Organ Ordination
Dr. Christiaan Teeuwsen's commitment to the Noordbroek Organ Academy in the Netherlands is an example of his dedication to the organ, God and his vocational calling.
5 min. read
March 20, 2023

Many who visit Redeemer University, specifically the auditorium, surely notice the colossal apparatus towering over keynote speakers and performers from the shadows near the back of the stage. A curious decoration to untrained eyes, it is an organ and, though rarely used, the grand instrument speaks to music professor Dr. Christiaan Teeuwsen’s higher calling.

With a master and doctorate in organ performance, Teeuwsen is a passionate musician, teacher, and historian and researcher of the organ. A professor at Redeemer since 1987, Teeuwsen has managed to find additional ways to combine his affinity for classical music and scholarly education with his vocational calling.

Most notable is the Noordbroek Organ Academy, an annual week­long event that hosts graduate level and semi-professional organists. Created by Teeuwsen and his friend and colleague, Peter Westerbrink, “who plays the organ as well as or better than most on earth,” according to Teeuwsen, this summer program takes place in The Netherlands, and includes seminars, lessons and hands-on experience, and culminates in recitals performed on historic organs. These include the Schnitger organ in Noordbroek and various others close by.

“We host eight passionate students so we can concentrate on them and give them serious hands-on experience. Many students come from the finest schools in the US, Canada, Korea, Italy and Japan.”

Teeuwsen says he mentioned the idea to Westerbrink — “who truly has the sound, touch and sight of the organ embedded in his fabric and spirit”­ — during a conversation after he performed in Noordbroek in 2014.

“Christiaan’s proposal seemed a little unrealistic at first;’ reflected Westerbrink, who admits he is more accustomed to performing than teaching. “Why would students from around the world be interested in coming to Noordbroek, a small, remote village? But after considering it, I realized I should take it more seriously. It was a wakeup call and I thought, ‘Why not give it a chance?”‘

We host eight passionate students so we can concentrate on them and give them serious hands-on experience. Many students come from the finest schools in the US, Canada, Korea, Italy and Japan.

“Between my master of fine arts and doctor of musical arts at the University of Iowa, I was invited to study with Klaas Bolt at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam and do the performance exam for the ‘Uitvoerend Musicus­ Performance Certificate.”‘ During this time, Teeuwsen lived in Haarlem — a 15-minute train ride from Amsterdam.

However, though officially beginning in 2014, the concept was manifesting earlier, as Teeuwsen himself had experienced a similar opportunity in his own life.

“While at these seminars I was fortunate enough to play in the demonstrations and perform at the student recitals, which happened at the end of the seminar week.”

However, despite the opportunity and his enjoyment and learning, he realized the program, as prestigious and professional as it was, might not have been as fulfilling for all that attended.

“Because there were so many of us, there were always 20 or 25 students who did not get to perform, let alone play on the famous organs, because of time constraints.”

With the Noordbroek Organ Academy, Teeuwsen and Westerbrink sought to provide similar prestige, opportunity and value for aspiring students, while ensuring all participants were equally included and able to benefit from the excitement of playing world famous organs.

“It is life-changing for students when they hear and play some of the most spirited, free and virtuosic organ music on the instruments they were written for, and when they realize that the organs they are performing on were played by renowned composers.”

Teeuwsen reflected that he often thought about that when he was a student practicing in the Bavo, where a 10-year-old Mozart had played on the same instrument back in 1766. “It was surreal!” he said.

It is life-changing for students when they hear and play some of the most spirited, free and virtuosic organ music on the instruments they were written for.

Westerbrink had this to say: “Locking yourself up in a church like Noordbroek and practicing and listening to what the organ has to tell you is the best way to get a truly convincing interpretation of this old music.”

Though the Noordbroek events were put on hold due to pandemic restrictions, Teeuwsen says he is excited that they resumed in the summer of 2022, and that they can continue.

Dr. Christiaan Teeuwsen’s commitment to his students at Redeemer University and his position as the chair of the department, along with his dedication to his brainchild, the Noordbroek Organ Academy, show his desire to share his knowledge of classical compositions and grand organs with subsequent generations. But it is his humility and focus through these outlets that exemplify his greater commitment to reflecting godly and Christian values in his life.

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