Léonie Sonning Talent Prize 2021

“It is much more important who is the music teacher in Kisvarda than who is the director of the opera house in Budapest. A poor director fails once, but a poor teacher risks killing the love of music in 30 generations of children.” Something along those lines was expressed by the Hungarian composer and music teacher Zoltán Kodály. And even though spoken many years ago, these wise words are still applicable and have been adopted by his young Danish colleague Asbjørn.

There are lots of people out there to teach those who choose music, but it takes something extra to be the one who can ignite a spark in them. Asbjørn has decided he wants to be the kind of music teacher who understands those children who have not been presented with the versatile and amazing world of music from home and is able to ignite that spark in them.

Because that is the kind of teacher he had as a child. At the school he went to in Sunds north of Herning they would sing each morning, accompanied by the school’s music teacher on guitar. These mornings made a great impression on Asbjørn, and at the age of 10, out of pure curiosity he found his mother’s old music book for children and taught himself to play simple chords on a toy guitar.

From rock guitar to Bach guitar

After taking lessons for a while he was allowed to accompany the others on guitar when they would sing at morning assembly. It was a challenge for the otherwise rather shy boy to stand up in front of his schoolmates, but it also gave him self-confidence. In youth school he joined a band, and his interest in idols like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Dizzy Mizz Lizzy grew together with his dream of becoming a rock star.

In upper secondary school Asbjørn discovered jazz and with it a more intellectual approach to music. He read somewhere that Charlie Parker loved Bach because his music contains many technical and harmonic similarities to jazz and improvisational music. Asbjørn then started learning Bach’s cello as well as violin sonatas – on guitar. As an added bonus, he got better at reading sheet music.

When Asbjørn left home, he moved all the way to Copenhagen where his band would stand the test. However, the band never really took off, and at an open house event at the Royal Danish Academy of Music Asbjørn decided to apply to study to be a music teacher, with the guitar as his main instrument.

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