Camilo Bastidas ArtEZ Conservatorium
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April 19, 2024

"I found my voice in the saxophone" Camilo Bastidas represents ArtEZ at the Conservatory Talent Awards

"I had no knowledge of music theory, I had never been to the Netherlands, and actually, I had planned to become a veterinarian. Yet there was something in me that said: just try it, sign up for a music course and see how far you get during the audition rounds. Because actually, that was my real dream: to become an artist." We asked Camilo about his journey from his birthplace in Colombia to Aruba and how he ended up in the Netherlands to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Jazz & Pop at ArtEZ Academy of Music in Arnhem.

What the bachelor's course brought him, and how he went from unsuccessful audition candidate to representative of ArtEZ Academy of Music at the national Conservatory Talent Awards, he tells in this finals story.


The tenor saxophone

"When I first noticed the sound of the saxophone, I was immediately hooked. For a long time, I sang and played guitar in the church in Aruba, but due to the wrong way of using my voice, I lost some range and couldn't use it limitlessly anymore. In the sound of the saxophone, I heard exactly what I had begun to miss so much: those rolling tones and making music with bravado. One day, my father stood in front of me with an alto saxophone in his hand. An incredibly big gift. I had of course mentioned before that I found the sound of the saxophone so fascinating, but I hadn't thought that I had brought it across so convincingly. He said: 'do with it what you want'.

I looked at myself in the mirror and thought: I'm going to do this. I will make sure I get accepted. I had already taken the first step, there was no turning back."

The first thing I looked up on YouTube is how to play a C major scale. I thought that way I could transfer some of my guitar knowledge to the saxophone. Five frustrating months followed in which I just couldn't manage it, until I found out that it works differently on an alto saxophone. Looking back, through that struggle, I learned to listen incredibly well and unconsciously trained my ear. Once I got a grip on the different saxophones, I actually found my voice back in the tenor saxophone. Since then, I have cherished a great love for the instrument.

Music didn't play a big role within our family. In the culture of my birth country Colombia, it is not common for most people to pursue a professional career as an artist. I myself also always thought that I would become something else, like a veterinarian. When we moved to Aruba because of my parents' work, I ended up in the Dutch education system and attended HAVO. During my search for further education, I heard my friends say: Camillo, you shouldn't pursue the veterinary careerpath; you and that saxophone belong together. You belong on stage.

I had taught myself to play the saxophone via YouTube, I had no music theory knowledge at all, and therefore I didn't really see myself being accepted into a conservatory program. Through a friend, I came across ArtEZ and because I was already in the Dutch education system, I already had the right papers. I decided to give it a try but as expected, I failed during the first audition round because I lacked the right theoretical knowledge.

ArtEZ gave me the chance to try again two months later. I looked at myself in the mirror and thought: I'm going to do this. I will make sure I get accepted. I had already taken the first step, there was no turning back. I wanted this so badly that I put all my time and energy into mastering the theoretical skills such as being able to read and write music notation. I asked my musical friends: please help me! The retry went successfully, and I could move on to the next step: moving to the unfamiliar Netherlands to pursue the Jazz & Pop study here with my instrument.

A swinging audience

"During the first year of the Jazz & Pop program in Arnhem, I was placed in all kinds of bands and ensembles. I remember one of my first performances with a jazz orchestra very well. I was extremely nervous and looked anxiously at the audience. They looked back at me sternly and I thought that was how it should be. Then, in a similar setting later during a Latin concert, something clicked fortunately. This time, when I looked at the audience, I saw that their reaction was completely different: people were swaying and laughing. I thought: this is who I am. This is what I want to do. During the course, I developed as a jazz musician but also rediscovered my Colombian roots: Salsa and Latin music."

Conservatory Talent Awards

"The first years in the Netherlands were a bit cold and at the same time heartwarming for this South American. Within the walls of the conservatory, I quickly found friends, and for the past 4 years, I have spent almost every weekday here, from early morning until late at night. I seized all the opportunities I got to learn something. I have been able to play in all kinds of bands and groups, and I have learned a lot. My growth as an artist has even taken such big steps that I am now representing ArtEZ Academy of Music at the Conservatory Talent Awards. I get to do this with a self-written jazz composition. Something I am extremely proud of. I wouldn't have dared to dream of that 5 years ago.

ArtEZ finals

With some nostalgia, I think about the upcoming graduation and that my time at ArtEZ is almost over. I have found my extended family here and gained a lot of experience. I have gotten to know myself here. Yet it is time to move on. Before that happens, I am going to pull out all the stops for my final exam with an evening program full of dance and music at Musis. I will showcase both self-written songs and covers, accompanied by an 18-piece orchestra. I warmly invite everyone to join us on for this evening." You can find more information about Camilo's graduation show here.

More information about the Bachelor's course Jazz & Pop in Arnhem