Codarts Rotterdam

Musical highlight: Codarts Pop Orchestra

An interview with teacher/keyboardist Ronald Kool, musical director of Codarts Pop Orchestra.

Musical highlight: Codarts Pop Orchestra


“There’s nothing better than seeing students bring out the best in each other”  

Put together 10 to 20 talented singers, backed by a stellar orchestra consisting of a 17-member woodwind section, 23 string players and a rhythm section, and you’ve got the Codarts Pop Orchestra: a crossover project led by Ronald Kool. The Orchestra’s star is rapidly rising beyond the walls of Codarts – having appeared on popular Dutch TV show and collaborated with rapper sor, as well as playing festivals across the Netherlands. Ronald Kool: “There’s a constant flow of new ideas” 

Students at Codarts are strongly encouraged to build creative alliances with people from other disciplines, and a perfect example of a successful crossover project is the Codarts Pop Orchestra. Made up of more than 80 specially selected students of Pop, Jazz, World Music and Classical Music, they are known for their spectacular performances, featuring both original student compositions and exuberant new renditions of existing songs. The Orchestra’s musical director is Ronald Kool, who is teacher, faculty leader keys and a co-coordinator of band projects at the Pop department. In addition to his teaching duties, he is also known as the keyboard player for singer Anouk and as the band leader in the TV show Ik hou van Holland. 


Inspiring rehearsals 

Ronald Kool: “Five years ago, we got the idea to start a pop orchestra at our university, with students from several different departments. Ever since, we’ve held auditions every October and November. The Orchestra members spend the next few months arranging some 20 songs – half of which by the students and the other half by me – and then we start rehearsing together for a concert held in March or April.” 

Keyboardist Ronald has played in many different orchestras, including the renowned Metropole Orkest. “I love adding woodwinds, strings and percussion to the mix, as they give pop songs a whole new dimension. Our music is essentially pop based, but then pop musicians have always experimented with different musical styles. The Beatles, for example, also show influences of classical music and other genres.” 


“The audience loved it” 

The Codarts Pop Orchestra has given four spectacular performances to date at, in that order, the oude Luxor Theater, the Hofpleintheater, the nieuwe Luxor Theater, and the Schiecentrale, all well-established and beloved Rotterdam venues. The Orchestra also performs on different occasions throughout the rest of the year, its credits including the theme tune of the TV music show POP22, which is co-produced by Matthijs van Nieuwkerk and singer Ilse DeLange. 

Last year, Dutch rapper sor invited them to join him as his backing ‘Sorchestra’ at his performance in the Concertgebouw. Ronald: “Performing at the Concertgebouw is a dream come true for many of our students. It’s truly one of the best orchestra halls in the world, with impeccable acoustics.” The multitalented sor – who’s not only a rapper but also a producer and conductor – wanted to merge the worlds of classical music and hip-hop both musically and socially. He was joined in the Concertgebouw’s Main Hall by no fewer than 53 musicians and singers from the Codarts Pop Orchestra at the end of May of this year. Ronald: “It was a really special night. The audience loved it; they praised the positive vibe and the talent and professionalism of the Codarts students.” 

In early July 2022, some Orchestra members performed with sor on the main stage of WOO HAH!, a popular hip-hop festival in Hilvarenbeek. “The crowd at this event was just as excited, and the 3voor12 website put us at the top of their list of the best Dutch performances at WOO HAH! 2022.” 


New bands and collaborations  

Performing as a member of the Codarts Pop Orchestra is part of the study programme; students earn credits for their work with the Orchestra. 

The Codarts Pop Orchestra has also given rise to several offshoot bands and collaborations. “It’s wonderful to see students connect with each other, learn from one another and bring out the best in each other” Students from different departments currently make up various ensembles, with one of the keyboard players, for example, having started a string orchestra called the Cloud Orchestra. No, [popular Dutch singer] Froukje’s band did not originate from the Codarts Pop Orchestra, although it does have its roots in the college’s band projects. I should add that Froukje and the members of her band were all part of the Codarts Pop Orchestra.”  


“I like to be surprised”  

It takes him back to his own days as a student at what was then the Rotterdam Conservatory of Music, before it was renamed Codarts. Ronald: “I have known many of my fellow instructors here since I was a student here myself, and I can say that the college still provides great opportunities for its students to build a network.” 

So, what are the plans for the Orchestra’s future? “There’s a constant flow of new ideas. I like to be surprised, and I would love to tour with the Orchestra, but then those kinds of productions cost a ton of money. For the foreseeable future, I’m looking forward to the upcoming fifth edition of the Codarts Pop Orchestra.” 


On Friday 31 March, the Codarts Pop Orchestra will play at the oude Luxor Theater. Tickets are available for students, teachers and staff. The video recording will be published later in the academic year. 

More information about the Codarts Pop Orchestra on March 31 can be found here