In room four of the Webster University Thompson music building, Lian de Rijke sits at a piano. To her right is a small, dimly lit lamp, and to her left is a framed painting. Rijke is in her element in this room, 4,351 miles away from home.
Rijke is from Leiden, Netherlands. However, she didn’t transfer here from the Leiden Webster campus. She started college at the St. Louis campus for the music department, and she stayed for the love of her experience. She originally intended to only stay a semester in St. Louis, but this is her second full year at Webster. Rijke said she stayed because she fell in love with Webster and St. Louis.
“The music building is just amazing, everybody is so nice, I love all of my classes.” Rijke said. “They teach me exactly what I want to learn. I love Webster Groves. I love everything.”
Students get free tuition if they have a parent that works at the university, even if said student studies abroad. Rijke’s mother works at the Leiden campus in the Netherlands, so Rijke got free tuition abroad in St. Louis. Rijke said this was a big factor in her choice to study at the St. Louis Webster campus.
Rijke has been playing piano since she was nine years old. Back home, Rijke’s father is a jazz trumpet player. While growing up listening to artists like Miles Davis, and around her father’s music influence, Rijke was inspired by jazz music.
“When my mom and dad were together for 25 years, we performed for my mom,” Rijke said.
Rijke is now striving to be a jazz pianist like Bill Evans, her favorite jazz musician. Aside from jazz, classic rock bands like The Beatles also influence her taste in music.
The music department encourages students to study abroad in Vienna, Austria based on their well rounded music program. Vienna is the home of classical music, according to the Culture Trip. If Rijke studied in Vienna, she would get a broad education in classical piano. If Rijke traveled to study in Vienna, she would be a train ride away from home.
“I really wanna go to Vienna because it’s not super close, but close enough to where I can take the train home,” Rijke said. “It would just be nice to go home for a long weekend while studying there.”
In addition to classical music, Vienna also has music inspiration in other areas. Hunter Johnson, a choral music education major who is also Lian’s student advisor, said studying in Vienna would benefit Rijke’s education.
“There is a ridiculous amount of jazz in Vienna, it would be an opportunity for her to see music as a whole.” Johnson said.
Traveling is not something unfamiliar to Rijke. Growing up in Leiden, she and her parents frequently traveled around Europe on the train. Since all of the countries are so close together, traveling to somewhere like Spain or Italy just for the weekend is not uncommon.
Rijke believes travel should be more common in America.
“I find it really interesting that the summer is just working and staying at home in America, and my summers [in Europe] are just traveling. It’s really normal to work all year to travel over the summer.” Rijke said. “A lot of people around here are like ‘yeah, I never left Missouri’ and I say, ‘well, why not?’”
In high school, Rijke backpacked around Europe with six other friends. Despite this traveling, she doesn’t want to stop. She strives to take a gap year when she graduates Webster and then go to graduate school somewhere in Europe.
“In my gap year I still want to make music, of course,” Rijke said. “I just want to be in the Netherlands for a year, work a lot, make music and try and figure out what I want next because I’m 22 when I graduate and I’m not ready for, like, a real job when I’m 22.”
Even though she is an atheist, she plays piano at a church service every Sunday at the local Baptist church for $50 a week. She does it for the experience of performing in front of people.
“My roommate sings in a church and she asks me if I could play the piano for her,” Rijke said. “It’s kind of cute, I feel kind of comfortable because I had never been to a church service before.”
The Netherlands has nine music colleges the citizens call music conservatories. All conservatories cooperate with one another. Rijke is thinking about focusing her graduate education at home at one of these schools.
“The Netherlands is like half the size of New Jersey; it’s really tiny, but we have a lot of the music schools, and they’re pretty good,” Rijke said.
Rijke’s goal after all of her schooling is opening up her own jazz bar in New York.
“My dream job is to own a bar, work behind the bar as a bartender, and let people play jazz.” Rijke said. “I stayed there in New York for a month and I went to a jazz bar and it was so nice. This girl from Ukraine worked behind the counter, you can hear that she was European and I thought she was really cool. That’s my dream.”