John tells his story
how he came to the organ:
Hello everybody. My name is John Hondorp, from Enschede, Holland and I was elected "Organist of the month"
in January 2007 by the IAJO. It's an honour!
Let me start with telling you how I got to playing the organ. In the early 70s of the last century, merely
every family in Holland had an electronic organ. Many, many children had music lessons on this fairly new
instrument, that seemed more up to the popular music of that era. As one of the first schools in the world,
the Enschede Conservatory acknowledged this need. Many music schools had many, many organ students but no
real organ teachers. The Enschede Conservatory started a curriculum to educate music school teachers in this
new instruments. By then it was 1974.
In 1970 I started to play the organ. Like many Dutch organists at a music school that was connected to an
organ shop. People bought an organ and could go for organ lessons to the same place. In 1981 I started to
study at the Enschede Conservatory. I was one of 35 students! The curriculum at that time was a classical one.
We played Bach inventions, preludes and fugues, theatre organ styles and swing arrangements. But the most
interesting part for me was the modern music, composed specifically for the electronic organ. And we had a lot
of it. Duos, trios, organ in chamber music setting, concertos for organ and symphony orchestra. I played
this concerto (Concerto per organo elettronico, opus 125, by Louis Toebosch) as a soloist with the Eastern
Dutch Symphony Orchestra.
After this concert series I was appointed teacher for Hammond Organ at the Enschede conservatory, starting
01 october 1987. In the first half of the nineties the MIDI instruments and the keyboards came to their full
potential. And, like Enschede did with the organ, Enschede started a new major: Keyboards. Many students went
from organ to keyboards. Not at the conservatory level but in music schools. Keyboards was new, drum computers
were hip and made playing the keyboard both easy and "well-sounding" compared to a beginning student at the organ.
Many parents decided to buy a keyboard rather than a very expensive organ. And so our organ department shrunk.
The only way to survive this came to me at a certain Northsea Jazzfestival, I don't even remember the year.
Somewhere in the early nineties.
In the garden-pavillion, one complete program day was dedicated to the Hammond Organ. Everybody played there:
Herbert Noord, Carlo de Wijs, Barbara Dennerlein, Jimmy McGriff, Jimmy Smith, Amina Claudine Meyers. It proved
to me that the organ wasn't dead: The Hammond Organ was alive and kicking!
From that moment on we decided the organ department should really be part of the jazz department. We changed our
curriculum and made a whole new start with this major. From that time on our major students concentrate 4 years
on how to play the Hammond Organ in a jazz setting. All students play 4 years in a Hammond Trio: guitar, Hammond, drums.
And this has brought us the only possible way of existence: A fully respected jazz instrument with a very specific
approach. In the years thereafter I had students from Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan and Indonesia.
From 2000 I experienced a certain longing for the jazz stage. I gave over a decade of energy to my school and my
students and felt the need of inspiration and good musicians on stage with me. In that year I met Judy Niemack,
Bruno Castellucci and Jeanfrançois Prins. Those three were my "wake up call" to the performance. I still
play with them regularly. In the last five years I have played with many musicians like Bruno, Judy or John Ruocco,
Nippy Noya, Matthias Bergmann, Oliver Leicht, Ack van Rooijen and many more. And all these performances give me
one thing: the possibility to connect to fellow musicians and try to kick their ass in such a way that they kick
me back twice as hard. It gives me the situation where I can grow over my own boundaries, explore new ways of playing,
new styles, new ideas. And it is with music as in any other field: You have to keep developing, growing. Or you will
only get worse!
Since two years I have my own trio with German musicians Dominik Korte (guitar) and Marco Schmitz (drums). We play in
this very regular line up but not very traditional music. We play 80 to 90 % originals and fresh arrangements of well
known jazz standards. We try to combine the musical culture of the 21st century with the tradition of jazz of the 20th
century. One of the last things we did was to record a CD in the beautiful Organic Music Studios in Obing, southern
Germany. "Open Stories" is a project where my trio plays only Dominik Korte originals. And we love it. Our goal was
to make a CD that doesn't always sound like the average Hammond CD. We tried to create a very open, transparent
sound and I think we succeeded very well in doing that. To me it is not the "Jimmy Smith drawbar sound" from start to
finish. We're always looking for new ways to make this trio sound great.
We started a project with my dear colleague, Broadway jazz singer Adrienne West, and we're developing that idea right now.
You'll hear some more from us. Coming projects are: Playing one whole week in Redange, Luxemburg, end of January with
Adrienne and her husband, singer/dancer/choreographer David Cameron. It will be a tribute to Nat King Cole and Duke
Ellington. Sorry, no Hammond Organ but piano, but playing five shows in a row in the lovely jazz club "l'Inoui"
is a blessing. Then, beginning of March I will go with a Conservatory teachers' Band to the Java Jazz Festival in
Jakarta, Indonesia to play at the festival and do some workshops and master classes. A new beautiful goal in my musical
career. I'm very happy with all the possibilities that appear somewhere on the road.
So, maybe I'll see you somewhere in a jazz club or at a festival. Or, if you would have questions about Hammond
lessons: send me an e-mail! Bye for now, thank you Jürgen and a very HAMMOND NEW YEAR!!
John has also produced an audio file (7:23 min, 4,328 kB)
speaking about his way to the Hammond organ. Click on the
MP3 logo to listen to John !