring other teachers to help me scale up. In the end resulting in a music school with over 350 students and a team of 20 teachers.
What instruments do you teach?
We teach band coaching, cajon, drums, EDM lab, guitar, piano, keyboard, music production, vocal and ukulele. We coach talented students and prepare students for their admission to music high school or conservatory.
The lessons and courses are given by certified teachers who actively contribute to the pop culture in the Netherlands and therefore teach from experience.
What ages do you teach?
We give lessons to children, teenagers, students, adults and seniors ranging from 5 to 80 years. We are very proud on the fact that we are not just a music school for kids, but that we teach loads of adults as well.
Who’s a favourite musician/band that inspired you?
Too many to name here. I like loads of musical styles and bands and artists. As long as the musicianship is great. I like difficult musician’s music a lot like jazz and fusion, but my main music genre is progressive rock/metal.
Bands like Dreamtheater, Rush, The Intersphere, Toto, Frost*, The Flower Kings, Porcupine Tree, Neal Morse, Transatlantic, Marillion etc.
And as a drummer I am influenced by Simon Phillips, Mike Portnoy, Neil Peart, Vinnie Colaiuta, Gavin Harrison, Jeff Porcaro, Dave Weckl and many others.
How is Novae Popschool different to how you learned as a beginner?
It was 1985, I was 11 years old and after a few unsuccessful attempts to play guitar and piano I had found my great love: the drums. I was very enthusiastic and wanted only one thing: play, play and much more playing. And preferably also in a band. So I started taking drum lessons with a drum teacher at our local music school.
During my first drum lesson, the drum teacher picked up a drum book and said, “This academic year you will get 30 lessons, so we're going to divide this drum book into 30 sections. Next year we'll take drum book 2 and then we'll do the same ”. Bye bye challenge... I was immediately bored out.
Stuck in what others thought was best
Despite the fact that the books contained good exercises in itself, I found them rather boring and I could hardly translate them into what I thought was cool about drumming.
So I got stuck in quickly playing through these exercises, but not knowing what to do with them, how to make music with them. The teacher gave me no tools on how to put these, in the eyes of a teenager, seemingly boring exercises into inspiring practice and turn them into something really cool.
And often I asked the teacher if we could work on songs from my favorite bands, like Toto, Living Colour or Rush, but there was hardly any room for my own input. Instead of that I had to play these boring, childish songs from the books.
Then I joined my first rock band and that brought on all kinds of new challenges and questions. Questions that my drum teacher did not really have an inspiring answer to because he came from the classical orchestra world and had no experience playing in a rock band himself.
I noticed that my pleasure and drive to play the drums decreased, because his lessons did not match my own preferences, experience, wishes and growth. I then stopped with those lessons and was not sure how to develop myself further, other than figuring things out myself.
Still I wanted to achieve something because my dream was to become a professional musician. Thanks to a good conversation with an older befriended musician, I picked up lessons again with other teachers. With a little more success, but I noticed that many of these teachers often had a certain idea about how I should sound, what I should play and what kind of drummer I should become, while that advice was often not in line with my own musical personality, wishes, tastes and preferences.
Even many years later when I studied at the Conservatory, I had a similar experience. I am a rocker in heart and soul, but at conservatory there was only room for jazz, bebop, latin and swing. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that you should study as many styles of music as possible because it enriches what you do. But I also tried to create space for my own taste in music, wishes and preferences. I wanted to be the best rock and prog rock drummer I could be. And that's what I wanted to graduate on. But that was not appreciated: “Want to graduate? Forget about rock, play jazz!!”.
Hope gives life
Eventually some people crossed my path that helped me to believe in my own musical individuality and to go for what I feel and wanted to achieve inside. I've learned through this musical journey that hard work pays off. And if you are also supported by the right coaches, who have ‘you’ in mind, and are not stuck in their own way of thinking and their own methods, but will provide you with the right tools with which you can progress, you grow much faster and better, and you eventually get further.
In the end it brought me a lot. Music is not just my hobby, it has become my full time career. I have been able to play with my musical heroes. I have toured and recorded as the drummer of a successful US progressive rock artist Neal Morse and now with my own bands Dilemma and Affector. I am immensely grateful for this.
During all those trips and tours I spoke with a lot of people about what music means to them and what music does. I saw great similarities between all those people from all those countries. As a result, I started reading a lot about the power of music and music education.
Music is a universal language, music connects, gives pleasure and is an outlet for emotions and tensions. But it is so much more than that. Music and music education gives people better opportunities in life. It is scientifically proved that playing an instrument makes you happier, smarter, more social and will give you a more fulfilling life.
When I started my drum school in 1998 (which seven years later grew into Novae Popschool, a full blown music school) I knew that I wanted to do it differently than how I experienced it in my own life. I wanted to be close to the perception of my students and help them develop their musical personality.
The customer is king!
From day one I have applied this rule: the customer is king, his/her wishes, preferences, styles, goals and perception are at the basis of each lessons we give. Making music should firstly be fun and satisfying. It should inspire, motivate and help musicians to make their dreams (no matter how big or small) come true.
This of course includes using the right techniques, theory and proven methodologies. But always in the service of the greater good: having loads of fun in making music and discovering and unfolding the musical personality of each student.
The lessons at Novae Popschool are "performance based", which means that we offer all the tools and coaching to develop the talent of our students and prepare them for playing and performing together in bands so that they can actively participate in the Dutch music culture.
Our teachers are musicians and teachers that are very experienced and actively playing in the Dutch music scene and that experience rubs off during the lessons.
So we use the right methodologies, techniques and learning methods coupled with many opportunities to play in bands, to perform and jam together. Everything for the higher purpose: to be able to make music from your heart, with great pleasure and therefore to develop your own sound, your musical personality.
Rockers, jazzers, funkadelics, singer-songwriters, metal heads, classic lovers, gospel fans and blues fanatics. Children, teens, forties or retirees. Everyone can get better at playing music at Novae Popschool based upon their own styles, preferences and wishes and at all levels.
What’s something about your music school you’re really proud of?
I am over the moon proud on the progress of our students. Over the years we have been able to accompany thousands of students in their personal musical journey with success. For some this means having an enjoyable hobby and being able to play a few chords on the guitar while on holiday at the campfire and steal the show there. For others a musical journey that brought them a professional life as a musician. And for others a great way to get away from a busy business life.
At Novae Popschool we hear so many stories from students who, thanks to our lessons, have gained confidence in their own abilities, in who they are. Making them dare to stand in front of the class during a speech. Or stories of students who have overcome their fears and are now shining on stage in front of a full house. Or students how now give better presentations or pitches in their work to clients.
Students who achieve better results at high school and university thanks to what playing a musical instrument does in the brain. And students who have come out of social isolation that found or expanded their circle of friends with people that love the same hobbies. We have even seen several romantic couples emerge from the band projects, jam sessions and group lessons that we give. Love for music turned into love for each other.
We have been able to coach and see students shine on Dutch TV during live shows of The Voice of Holland, The Voice Kids, Idols, Holland Got Talent and other TV talent shows. We were able to prepare other students for a professional music education and who now earn their money as a professional musician with their greatest passion: making music and touring and recording. After successfully completing their studies, some of them came back and started working as a teacher at Novae Popschool.
But perhaps the greatest success is that over the years we have been able to help thousands of people to discover a very nice hobby, and now enjoy making music, playing together, creating music, listening better to music, and experiencing the inspiration and the relaxation that the love for music offers. Building better people that build better people.
As a result, Novae Popschool has become a household name in our city and the surrounding area and we are the main provider of instrumental and vocal music lessons in our area.
What advice do you give to parents looking for a great teacher for their child?
Come to Novae Popschool! But seriously, find a teacher that is open minded, not stuck in their own way of thinking and doing things. A teacher that keeps developing in both their personal life as well as in their craft. A teacher that has ‘you’ at the forefront of their lesson plan.
Someone who inspires, who motivates and is experienced in teaching AND playing live and in the studio. Someone who really believes in ‘the customer is king’ and is an extremely nice and likable person. Someone who is a role model for you and/or your child. Someone who understands that each student is unique and needs a personal approach to their learning path. Someone who listens, who can understand what the student wants to achieve and will help and inspire the student to grow even further than that.
At Novae Popschool we get that for most people it is a very tough job finding such a person on their own. And most of the time not succeeding in this. Driving around, doing loads of trial lessons with private teachers and learning quickly that they are not that person that you are looking for, or do not provide the right environment to learn. Or experiencing that your child (or you) loses motivation quickly, maybe even stop playing music all together (so you bought that instrument for no reason). This will build up frustration with music and learning an instrument. Going this route you are in danger of losing a lot of money and effort and not getting closer to your or your child’s dreams.
So the best thing you can do is go to a place that has done that work for you. A place that has a high standard in finding the right person for the job.
Here at Novae Popschool, we are extremely good in finding great teachers, so you don’t have to try and fail finding one. We provide the right environment to learn, develop and excel in making music. All you have to do is to show up, and we make sure you get awesome music lessons with a great, inspiring teacher who is there for YOU.
What’s something you see successful students doing that new students need to know?
Of course practice as much as you can. Try to cut down on your screen time, and get in a bit more practice on your instrument. But also listening to a lot of music, be open minded, and search for opportunities to play together, to jam, and to write music together. The moment you see students joining bands, you see them growing much faster in their skill. So next to your music lessons, join a band as soon as you can!
What opportunities does Novae Popschool offer students beyond lessons?
At the end of the year we organize a 6 hour music festival at a local concert hall, with non-stop live music at three stages. Here all of our students perform in bands, in a semi-acoustic settings or solo. We also do many workshops throughout the year about different subjects. We do studio recordings and video projects with the students. Every month we host a late night jam session at a local music club where our students team up with local musicians to jam music together and enjoy each other talents.
What’s the big vision for Novae Popschool? Where are you headed in the next few years?
We help musicians to develop their musical individuality so that they get more success and fulfilment in life. Our mission is to contribute to a more social and loving society through the power of innovative music education. Novae Popschool wants to contribute to a social revolution through building a network of Novae Popschool locations and teachers across The Netherlands with innovative and modern music education. In addition, Novae Popschool wants to be the pivot in regional and national cooperation networks of schools, study programs, institutions and cultural organizations that together allow as many children, teenagers, young people and adults as possible to come into contact with music, art & culture and stimulate and motivate them to start making (more) music and art. To make the Dutch music culture bloom again, but even more so to make our society more loving and social.