Lierin Buelens: Here’s to the Greenhorn. A pedagogical study into the image problems of "HaFa" amateur bands and the role of adult novices

Doctoral Project

Lierin Buelens, PhD in the Arts

Dutch harmony and fanfare bands have long been important players in the amateur musical landscape of Flanders and its environs. In other words, they have a pioneering role in musically engaging a diverse audience, a pioneering role they have often been unable to fulfil in recent decades. There seems to be a general consensus, both in literature and in practice, that this is due to an image problem. Indeed, in the public eye, orchestras are often reduced to old-fashioned groups that play hoempa-style music and march down the street in outdated costumes. As a result, they are faced with a noticeable drop in membership numbers, which, in the long run, causes problematic membership shortages and threatens the continued existence of this important piece of cultural heritage.

In response to this problem, a powerful initiative has emerged across the board: Youth work. In particular, it seems to have become an obvious trend that actions taken for the sake of membership recruitment and image problems are aimed at young people, both in the literature and in practice. While these actions can of course only be applauded, they do create an imbalance in relation to adults. And while it cannot be said that wind bands are blind to novice adult amateurs, their attempts to reach adult non-musicians are small in comparison to the flood of initiatives to attract young people. Moreover, they are not sufficient to appeal to a broad, diverse target group. Additionally, among adults there seems to be a predominantly perceived inaccessibility to HaFa orchestras. Eliminating this intuition could therefore also be a valid answer, besides the youth work, to the membership shortage and the broader image problem the sector is facing.

This public pedagogical research will therefore focus on the place of this marginalized target group within the pedagogical activities of 'HaFa' wind bands. The central objectives are, on the one hand, to map out the issue and the role of adult amateurs therein and, on the other hand, to design a specific practice in which this is concretely dealt with. As such, the project will offer the field practical support and, above all, aims to serve as a source of innovative inspiration.

  • Supervisor: dr. Thomas De Baets (supervisor, KU Leuven/LUCA)
  • Co-supervisor: Joris Vlieghe (KU Leuven)

Research unit: Music & Drama

Duration: 2022 - 2026