By Maud Kuijpers
— Amsterdam University College’s (AUC) academic building represents the main study space for the university’s student body. Especially with finals around the corner, and in a period where concentration and silence are key, opinions about the grand piano, located in the building’s common room, differ.
In 2012, when AUC moved into its current building on Amsterdam Science Park, the university’s founding dean, Marijk van der Wende, decided that the building should accommodate a grand piano. Together with two piano-playing students, she chose the one that now decorates the common room close to the main entrance. “AUC has a grand piano, because it wants to offer a space where students and teachers can express themselves creatively, to offer a space to those special students who have talents in both domains (of arts and sciences)”, said van der Wende.
Jaap Boertje, housemaster of the academic building, thinks that Van der Wende bought the piano as a present. “[It is] a gift for the presentation of AUC. It’s not necessary for the classes, only occasionally for performances, I think it’s more of a statement, ‘look we have a grand piano’”, said Boertje.
Several students interpret the piano as one of AUC’s ways to present the university’s excellence. “The piano is more of an elitist attribute; the way it was placed elitist in the middle of the common room. It’s for the image of AUC”, said Sarah Salaymah, a second-year Social Science major. Vincent Franz, third-year Humanities major and frequent user of the piano, said, “they totally use it as a status symbol. They show off their great students.”
Opinions about the use of the piano itself are divided. Franz appreciates that there is an instrument at AUC, even though its location, given the publicity, is not ideal. Occasional user of the piano Dariya Beky, a second-year Social Science major, explained that she uses the piano in the common room to practice and to maintain her skills. According to Beky, the instrument spices up the dry atmosphere of the academic building. Juul Schoevers, a second-year Science major, agrees with Franz and Beky in appreciating the piano. However, she admitted that the instrument is sometimes played at inappropriate times. “Sometimes someone plays at very bad moments, during finals for example, which puts me in a really bad mood”, she said.
Salaymah believes that AUC’s piano might actually be doing more harm than good. “I think that more people get bothered by it, than that others enjoy it. I think maybe it should be gone, or put in another room, but then the whole idea which was behind it is also gone”, she said.
Both, Beky and Franz, said that they are careful about when to play the piano, in order to not disturb other students. Beky even keeps in mind what songs to play. “I’m very considerate. During the day I play very soft and nice songs that can be nice for studying and classes. I don’t play feisty and dynamic songs on the grand piano”, she said.
Boertje said that he has only a few times received complaints about piano players, but that when he asks the players to stop, they always immediately quit playing. He does not think that there should be any more rules regarding the piano, in addition to it remaining silent during class times. “I think an overkill on rules is unfortunate and even disturbing. There aren’t difficult students here. Also, it’s almost obvious that people don’t play the piano during finals.”
Photo Credits: Maud Kuijpers
Editor’s note: This news story is part of a collaboration between The Herring and AUC’s journalism course. The story was entirely reported, written, edited, and fact checked by members of the journalism course. Some material may have been altered by The Herring’s editors to fit its style guidelines.