When Alida and Pieter Meijers first came to the United States from The Netherlands in 1968, they expected to stay only a year while Pieter completed his post-doctoral appointment at the Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. A year later, they were in Cairo, Egypt where Pieter taught a course in archeological chemistry at the American University. It was back to New York in 1970 where for the next decade, Pieter would work as a research chemist at the Brookhaven Lab and Metropolitan Museum of Art and organized a Dixieland jazz band, the Isotope Stompers.
Alida kept busy while Pieter was immersed in his work and in 1973, was approached by a friend who had just opened a travel agency, suggesting she might enjoy the travel field because of her extensive travel experience and proficiency in foreign languages. “I knew nothing about the travel industry, but agreed to give it a try for a week at no pay,” she recalled. “I loved it! Clients would come in to book a trip to Italy, for example, and were told ‘Alida has been to Italy. Why don’t you talk to her.’”
-First Jazz Tour in 1985-
She went on to work as a travel consultant at several offices and obtained her Certified Travel Consultant diploma (CTC) in 1984. The idea of combining travel and jazz was always in the back of her mind, so that year she took two bands – Nightblooming Jazzmen and Desert City 6 from Phoenix – to Holland for a concert tour with 80 fans joining them. The highlight of the trip was a festival at Eindoven called Jazzdagen (“Jazz Days” in Dutch), which became the name of her company. After that, Alia contacted Holland America Line which led to her first jazz cruise featuring Nightblooming Jazzmen and High Sierra in 1985.
She currently deals with several cruise lines, including Holland America, Crystal and Regent Seven Seas and also charters river boats. She will book an average of six cruises and tours a year, which she always accompanies with a staff member. She says she hires bands and musicians who have a following and “those who need to be heard – like Fat Babies from Chicago” and pays the musicians a per diem fee comparable to what they receive for a weekend festival (plus expenses). The musicians’ spouses can come along by paying for their airline tickets and a small surcharge. Saying she gets her satisfaction when everyone has a great time, she emphasizes that she has never had to cancel a cruise because of not meeting the contracted minimum reservations.
-Played the Guitar at 9-
Alida grew up in a small town near Amersfoort in Central Netherlands. She took up guitar at age nine and accompanied herself singing pop songs in different languages. Although she sang in several musical productions, she says, “I’ve always sung, but I’m not really a singer.” She met Pieter in 1962 during a College Spring Break and remembered how they would perform on the beach during the day hoping they would be hired by a local restaurant or bar in the evening. The couple were married in 1965.
She learned to play the rhythm guitar and tenor banjo, and for the next 25 years, played, sang and recorded with various bands, retiring as a performer in 1997 to devote more time to her growing business. The Meijers moved to Los Angeles in 1981 when Pieter was hired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as Senior Research Chemist and later Head of Conservation specializing in the nuclear study of works of art. He retired in 2000, but still has an office at the Museum. Both Meijers, who are avid opera fans, have played with the Nightblooming Jazzman, and since 1998, Pieter has been the leader of the High Sierra Jazz Band.
-Husband Pieter’s Background-
At age six, Pieter played in a concert band that his father conducted in the coastal community of Oostkapelle, and he did some conducting of classical orchestras himself in his mid 20’s. He identifies Jan Morks, a fellow countryman and clarinetist best known for his work with the Dutch Swing College Band, as his biggest jazz influence.
Academically, he has doctoral degrees in radiochemistry and nuclear physics from the University of Amsterdam. Always active in sports, he was a champion swimmer and played footbol (soccer) and tennis until he was 40 and as with most Weekend Warriors, is now dealing with back and knee issues.
His impressive resume shows he is the author or co-author of several book, has written scholarly articles for more than 50 publications, is a Fellow and past president of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and for five years was associate editor of Archaeometry, a publication that deals with the dating of materials and the relationship of the physical and biological sciences pertaining to archaeology and art history.
-JAZZDAGEN: Harmony over the Waves-
Having arranged more than 300 cruises and tours and circumnavigated the globe several times over with talented jazz musicians and enthusiastic jazz lovers over the past 32 years, Alida Meijers has had great success in promoting the idea that “Jazzdagen Tours harmonizes the love of music and the love of travel with such meticulous orchestration that those who have enjoyed one of their cruises or tours are unable to enjoy one without the other.”
Learn about pl;anned cruises at www.jazzdagen.com