A life filled with music is a life filled with sharing, collaborating, creating and inspiring next generations. It gives me tremendous joy being able to share the stage with a variety of musicians from so many different backgrounds, such as classical music, jazz, early music, or even folk- and rock music. Whether it is working with composers to bring their music to life, creating workshops for amateur musicians or children, organising concerts at unexpected places or far away regions: I embrace the fact that every week seems to be completely different, and every event fills me with inspiration and new ideas.
Born in the Netherlands, Niels Bijl looks back on a vibrant and extremely successful career in Europe, and, since January 2020, embraces a new and exciting life as a performing artist, chamber musician, collaborator, project organiser and lecturer in Victoria, Australia.
Born in the east of the Netherlands (Haaksbergen) in 1971, Niels completed his Bachelor degree with the eminent saxophonist Arno Bornkamp, and his Master degree with Johan van der Linden; two degrees for which both exams were rewarded with major performance awards. Niels concluded his education with a full scholarship for a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada.
Niels has regularly performed with all symphony orchestras in the Netherlands, including the world famous Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic and Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, giving him an opportunity to work with legendary conductors like Lorin Maazel, Riccardo Chailly, Markus Stenz, Jaap van Zweden and Mariss Jansons. He has also actively participated in numerous projects (concerts, CD recordings) on period instruments with Brugge-based orchestra Anima Eterna (Belgium). One of Niels’ orchestra highlights includes his participation in the World Orchestra for Peace, on personal invitation from their chief conductor Valeri Gergiev.
Almost immediately after graduation Niels became a member of the world renowned Aurelia Saxophone Quartet, one of the world’s leading saxophone quartets. With this quartet he recorded several CD’s, including a recording of Johan Sebastian Bach’s entire Art of Fugue, for which the ensemble was awarded a nomination for the Dutch Emmy (Edison award). Other recording projects are two major CDs promoting the versatility of the Tenor Saxophone (Chant du Saxophone Ténor, Mozaik), a duo recording with Recorder with his dearest friend Ronald Moelker (Confluence) and a saxophone duo CD with one of Australia’s most outstanding saxophonists, Jay Byrnes (South, Recorded at Four Winds, Bermagui). Both as a soloist and a member of his quartet, Niels has toured the world for the last 20 years, giving concerts and masterclasses on pretty much every continent, including in Tokyo, Paris (Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris and the Royal Opera de Versailles), New York, Manchester (Royal Northern College of Music), Evanston (Northwestern University) and São Paulo.
Next to his career as a performing artist it has always been of great importance to Niels to create performing opportunities, both for fellow artists and for audiences that don’t immediately have access to high level chamber music. He has instigated concert series in combination with culinary evenings, was programmer for the Chamber Music Series in his hometown in the Netherlands and was producer for Daniel Rowland’s International Stift Chamber Music Festival.
Niels has been a regular visitor in the Australian arts scene since 2000, with performances and masterclasses in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne as well as a collaboration with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Music New Zealand. Since early 2020 Niels has resided in Victoria, and has started numerous projects with performing artists and composers as well as educational institutes. He has been a lecturer at Melbourne Uni (VCA), a visiting artist at Monash (Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music), has a duo with harpist Emily Granger and pianist Georgina Lewis and is a founding member of the Clinch Quartet, a brand new chamber music ensemble instigated by Lachlan Davidson, and completed by Victorian’s finest saxophonists Martin Hemingway and Sara Ann Beale. Niels has also started the Baritone Institute Australia, a collective for all of Australia’s baritone saxophonists, with a program that is currently touring Country Victoria offering a series of coaching and masterclasses.
For Niels it’s all about the music, in all forms. The versatility of his instrument, the saxophone, and an unending amount of positive energy enables him to bring music to life, and he will do his utmost to contribute to an already lively and inspiring Australian arts scene.