Damla Aydin

Damla’s journey as a musician took an intensive start at a very young age. When she was ten years old, she enrolled fulltime at the ITU Turkish Music State Conservatory in Istanbul. There, she studied both Turkish and Western classical music for sixteen years. After graduating, she became a versatile music teacher and a musician in different orchestra’s and recording sessions. She has been living and developing her music projects in Belgium since 2017.

Photo credits: 𝗦𝗵𝗮𝗹𝗮𝗻 𝗔𝗹𝗵𝗮𝗺𝘄𝘆 (photo 1 and 4) & unknown

Do you remember your initial motivation to start a music education?

My brother is also a musician and he played an important role in my decision to start at the conservatory. He also directed me towards the cello as my instrument of choice. At the time, I was too young to realize that this would be a defining decision for me. A lot of my friends ended up quitting the conservatory because they didn’t like the instrument they started with. Luckily, my brother chose wisely for me so I was not one of them.

How do you look back at your time at the conservatory?

The conservatory where I was trained, is the only top one in Turkey that offers both Turkish and western classical music training. Looking back, I am very happy that both were a part of my education. It gave me a broader horizon as a musician and it also helped connecting with Belgian musicians after moving here.

Being a musician and teaching music require different skills and mindsets. How is the combination for you?

I remember how I had no interest at all in teaching when I was a teenager, I only wanted to play music. But later on I needed to find a job and reality kicked in (laughs). Now I like teaching just as much as playing, especially when my students are eager to learn, and they almost always are. In Turkey I mostly taught classical music, here in Belgium I primarily teach Turkish music. Either way, I love it when people have this learning curiosity towards music from different cultures.

In your courses, you often link different music styles from all over the world with each other. Is it difficult to overcome cultural differences among musicians?

For me, the differences are the most beautiful things. But it is true that some aspects, like Turkish rhythms and musical ornaments, can be quite tricky to get acquainted with as a Belgian musician, especially if they weren’t part of your education from the start. I always tell my students to listen, listen, listen. The key is in listening over and over again, and then repeating. And in the end, music is so universal, we always find a way to play together.

Improvisation is also a big part of your courses. How do you handle this, knowing improvising can be intimidating for a lot of student-musicians?

Improvising can be scary enough as such, but Ottoman-Turkish improvisation can be extra challenging. Above all, I want to avoid that my students get caught up in the theory by moving on to the practical part as quickly as possible. It is important that they realize that making mistakes is a part of improvising and that everybody is doing it. The less pressure they feel, the better they play. And my favorite part is when students surprise me! The very fact that they are less familiar with traditional Turkish improvisation, makes them come up with sentences I never would have expected. I love it when that happens.

Above all, I want to avoid that my students get caught up in the theory by moving on to the practical part as quickly as possible.

If you could teach any course, what would it look like?

It would definitely include a mix of the two sides I have as a musician myself: classical and Turkish music. I would love to work with an orchestra in which both traditional Turkish instruments and classical instruments are represented. Preferably with a big choir as well, allowing us to experiment with big arrangements using both classical, modern and traditional styles.

If you could share the stage (or the studio) with any musician, who would you pick?

Lots of names come to mind! For example the American jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding and the French-Lebanese jazz trumpeter and composer Ibrahim Maalouf, whom I both find very intriguing. When it comes to Turkish musicians, it’s impossible to name just one. Especially because every style has its own legendary musician. Please don’t make me choose (laughs).

Final question: what makes a course successful for you as a teacher?

I care much more about the overall experience than about the final results. If during a course that sensation arises that we really start to feel the music together, then I am a happy teacher. Add a few intercultural surprises among musicians and I couldn’t ask for more!

Want to know more after reading this interview?

Check Damla's instagram
Screenshot 2023 04 18 at 16 47 59
Written on Fri 9 December '22