Feast on Six Strings

Five Years of Guitar Festival Nordhorn

GFN

There it is, the lustrum memorial of the Guitar Festival Nordhorn. A fine conclusion of a period of searching, trying-out, writing, stressing and tinkering. A nice subject of this adventure story.

How it all started: In 2006, I attended my very first guitar festival, the Twente Guitar Festival and continued to do so in the following years. Every year I wrote a little festival report on my web site, the DOS Amigos Homepage. After five years I got the idea to write a book about it, a kind of quinquennium edition of five years of festival stories in Dutch and English with a number of photographs of concerts and activities. The festival board was enthusiastic about it.

Unfortunately, in 2010 the board of the Twente Guitar Festival fell apart as a consequence of disagreement about the foundation of the Kulturhaus NIHZ in Nordhorn with the related Guitar Festival Nordhorn. Consequentially, my quinquennium edition was cancelled.

In the meantime, the Guitar Festival Nordhorn flourished and had its first quinquennium in 2015. The same way as for the Twente Guitar Festival, I had written the reports of the festival on my DOS Amigos Homepage, so again my plans for an anniversary book emerged. I made a start in October 2015, hoping to be able to present a concept at the Guitar Festival Nordhorn 2016.

In reality it proved to be a tough job!

A book starts with a catchy title. I had designed a logo for the Guitar Festival Nordhorn with subtitle Saitenfest in Niedersachsen! (which translates as String Feast in Lower Saxony). This became the basis of the book title: Feast on Six Strings.

Looking back, it appeared that writing the book became an adventure with ups and downs. For me it is a great experience to have the final result in my hands. You’ll finde the story of this adventure in the next sections.

Design

A design forms the basis for the realisation of the book. I started to think about it after my summer holiday in 2015.

Five years of festival reports of the Guitar Festival Nordhorn form the core of the book. In corridor chat, the festival is known as GFN, by analogy with the abbreviation of its bigger brother in America, the competition of the Guitar Foundation of America (GFA).

I wrote the festival reports in Dutch and English, because the DOS Amigos Homepage is bi-lingual. However, if I would include both language versions in the book, it possibly would become much too fat (an experiment proved this…). I decided to write the book in English because of the international character of the festival. With the logical consequence that I would have to translate all Dutch contributions to the book.

Just a collection of reports would not be sufficient for a memorial book. I got the idea to add interviews, interviews with the organisers, supporters, artists that had appeared on the festival, and participants of the professional and amateur competitions. Well-designed interviews would shed an interesting light on the world of the classical guitar, making the book much more informative than just a historical chronicle.

I consulted the plan with Bobby Rootveld, the organiser of the festival, who became enthusiastic immediately. We picked candidates for the interviews and on his request, I expanded the book with a section about the partners of the festival that had contributed in those five years. I decided to ad a section with statistics with amongst others a list of participants of the competitions.

Soon my wife Erna came up with an important question: “What do you want to do with the book once that it is finished? You should try to sell it. It is much too much work to give away for free.”

She was right: I did not have a plan for commercial exploitation, I just started the project. Maybe it was injudicious, because it was a hell of a job and I came across a few aspects that I did not consider first. I had to think about that.

The Interviews

My first challenge was the set of interviews. First: which people? In any case the organisers, volunteers and a number of participants. That was an easy choice.

Bobby and Sanna as the organisers, Fred and Angie Rootveld, Martin and Henk Olden, Annette Kruisbrink and Arlette Ruelens, Liz Day and Thomas Peperkamp and Mathijs van der Kolk as supporters. Unfortunately, the interview with Liz Day did not take place as a consequence of personal circumstances. A pity indeed!

For the participant interviews, with the professionals I chose Andrija Lazarevic, Jakob Bangsø, Justyna Sobczak (all winners of the Cat. 1 Competition), Raphael Silva and Thu Le (they were striking personalities during the festivals). From the amateur participants, I selected Nandini Sudhir, Agnes Mika, myself (all winners of the Cat. 2 Competition), Tanja Vermeeren, Jannette Couvée (striking personalities as well) and finally Kevin Wiesner (winner of the competition Beste Gitarrist von Nordhorn).

With the artists, the choice was more difficult. After my own choice and some suggestions from Bobby, the following artists appeared on my list: Roland Dyens, Pavel Steidl, Alberto Mesirca, Alexei Belousov, Samuel Klemke, the Anido Gitaar Duo (alias Annette Kruisbrink en Arlette Ruelens), Nutavut Ratanakarn, Sabrina Vlaskalic, Stefan Grasse, Christian Lavernier and his partner Francesca Nebiolo, Jim ten Boske and Hubert Käppel. Two of the planned interviews were cancelled in the end, never mind.

I had never interviewed someone, neither verbally nor in writing. The larger part of the interviews would have to be done in writing, because most of the candidates did not live in my neighbourhood. With two exceptions, the two generations of the Rootveld family that live in Bornerbroek and Nordhorn, I paid them a visit with my sound recorder.

Challenge number one in an interview is a sound set of questions that cover the candidates themselves including their adventures. I had a few standard questions about their first experience with the guitar, teachers and performances. Additionally, I had a fixed question concerning their attitude towards guitar competitions.

I researched the backgrounds of the candidates to be able to put questions about aspects and subjects that they are engaged in personally. At one hand it is maybe a bridge too far, on the other hand it provides a personal note with unique reactions. In this way I inquired a candidate after his involvement in the field of music therapy, and another after a set of special recordings that he made. I got surprisingly personal reactions!

Part of the interviews were in the Dutch language. I would have to translate them into English later. The remainder of the interviews was in English. I was hoping that I merely would have to edit them.

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For the written interviews, I used two formats: One in plain text in an email, the other in the form of a PDF form with fill-in fields. Initially, I only wanted to use the PDF-form, but it appeared that some of the candidates found this too complicated (they had to download and save the PDF regularly and not everyone was aware of this).

Interviews in writing were not the cup of tea for every candidate. One of the artists offered to make a recording of his answers and send it to me (an excellent approach, it worked fine), another only wanted to answer via the phone (I have turned that down, because I am no stenographer and my ordinary phone has no recording facility).

The interviews “in the neighbourhood” were spoken conversation, I used my Tascam recorder for this purpose and interpreted the interviews later. That was an intriguing experience! It is quite a job to convert two hours of spoken word into a to the point text! Fortunately, I could play back sections if I was not certain.

Further information in the Book

Besides the interviews with the artists and participants, I wanted to give attention to the luthiers that have built the prize guitars for the competition and the private people, organisations and companies that have supported the festival.

As an extra, I considered it fun to include a few statistics and I did not want to forget a Many Thanks to... page for everyone that contributed to the book.

I did not interview the luthiers, but wrote a catchy story about their art. They have sponsored the festival convincingly with their guitars. So as a kind of thank you in this book a few passages about the luthiers of the first festival era, George Ziata, Friederieke Lindscheid, Roberto Pozzi and Sergey Samoilov.

The sponsors section is a kind of appreciation, a picture of their web sites with address and a one-liner about their activities.

The statistics provide a brief overview of the participants and their participation dates at the festivals. I made an overview for the artists, professionals/students and the amateurs. It is good to see that many participants return on the next festivals! Besides, I made a list of most-played competition pieces. It is interesting to notice shifting of trends in that matter.

Progress

In the first week of January 2016, I emailed all interviews in writing. Just waiting for response. Deadline was the first week of April. In the mail I had asked to respond before the first of March. That would give me a few weeks for translation and editing. Tight schedule, I had to admit.

Few people responded immediately, others submitted their interviews before the due date. Quite a lot, however, did not respond. Then things got stressful. I sent a reminder email to all that had not responded yet with a friendly request to make some time for the interview. It was pleasant to notice that most people responded still. Yet there were a few that did not react, so I endeavoured a third reminder.

Time was short, to be fair, the 1 March deadline was too tight to have the book ready as a concept before the 2016 festival at the end of April. The job became quite stressful and I became down-hearted about the result a few times. Unnecessary, of course, because the result was no point of concern, it was just the term of completion of the book.

In the end, everyone was cooperative, so I could translate and edit every interview at least in concept. Thanks to all for their commitment!

So, at the 2016 festival I had a sample book, although it had not passed its final editing phase.

Help

Writing the book, I got indispensable help. That pleased and encouraged me a lot, so I’ll mention it separately here.

Agnes Mika offered to edit my English translations. She has a lot of experience with scientific publications and made quite a few corrections on Dutchish-English. Agnes, thank you!

Annette Kruisbrink subjected the end result to a thorough final editing and corrected quite a number of inaccuracies in names. I know, special characters are no specialty of mine, while they appear often in foreign names. Annette, thank you!

My wife Erna provided me with the moral support to continue this project and finish it with an official publication under ISBN. I even started a publishing company for that purpose. In the progress I did experience a few heavy dips indeed, they made me doubt if the project would be successful. Erna helped me cheering up. My Dearest Love, thank you!

Publication

Very well, the book is ready, all editorial comments have been processed, all statistics are right and then the book has to be printed.

How to do such a thing? It was completely new for me. In the old days you submitted the book with a publisher, hoping for acceptance and publication. With this project, chances for this are low, because the potential audience for this work in numbers is too small. Five years of GFN had about 150 unique participants. With an optimistic estimation, I have a market for about 200 – 250 books. No publisher will be enthusiast with issues like this. Moreover, I do not want to lose my copyright of the festival reports on the DOS Amigos Homepage.

The solution is organizing the printing yourself. Printing on Demand. Make a complete print copy including cover and have it printed in small issue.

There are quite a lot of companies involved in Printing on Demand. I even inquired after these companies abroad, because a copy with photos yielded a book price that was pretty high. Finally, I landed with Pumbo.nl. The main advantages of this company for me were:

  • They showed their prices on the web site. Many companies do not enable you to calculate the exact price. Here you know what it costs in advance. Not the cheapest prices, but some of the following aspects make up for that.
  • They offer the option for try-out printing. I consider it important to see the end result before ordering a batch!
  • They provide different page formats. I was in doubt about the page format. I am used to A4, yet for a book this is too large. Finally, I landed with B5 as a compromise.
  • Handy tools for preparation and sizing of a book cover.
  • Personal assessment if a concept is print-ready. Handy for the last errors in formatting!
  • An on-line ordering service with Boekenbestellen.nl. Great! People may order the books at lower shipping cost that I would have to pay myself as a private person. Moreover, they do the packing, which is much better than I self would do it, and it saves me the hassle.

In the printing phase, my wife Erna encouraged me again. I am a bit frugal and did not see the necessity to invest in a stock of books. She is more relaxed for that matter, so now we have a little stock of books ready for delivery.

She also encouraged me to give the book an official status. An ISBN. Well, that requires some investment as well and even the establishment of a publishing company to obtain the publishers index for the ISBN. So now I am the proud owner of Mark’s Publishing. I have got room for more publications!

Anyway, I sent a copy to the Royal Dutch Library for registration.

Thus, an interesting yet stressful project came to an end. The book can be ordered with me (send an email for a quotation), or with Pumbo.nl. Ordering on-line is the most practical, following this link:

http://www.boekenbestellen.nl/boek/feast-on-six-strings/9789082667509.

Lots of fun reading!