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Kika Sprangers: Musical Adventurer In Holland

R.J. DeLuke By

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Unlike many U.S. schools, she says "in secondary school they gave me a lot of freedom to develop my music. There was a lot of space where I could do my musical projects. In my hometown, I had an orchestra with young people and tried things out. When I think of it now I think it's adorable. [chuckles] It was really good that they gave me the space to do that and to develop. I think it helped me make the decision to go on with it."

At the age of 17, she was accepted at the conservatory in Utrecht. She was selected as leader of the saxophone section of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and toured with that band. In addition to her formal studies, Sprangers continued developing her own music and found opportunities to play in clubs at night. In her third year of conservatory study, she started her own quartet and started writing her own music.

"There was a point where I was trying out how it works and seeing how people react to your music. So I used that group, the quartet, as a tryout thing. Then in the last year of my studies, I was like—'OK, when I'm done I want to continue making my own music.'"

She was on her journey from being a student to a becoming a professional musician. She had a quintet and, for her final recital exam, she played with a large ensemble—her quintet, augmented by other horn players and singers.

"I recorded that concert. After the concert I was happy with the recording. I thought maybe I could use that for the EP. That's what I did. And I did some studio recordings with the quintet and added that to it. That's my first EP, [Leaves of Lily] where I was like 'I can let the audience get to know me and my music.' It gave me some good things and some good opportunities to play. That's where it all started with my own music I think.

The reaction to the CD is more than she could have hoped for. The music connects with critics and audiences. It is comprised of shifting colors and harmonies, and Sprangers plays with a sweet tone that can soar and search, or convey a soft emotion.

"It's crazy. I didn't expect it to be so good, the reactions," she says of her debut recording. "I think I'm really lucky they picked it up first here in Holland. I now have a second press of the EP by Zennez Records. It's still going quite well. I feel the urge to make a new album next year. I think that will come. But I'm really, really happy with Leaves of Lily."

Sprangers is not resting. During the summer she is listening to a lot of music. She is spending time at her piano, looking for inspiration, involved in the process of writing new music, a process that she enjoys.

"I also like to get inspired by non-musical things," she says, including a four-piece musical suite based on a famous Dutch art style. "It was a really interesting process, because I started with a painting, which was kind of abstract. It gave me new insights to start with. I liked that."

The song "Leaves of Lily" is based on a Dutch poem. "You hear the singer. She is presenting the poem," she says. "It was nice to work with lyrics, since I'm not a singer. But I was curious how that would play out, how I could figure out what to work with next. Once you start again, behind your piano, you're waiting for this magical chords or melodies to come. Sometimes I try to observe more than that."

The difference between small and large groups also challenges Sprangers.

"When I write for small ensemble, I'm leaving a lot of space for the musicians to fill in for themselves, which is pretty exciting," she says. "The freedom is less when I write for the big ensemble. Then I think about colors and jazz history. The harmonics and the colors that are used. I think they are really beautiful."

As she contemplates her next recording, Sprangers also wants to continue her education, perhaps in Berlin or Copenhagen, she says. After that, she would like to visit the U.S., go to New York City "and enjoy the vibe and the culture and the jazz in New York. I also want to go to New Orleans. The musical history there can be very exciting." To one day bring a band from Holland to the U.S. and American cities "would be great. That's my dream to come with a band and play my own music."

But her next goal is the new CD with a large ensemble. "After my bachelor's, I was like—'Lets first see and play for a year.' Now it's already the third year that I'm doing it. That's a good thing. I'm enjoying playing a lot and writing a lot. I want to discover more and learn more about that. The first is to record a new album, so I'm very busy with that," she says.

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