Willem van Merwijk

    Willem van Merwijk was born in 1960 in the village of Bemmel in the east of the Netherlands. At the age of 17 he decided to make a career in music and started out as a performing musician; playing the saxophone. At the age of 25 he started arranging, first mainly for amateurs and the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet (his own chamber music ensemble) and then more and more for other professionals.

    At the age of 46 he started composing and choose the name Guillermo Lago as a pseudonym. And also in the full course of his professional life until this day has he been a dedicated teacher, both at an amateur and a professional level.

    Sharing knowledge, exchanging ideas, handing over experience to a new generation. Born and raised in a family of teachers education has always been an important element in my professional life. First teaching amateurs (at several music schools and until 2016 at PierK near Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands), then giving masterclasses with the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet and finally when I felt adequately prepared at the Academies of Music in Amsterdam and Utrecht.

    I wrote a saxophone method with my colleagues van der Linden, Bornkamp and Arends (The Aurelia Saxophone Method, 4 Vol.) and arranged and composed for amateurs and amateur groups, such as the parallel ensembles to the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, the Young NBE and the YoungYoung NBE. In the educational program of the NBE I love to coach young talents and I also participated in High School projects of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet.

    At present I am professor at the Amsterdams Conservatorium (saxophone & saxophone methodics, chamber music, classical department & Young Talent Academy, Bachelors and Masters, assistant of Prof. Arno Bornkamp) and professor of arranging at the Utrechts Conservatorium (classical department, Bachelors and Masters).
    Conservatorium van Amsterdam
    HKU, Utrechts Conservatorium
    Nederlands Blazers Ensemble: Talent

    During my studies at the Utrechts Conservatorium I already started arranging. Out of necessity because my ensemble, the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, was looking for new repertoire for four saxes in combination with the existing pieces for the ensemble. We did that by commissioning composers (in all resulting in over 100 new pieces for sax quartet) and by arranging. All four of us were active in this field, but especially Johan van der Linden made some fantastic versions of ao. the Ravel String Quartet, Rhapsody in Blue and Pictures at an Exhibition. I contributed too and learned a lot doing so. Following a minor in Jazz and Pop also helped me considerably; the tricks and tips of my teacher Rik Elings were very helpful. At that time studying arranging was not possible yet so I am almost completely self-taught.

    Then I started teaching amateurs and coaching ensembles and because good repertoire for miscellaneous ensembles was not available at the time I arranged the repertoire myself. And like later with composing colleagues found out that I was arranging and asked me for arrangements and so forth and so on.

    A very important moment was when Johan van der Linden (thank you so much man!) introduced me as an arranger with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. I have since then made over a 100 arrangements (big and small) for both NBE, YoungNBE, YoungYoungNBE etcetera. I am particularly proud of my arrangements of ‘Romeo and Julia’ by Prokofiev and ‘Vier Letzte Lieder’ by Strauss. I owe the NBE and artistic director Bart Schneemann a lot, both as a performing musician and as arranger/composer. Some of these arrangements are available at https://nbe.nl/shop/bladmuziek-jongnbe/. But I also arranged for a lot of others, for instance the Rotterdam Marine Band of the Royal Netherlands Navy and the New Trombone Collective.

    Now that composing has become my mainstay I am arranging quite unfrequently and rather hand over jobs to younger colleagues (especially during and after the Covid pandemic…). I am now a professor of arranging at the institution where I was educated myself: the Utrechts Conservatorium (part of HKU) so that completes the circle…!

    Arranged for

    • Achilla Orru
    • Alain Clarke
    • Amsterdam Brass
    • Ana Moura
    • André Heuvelman
    • Artez Hogeschool der Kunsten
    • Ashton Brothers
    • Aurelia Saxofoon Kwartet
    • AVRO Prinsengracht Concert
    • Bart Schneemann
    • Brandt Attema
    • Branford Marsalis
    • Breeze
    • Cameleon
    • Carmen Linares
    • Cello Biennale
    • Chantal Janzen
    • Claudia de Breij
    • Conservatorium van Amsterdam
    • De Nederlandse Reisopera
    • Doña Rosa
    • Flip Noorman
    • Grachtenfestival
    • Izaline Callister
    • Janine Jansen
    • Johanette Zomer
    • JONG (nu TenToon Ensemble)
    • Jong NBE
    • JongJong NBE
    • Jörgen van Rijen
    • Jungle By Night
    • Karsu Dönmez
    • Lavinia Meijer
    • Maria Fiselier
    • Marinierskapel der Koninklijke Marine
    • Marit Berends
    • Minyeshu Kiflé
    • Miranda van Kralingen
    • Nederlands Blazers Ensemble
    • NEOS Brass
    • New Trombone Collective
    • Niels Bijl
    • Nieuw Amsterdams Kinderkoor
    • Orlando Festival
    • Paul de Leeuw
    • Paul Witteman
    • Pier-K
    • Pim Muda
    • Podium Witteman
    • Psaradonis
    • Revival Okapi
    • SAX2014
    • Schiermonnikoog International Chamber Music Festival
    • Staff Benda Bilili
    • The Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces
    • Trompetten van Oranje
    • U & I
    • Wouter Hamel

    The first instrumental education I had was from my mother: recorder lessons at the age of 10. I kept on playing the instrument until the age of 14 and then picked up the saxophone at the age of 16. My first teacher was Guus Tangelder, a charismatic saxophone/clarinet teacher and bandleader who inspired many young musicians (such as Marc Scholten (lead alto Metropole Orchestra), Jan Kooper (acknowledged pop free lancer) and many others) to become professional musicians.

    After High School (Gymnasium at Canisius College Nijmegen, the Netherlands) I started my professional musical education at the (then) Arnhem Conservatory. After one year I decided to change to the Utrecht Conservatory (now HKU Utrechts Conservatorium) to study with Ed Boogaard, alto saxophonist of the Netherlands Saxophone Quartet. I received my Bachelors degree of Classical Saxophone in 1985,  a Masters degree in 1987 and a minor degree in Jazz and Pop.

    The most important ensembles in my career can be found in the tabs in this chapter: the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, the Netherlands Wind Ensemble and the Winds of Change. The following lists are attempts to be complete where my performing career is concerned.

    List of ensembles

    • Aurelia Saxofoon Kwartet (1982 – 2013) (co-founder)
    • Netherlands Wind Ensemble (1990 – present)
    • De Ereprijs (1982-1985)
    • Salsaya Big Band (1985-1986)
    • Big Band Guus Tangelder (incidentally previous century)
    • Winds of Change (2006-2009) (co-founder and artistic leader) (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

    List of orchestras

    • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
    • Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
    • Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
    • Residentie Orchestra
    • Radio Symphony Orchestra
    • Radio Chamber Orchestra
    • Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
    • Orkest van het Oosten
    • Musikkollegium Winterthur
    • Limburg Symphony Orchestra
    • Royal Military Band (Koninklijke Militaire Kapel)
    • Amsterdam Police Band
    • Netherlands Fanfare Orchestra
    • National Youth Orchestra

    List of countries where van Merwijk performed

    • Albania, Aruba, Austria
    • Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Canada, Curaçao, Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • France
    • Germany, Great-Britain
    • Hungary
    • India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy
    • Japan, Jordan
    • Kroatia
    • Luxemburg
    • Montenegro
    • The Netherlands
    • Palestine, Poland, Portugal
    • Roumania, Russia
    • Slovakia, Spain, Surinam, Switzerland
    • Thailand, Turkey
    • USA

    In 1982 in the heart of the Italian capital Rome four young saxophonists started what would become one of the most influential saxophone quartets of their times: the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet. André Arends, Arno Bornkamp, Johan van der Linden and Willem van Merwijk joined a tour of the Dutch National Youth Orchestra, gave their first concert in the Palazzo Berberini in Rome and took their name from the street where it all started: the Via Aurelia.

    What followed where many concerts and concert tours world-wide, radio- and tv shows, CD’s, theatre programs and collaborations with musicians such as Branford Marsalis, Hannes Minnaar, Lavinia Meijer and Miranda van Kralingen and actors Peter Drost en René Groothof.
    Van Merwijk played the baritone saxophone with the group until 2013. He then decided to step out, after over 30 years of great musical pleasure and friendship.