‘Music brings people with dementia into the here and now’

Severiano Paoli is a versatile bass player and a musician at EMBRACE Nederland. As a player of early music he collaborates with various professional orchestras, such as famous singer Nathalie Stutzmann’s Baroque Ensemble. He also works with modern orchestras. Severiano graduated in his native Italy, came to the Netherlands in 2013 to do his Masters degree at the Prince Claus Conservatoire and decided to stay in Groningen. We spoke to him about life as a musician in the time of corona, his work for EMBRACE and his future in the Netherlands.

How did your life as a musician start?

Right from my youth I knew I wanted to become a musician. At one of my parents’ parties, when I was seven, I came across the guitar for the first time. About ten years later, in a theatre, I was introduced to the double bass. I thought it was a beautiful instrument, with its deep and dark sounds, and I started taking classes. I completed my conservatory education in Lucca, Italy, and I heard about the Prince Claus Conservatoire in Groningen through a teacher.

What does your work for EMBRACE Nederland mean to you?

At the Prince Claus Conservatoire I took the Master’s Module “Music and Healthcare” and I got to know Philip (Philip Curtis is Artistic Leader of EMBRACE Nederland, ed.) and through him heard about the work of EMBRACE. I have learned a lot, through EMBRACE, about what music does to people, especially vulnerable people. But I have also learned a lot about myself as a communicator. Music is a language. With music you can make connections and bring people with dementia into the here and now. This has a positive effect on their well-being.

What does your life look like as a musician during the corona crisis?

I am self-employed and work in various different companies. Now with this “partial lockdown” things have come to a standstill. But I’ll perform again as soon as possible. Within the limits of the corona regulations, of course. At the moment my income from music performances is a lot lower and the work for EMBRACE is also at a standstill. But I still have income from other things I do. I have published three scores with a Japanese publisher and I am also working as a consultant for a Korean musicologist on a book about the history of the double bass. I also sell and rent bows, both modern and historical, to students and to professional musicians through www.facebook.com/sevbows/

People can also follow tutorials via your YouTube channel. What are they about?

The purpose of my YouTube video tutorials is to help people with their personal development using their own instrument. The videos are essentially autobiographical: everything I share on them comes from my personal experience. It’s actually a kind of diary of my development as a musician. I started it because I noticed that many musicians don’t really think about why they do certain things. What do you look for in your instrument? How do you practice with your instrument? I want to make people inquisitive through my videos, to help them in their musical education.

 How do you see the future?

The future is definitely cloudy at the moment. We cannot yet predict what will happen over the coming months. I hope to continue my work as I did before the corona crisis. Up until last March it was going very well – I saw a rising curve in my work. I hope to be able to pick up that thread again and to face new challenges. I think the Netherlands is a great country and I would like to stay here. I am settled here, I feel at home and it is nice to work here. And most importantly: the government and tax authorities make it very easy for freelancers to arrange things. That is very different in other countries.

Here you can watch the video with a coronatip that Severiano made for Embrace Nederland.

Practical Expertise Centre EMBRACE Nederland
EMBRACE Nederland develops innovative music programmes and training courses aimed at giving vulnerable people a better life. We perform our music programmes with professional and amateur musicians, informal carers, care workers and students. Our professional musicians have followed the master module “Music and Healthcare” at the Prince Claus Conservatoire.