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In the spotlight: Alumni Julia Warren

17 April 2024

We caught up with Julia Warren, alumni of the Master's in Jazz Saxophone, who chose to stay in Maastricht after completing her 2-year studies. Originally from Montréal, Canada, Julia has called Maastricht home for nearly 4 years. She is a saxophonist, but also a proficient music producer and composer, crafting music inspired by her artistic research and explorations in sound and space. We dive deeper into Julia's journey and musical explorations below.

Why did you choose to study at Conservatorium Maastricht?
Classic question for any international student: How did you end up in Maastricht? I originally wanted to come to Western Europe after attending a Dick Oatts masterclass when I was 16 - he said this is the only part of the world where you can play saxophone and afford to raise a family. I chose to study at Conservatorium Maastricht, because somebody who studied here 10 years ago told me I would resonate with it. I kept this in my mind, and also met a peer from this school's Jazz Master's Degree while attending an improvisation workshop in Brooklyn, NYC. I always joke that all roads lead to Maastricht. During the pandemic, I lost all of my work as a full-time musician in Canada and took the risk to embrace the change and continue studying. This is ultimately what led me to take the plunge and come to Maastricht.
I studied in the Jazz Master's department. Enthused by the mix of performance and research the degree offered, I found that I resonated with a lot of the creative musicians on faculty. My two most "trusted advisors" were Reiner Witzel (lecturer saxophone), and Jesse Passenier as my research coach. Both in their own way, gave me a lot of respect and trust in my skill and work ethic, but also offered much support as I came to them with the more difficult questions.

How were you prepared for professional musicianship during your time at Conservatorium Maastricht?
The teachers at this school also have great careers outside the classroom. I always think this makes a big difference to any student wishing to enter the professional realm of music making - teachers who can offer real life advice, opportunities, etc. The open mindedness of the school allows one to pursue their own particular musical interests, but because of the research oriented nature of the Master's degree, it requires that students dive quite deep into their interest. I believe this is a great means to make certain there is a disciplined study at hand, but without the necessity of a prescribed repertoire. This is especially important for a graduate degree.
If you choose to follow masterclasses from various artists, you will be exposed to many different schools of sound and thought. Combined with the transnational location of Maastricht, there is a lot of opportunity to travel and check out the neighbouring jazz scenes, be it in the Netherlands, Germany or Belgium.
I think it is up to the student, to take advantage of everything Maastricht has to offer, no one hands you a successful music career on a silver platter. If you are curious and motivated, Conservatorium Maastricht and venue are an excellent playground to test, discover and create new music.

What steps did you take after graduating?
Well, I did work as a fietskoerier (bicycle messenger) for a year while building up my network. I think any musician has to be humble enough to make sure the bills are paid, while they set the bigger plans in motion. Fortunately, I now supplement my income with steady work teaching. Maastricht is known for its ‘fanfare’ and ‘harmonie’ (brass- and wind band) culture, so there is no shortage of saxophone students!
I am often collaborating in different projects, especially with those I met while doing my studies. The students in this programme are quite international, so it creates a much larger network than the immediate Benelux-Euregio. I am also in the midst of a research-based project that combines the local Gregorian Chants with data derived from the Limestone of the region, the habitat of the ancient Mosasaurus.

What are the main inspirations for the music you make?
I come from a creative music tradition which is influenced by both traditional swing and free Black American Music, especially those of the movements emanating from Chicago's AACM. This approach is rooted in the impetus for creative acts as the foundation, but also requires one to experiment, act in community, and use whatever musical tools are available in addition to the mastery of one's main instrument. This has led me to lots of research projects, laptop production, flutes, singing, etc. Having the opportunity to study the ideals of the AACM's more thoroughly during my Master's also made me more confident to present myself in this regard.
Making music in this fashion led me to my current status as an Artist in Residence at Intro in Situ. They are an experimental music foundation based in Maastricht. Their support of my work has allowed me to infuse funds into my vision and make it more broad and ambitious. Last year, we produced a stage spectacle using my many talented friends in many performance mediums from dance to tuba. This year, we are working on a full length album, alongside the new research project. I hope for this to be a huge stepping stone towards further professionalism in my career!

We would like to express our appreciation to Julia and are grateful that she was willing to share her journey and experiences with us. If you would like to know more about her or are curious about her music, visit her website at: We wish her all the best for the future and look forward to hearing more from her in the future.

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