Students play their wind instruments in the orchestra band QHarmony
Students play their wind instruments in the orchestra band QHarmony

Radboud100: Blowing their own trumpets (1999)

The cultural student scene has long lacked a concert band. Even though plenty of students have been brought up with them at home. QHarmony has provided them a home away from home since the late 1990's.

Founder and first chair Jan Medendorp (substitute percussion)

“My colleagues Jan de Vaan (Student Affairs Office) and Leo Peters (Facilities Management) had a dream: what a fantastic thing it would be to have a university concert band. All the students from Limburg and everywhere else who played in concert bands or brass bands at home could continue playing music during their studies. They had already tried themselves, without any success. Did I want to take that on?

I sing in a choir and didn’t really understand what the difference between a concert band and a symphony orchestra was. However, I was good at organising, which is why they asked me. I put out an ad in KUnieuws, but we recruited a lot of members through friends of friends. Jan de Vaan knew a conductor: Jos de Kleijn. A young chap, not much older than the students themselves. He took a very relaxed approach, without setting sky-high ambitions right away. It was mostly for the joy of playing.

We had no percussion the first time we played. UB director Hub Laeven and our tuba player always managed to organise good percussion for gigs. However, I got to play the bass drum to set the rhythm during rehearsals. Still, it wasn’t easy. I was used to sheet music for singing. I’d be bashing the bass drum at the wrong moments.

I did a lot of things in the first few years, from getting chairs out in the rehearsal room to arranging subsidies. But the rest was really down to the youngsters themselves. These kinds of orchestras keep falling apart all around the country, due to the members ageing or just a lack of them, but QHarmony is still here. The students keep the orchestra young.”

First student member and co-founder Pieter Nollet (first trumpet)

“I met Jan Medendorp in the dentist’s chair as a student. He told me he was setting up a concert band. I was excited right away. I played in a brass band as a child. I did membership recruitment together with Jan. I started calling people who I knew also played in brass or concert bands at home.

I still remember our first rehearsal well - September 1997, at the old University Chaplaincy on Molukkenstraat. I picked out some music and we just got started. Very approachable.

In symphony orchestras, trumpets are often secondary, but the horn section actually takes centre stage in concert bands. There aren’t any fundamental differences in terms of repertoire either: you can also play Mozart as a concert band. I like the variety of music most of all. Classical, jazz or film music, like James Bond. It’s about playing music together. Sometimes you all play together, sometimes you pass the music to the next instrument, like a baton in a relay race.

We were able to perform at the University’s 75th anniversary in 1998. Queen Beatrix saw us sitting at the entrance to the Stevenskerk; she stopped for a moment and said ‘Lovely!’. I’ll have to remember that, I thought. Having the Queen like our music is a good thing to mention in our grant application to the university. QHarmony really added to my student days. I gained administrative experience there. And I met my girlfriend and now wife there.”

Newest chair Larissa Reinders (tenor saxophone)

“My older sister was in QHarmony already and told me how much fun it was. So I signed up too. I played in the Vorden concert band from the age of nine. I stopped when I went to university. It’s so lovely that Nijmegen has a student concert band!

I was one of the youngest in the village concert band; it’s all young people in QHarmony. It connects you with others: I’m not the only student who loves to play music. Playing together is fantastic. I can play pretty well and could be quite the soloist. However, playing together in an orchestra is much better. Besides, I could never make music with so many layers on my own. From the high piccolo to the deep baritone sax, it’s really wonderful how everything comes and sounds together.

We play concerts in the Goffert Theater, de Lindenberg, Zaal C, and in the city centre during Nijmegen Sounds to name just a few. We play smaller venues on request too. QLite is an ensemble with varying composition, ranging from three to 15 members. And we play party music with TeQuila, for example during the Four-Day March, at the start of the Batavierenrace and at staff parties at Radboud University.

We do expect a certain level, but people don’t have to audition with us. I think the approachability is our strength. It means we have been able to keep a stable membership and has already allowed us to celebrate our 25th anniversary last year. One of our anniversary activities is setting up a reunion orchestra, and we’ll be giving a smashing anniversary concert together.”

Contact information

This is an abbreviated version of a story from the Dutch book: 2023-1923. Honderd jaar Radboud Universiteit in 101 beelden (or 1923-2023. A century in 101 stories). This anniversary book will appear in May 2023 and will be published by Boom Publishers.

Want to know more? Please send an e-mail to communicatie [at] (communicatie[at]ru[dot]nl). Would you like to reserve the book in advance? Please click here.