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‘The best percussionist I’ve heard in years.’ (-) ‘Everything sounds exactly like he wants it to, when he wants it to.’ – Jury Dutch Classical Talent 13|14
Niek KleinJan (Almelo, 1988) is a sought-after solo percussionist in the Netherlands. He often plays solo concerts, recitals and concert series at festivals and in different venues like The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, De Doelen in Rotterdam, Muziekgebouw Eindhoven, TivoliVredenburg Utrecht and De Oosterpoort in Groningen. Niek has worked on radio and television recordings of Radio 4, Vara, SaltoTV, the NTR and Stingray Brava.
Niek got his first percussion lessons at the age of 8. During high school he took the preparatory course for classical percussion at the ArtEZ Conservatory in Zwolle, where he studied with Jan Wissink, Jan Roel Hamersma, Martin Geessinck and Peter Prommel. He graduated cum laude in June 2011. In June 2013 he finished his Masters Degree, graduating summa cum laude. For six months during his Masters he studied in Detmold, Germany, where he took classes with the likes of Peter Prommel, Sven Pollkötter and Fumito Nunoya. He also studied with Tom de Cock and Miquel Bernat in Brussels and Barcelona respectively. During his studies he took part in master classes by Peter Sadlo, Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, Nancy Zeltsman, James Wood, Arend Weitzel, Bart Quartier, Nanae Mimura, Pedro Carneiro and many more.
In 2011 and 2012 Niek played with the National Youth Orchestra and in 2012 he interned with both Het Gelders Orkest and the Orkest van het Oosten. He freelances with different orchestras, opera companies and ensembles like The Rotterdam Philharmonic, Het Gelders Orkest, Orkest van het Oosten, Het Brabants Orkest, Netherlands Chamber Choir, Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, the Dutch National Opera and the Nederlandse Reisopera. Because of this, he has collaborated with conductors such as Martin Sieghart, Ivan Meylemans, Sigvards Klava, Ken-ichiro Kobayashi, Antony Hermus, Antonella Manacorda, Ed Spanjaard, Jurjen Hempel, Jan Willem de Vriend, Otto Tausk, Mark Shanahan, Marc Soustrot and Patrick Davin.
Niek has played on many stages throughout the Netherlands, Sweden, China, Switzerland, England, Italy, Austria, Mexico, Iceland, Greece, Peru, Hungary, Slovakia, America, Germany, France, Latvia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Belgium, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia and Morocco. He has taken part in a variety of competitions including the Grachtenfestival Conservatory Competition 2011, where he made it all the way to the finals. Niek has been a part of Dutch, European and world premieres, collaborating closely with composers and musicians like Jacob ter Veldhuis, Andrew Beall, Isidora Zebeljan, Laurie Anderson, the Brodsky Quartet, Keiko Abe, Daniel Rowland, Kaija Saariaho, Marco Pütz, Peter-Jan Wagemans, Reinbert de Leeuw, Pierre Boulez, Arnold Marinissen, John Luther Adams, Edgar Guzmán, Steve Reich, Wim Henderickx, Nick Zammuto, Philip Glass and many others. In April 2011 he got a distinction from Jacob ter Veldhuis for his rendition of GRAB IT! and in July 2011 he was awarded the ‘ArtEZ Vriendenprijs’.
From 2012 to 2014, Niek has been the percussionist for the Young NBE, the ensemble coached by the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble. The Young NBE takes on a big part of the preparation for the big New Years Concert put on by the ensemble every year.
In 2013 Niek started the ‘Duo Wolfs/KleinJan’ with clarinettist Tom Wolfs: a young, spontaneous and original clarinet-percussion duo. They developed their own, new way of performing by carefully choosing their repertoire, and putting extra thought into programming and stage presence. The first four concerts, including one on Herman van Veen’s estate and one at the Royal Theatre Carré, were received with much acclaim. The duo also performed in a live show for the Radio 4 program: ‘De Klassieken’.
In the 2013-2014 season, Niek was a finalist for the prestigious and renowned Dutch Classical Talent competition, organized by the Concertgebouw and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, which included a tour through the major halls in the Netherlands during February and March 2014.
In the summer of 2014, Niek toured through the United States, taking part in the Chosen Vale Percussion Seminar, taking classes and giving concerts in Enfield, Washington, Boston and New York. During the tour he played and studied with Michael Burritt, Glen Velez, Colin Currie, Douglas Perkins, Greg Zuber, Tim Feeney, Cynthia Yeh and Matthew Duval. Niek was also part of the creation of the world premiere of ‘Sila: The Breath of the World’ by John Luther Adams (Pulitzer Prize 2014).
Niek is the artistic director of The Percussion Canon, the most sizeable media project ever created for solo percussion. In the next couple of years, Niek will produce the fifty most important pieces of solo percussion in clips of the highest quality, which will be broadcasted on Stingray Brava, YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes and Spotify. In August 2013 and 2014, Niek and his Percussion Canon could be seen as part of the Grachtenfestival in Amsterdam, as well as live on the Radio 4 show: Earbites, and every day on stage at the Compagnietheater in Amsterdam.
In March 2015 Niek had a tour through Mexico, he gave master classes and concerts in Mexico at Universidad de Xalapa, Universidad de Guanajuato and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico in Mexico-City. He world-premiered two new commissioned pieces by two Mexican composers: Edgar Guzmán wrote X,Y Counterpulse and Tomás Montero wrote Reflection, both for snare drum solo. During a concert in the Museum of Arts of Querétaro he played the world premiere of those two pieces.
In July and August 2015 Niek toured through Peru where he played concerts and gave master classes during the ‘VII Encuentro Internacional de Percusión’ percussion festival, organized by the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Lima.
For the PAS Greece ‘Days of Percussion’ 2015 edition on Corfu Niek was appointed Artist in Residence. Unfortunately this festival was canceled because of the country’s financial and economical situation.
In February and March 2016, Niek has been working with Kaija Saariaho on her new opera The Sound Remains, with the Dutch National Opera. Peter Sellars directed the opera; Philippe Jaroussky had the key role.
In April 2016 Niek had a tour through the Netherlands with a percussion concerto with the Nederlands Studenten Kamerorkest. Conductor was Ivan Meylemans, the piece called ‘Balance of Power’ (written by Bram Kortekaas) was commissioned by the Nederlands Studenten Kamerorkest and written especially for Niek. Later on in April 2016, he was soloist with Holland Baroque, one of the best baroque ensembles in Europe.
In July and August 2016 Niek toured through China with the Netherlands Chamber Choir, together with the Latvian conductor Sigvards Klava.
In October 2016 Niek gave master classes and played a concert in Reykjavík, Iceland with repertoire by the Icelandic composer Áskell Másson.
In July 2017 Niek was a guest artist during the ‘Tomarimbando’ festival in Tomar, Portugal. During the festival Niek played a solo concert, gave masterclasses and was a jury member together with Nancy Zeltsman in the marimba competition.
Since 2019, Niek is the Artistic Leader of Havelok; a new, modern chamber music percussion collective based in Rotterdam.
Niek regularly gives master classes, co-organizes festivals (such as: the first edition of the Adams International Percussion Festival) and projects, initiates projects and teaches percussion to children.
Niek is an Adams artist.