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Abraham Jan Lodewijk (Harm Jan) Schenkel (1980) started as an oboe and organ player, and studied Industrial Design Engineering at the Delft University of Technology. After graduating as an engineer, he went to the conservatory of Rotterdam and studied with Paul M. van Brugge and Klaas de Vries. He graduated in 2011 as a jazz composer and arranger.


Currently he is a pianist, organ player and conductor of multiple choirs. Harm Jan works with Jan Vayne, Ralph van Manen, the Magogo Kamerorkest, Martin Mans, Joany Muskiet, Lucas Kramer and many others in various concerts and projects. Besides that, he frequently gives interactive workshops about music, improvisation and even the Lean philosophy. He also created his own one-man-show: AMUSE. This musical show is a cocktail of a concert and cabaret.


But most importantly he composes and arranges music for orchestras, wind ensembles (HaFaBra), big band, choir, organ, piano and all kinds of instrumentations in jazz, pop and classical music. As a composer he is always searching for the tension between these three worlds.





Harm Jan’s music is often described as happy and cheerful. He explains why. “There already is so much misery in this world. I want my audience to forget and to let them experience a little piece of heaven. I believe heaven is a happy place.” This does not mean that his music is always joyful. “To experience happiness, you have to know intense sorrow. A high mountain implicates a steep valley. So consequently, those valleys are also an important part of my music.”


According to Harm Jan some kind of abstraction is crucial in writing brand new music. “As a composer you need to create. You cannot paint a Rembrandt and be original at the same time.” Just like the art of painting, music gradually became more abstract, in the quest for the essence of what one wants to express. Therefore old traditions become questionable. “This does not mean that the treasure of the musical legacy is set aside. Melody, harmony and rhythm do not disappear. They get a different function.”



Improvisation is a very important factor in his compositions. “It makes the music dependent of the musicians again. In the time of Mozart and before, this was very common. However, in the last ages it gradually disappeared. Through jazz it is recovered. The beauty of improvisation is that every performance of the same piece becomes different each time and the personality of the musician becomes an essential part of the composition.”


The music of Harm Jan often has a religious character. Nevertheless, he does not see himself as a church musician. “Of course, many of my orders come from the church or church related organizations. But I also write music that has nothing to do with it.” According to Harm Jan, his faith is not blocking him; moreover it creates an endless source of inspiration. “It is obvious that my inspiration touches, or even overlaps my view of life. I am not ashamed of that. However, the craftsmanship of a composer should exceed this simple division. My faith does not express itself in a style of composing, but in authenticity.”




Check here the list of all professional musicians that played his music.



More than just music...



In the summer of 2015 Harm Jan went on tour with his own 'one-man-show' AMUSE. This show combines music with cabaret. For more information click here.



Harm Jan  also likes to combine music with other arts. He usually uses the method ‘concepting’ for this. This is how he designed the HIM concept for his own church congregation in Rotterdam Zuid. It is a structure of organisation to shape music in today’s church (check also HIM). The Nederlands Dagblad, a national newspaper wrote an article about it (in Dutch).



Cabaret is also a wellknown area for Harm Jan. Not only is he frequently asked to perform at special gatherings, he also developed the ‘Lean on me’ workshop. In this workshop, the corporate Lean philosophy is placed under a magnifing glass by Harm Jan and cabaret is a great part of this workshop. His background as an engineer is vital to relate to the participants. His combination of content, humour and surprise makes this workshop unique and personal. Click here for more information of check the trailer.



More often Harm Jan writes his own musical lyrics, but also poems emerge from his hands. You can find his lyrics on this website. His humorous and edgy way of writing is already known to his friends and family, but you can experience it yourself if you read his blog (in Dutch) or when you visit one of his AMUSE shows.


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