PXL Music: a breeding ground for musical talent

Pictures by Geert Braekers & Thomas Sweertvaegher


In 2008, PXL University College in Limburg decided to found a rather special education: PXL Music, a professional academic bachelor which develops enthusiastic students to musicians, music technicians or music managers. Almost ten years later the school can submit an impressive resume, not only having taught the basics to talented artists and bands like Bazart, Brutus, Stavroz, Title, Warhola, WWWater and more, but also learning the ropes to people working behind the scene at renowned companies such as Ancienne Belgique, [PIAS], PRG, V2 Records and, yes, even Red Bull Elektropedia! Time to have explanatory chat with Gert Stinckens, head of the department. Prior to PXL-Music’s own festival, VUURDOOP, he was so kind to explain the dynamics and his masterplan behind PXL Music.

How would you describe PXL Music for people who don’t know the department yet?

"PXL Music is a three year professional bachelor in pop and rock music. This education is unique in Flanders and it meets the reality and future of our contemporary music industry. Students are being schooled to a musician (song writing, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and electronic music), a music technician (studio or live) or a music manager. After graduating, our students possess the necessary professional experience, have a hands-on mentality, aswel as creative, researching and enterprising. They are professionals who do not shy away from national borders, dare to go downhill and have the opportunity to explore new opportunities. In addition, they carry sufficient workmanship and entrepreneurship to form their own professional practice.

The bachelor not only provides the necessary competences to grow into an expert within their own discipline. During numerous fieldwork projects, the musicians learn to work with managers and technicians and vice versa. While working together, taking initiative, thinking creatively, inventing themselves, looking for new opportunities and developments in the international music sector, they learn the basis of each other's professional practice. Pop and rock music in all its aspects and more is the base of the bachelor."

How did PXL Music come about?

"The idea first emerged around 2005. Long conversations with professionals from the field of work, contacts with organizations such as Poppunt, Pukkelpop, Muziekodroom PXL University College and research on existing courses abroad taught us one thing: High time for a pop and rock education in Flanders. Starting from zero and backed by the music sector, PXL Music started in 2008, almost 10 years ago."

Which specializations get the most entries?

"Our students come from everywhere in Flanders and in recent years we also see some Dutch neighbors who enroll. We receive the most registrations for the specialization music, but lately the managers and technicians have been catching up. In order to achieve an optimal and powerful learning environment and to give our graduates the necessary guarantees for opportunities within the sector, we limit the number of registrations. We are a small academy with high quality and personal attention, but with all the facilities of the PXL college. ‘The Best of Both Worlds’, to say it with a Robert Palmer song."

With alumni who are part of Warhola, Bazart, WWWater, Double Veterans and Brutus, success stories continue to emerge. Do you feel that the education is more on point than in the past?

"Of course, we keep on growing as an education, both in terms of content as in coaching of our students. Even for us, education is a continuous learning process. But it is no coincidence that in recent years quite some success stories were formed within our walls. We’re extremely proud of the examples that are cited, but the list is much more extensive and contains countless success stories that are not featured in the media, but do have an impact on the field of work. Perhaps, it is the success of our tap water that comes directly from the Demer river. Research has shown that the Demer is a reservoir of the body fluids that are divorced annually by tens of thousands of music lovers from Pukkelpop in Kiewit."

As the head of department, which stories are you most proud of?

"I’m proud of all our students. Whether they are touring with a band in Europe, composing music for a theatre company, booking bands in Ancienne Belgique, traveling around the world with a PA firm or devoting their talents to the musical accompaniment of children following special education. As long as they follow their heart."

On Friday, May 12, PXL Music will be presenting the VUURDOOP festival. What should we know about this?

"VUURDOOP is a multidisciplinary festival that will take place on Friday, May 12. The senior students will summarize their three years of intensive education in their own thesis. It will be the first time they will carry out their music. This year the lineup features thirteen fresh PXL Music acts with two extra headliners: The Guru Guru and Dvkes. They both return to where it all began. ‘The heroes in the shadow’ are the second-year students Music Management. They carry the full production, communication, animation, catering, drinking facilities, programming, ... In short: they organize the festival from A to Z. This in collaboration with our sound engineers, who make the bands shine sonically and who will record the whole happening."

Music cannot always be approached scientifically and the music industry keeps evolving. How do you keep the bachelor up to date?

"We’re very lucky to have a team of lecturers who are also active in the industry and thus are aware of what’s going on. We combine this with a lot of guest lectures with national and international heroes and by benchmarking with foreign courses. Our alumni are also invited to host guest lectures. They link the reality of the field of work back to the student's perspective. And, of course, our students are a special gauge, they are often aware of the latest developments in our sector."

What objectives would you like to achieve with PXL-Music in the near future?

"I see PXL Music becoming a cradle of pop music in Europe. We want more creativity, more inventiveness and more 'swagger' to give the industry the kick it needs sometimes. In recent years, we’ve also increasingly been involved in international exchanges with organizations and other courses concerning internships, studies, but also research. Currently we’re starting two special research projects: a data science project in collaboration with Ancienne Belgique and the development of a new form of music education for primary and secondary education. We like to call it ‘Music Education 3.0’, where we strive for an integration of music and technology. The nice thing is that we’re always involving our students."

Discover this year's drop of PXL Music talents at VUURDOOP (free entrance), this Friday, May 12, in Hasselt. Want some more information on PXL Music? Head over to their website.