Jef (Jozef) Schampaert was bottle-fed on music, his father being a sexton-organist and conductor of several musical societies from the vicinity of Puurs. Already as a child young Jef manifested his talent for music. For example he built himself a little violin out of a rough piece of wood with a single string strung on it. His father taught him his first solfège lessons, while with Jef De Nil in Puurs he learned to play the violin. At age eleven he wrote his first 'composition': a short piece for piano.
Later he studied at the Conservatory in Brussels with teachers such as Richard Kips, Raymond Moulaert and Louis De Bondt. The outbreak of the First World War forced him to interrupt his studies, as the connection between Kalfort and Brussels became impossible. After the war he went to the Conservatory of Antwerp, where he followed harmony with Lodewijk Ontrop and August De Boeck, organ with Arthur De Hovre, counterpoint and fugue with Lodewijk Mortelmans and art history with Arthur Cornette.
With his Scherzo voor vier violen (Scherzo for four Violins) Schampaert in 1924 obtained the Albert de Vleeshouwer prize for composition. Yet he showed his strongest side mainly in his symphonic works. During some private tuition Flor Alpaerts had imparted to him the secrets of orchestration and composition and he was also the one who conducted Schampaert's work. On 6 February 1929 the première of his Tragisch-komische-fantaisie took place in the festive hall of the Zoo under the baton of Alpaerts, later performances including his Horizonten (Horizons), Rhythmendans (Rhythmical Dances) and Sotterniën (Farces).
His work wasn't restricted to the symphonic genre, however, Schampaert actually practised just about all genres and styles. In addition to twenty-nine orchestral works his oeuvre also comprises nineteen compositions for small ensemble, twenty-one solo works, an opera, nine choral works, twenty-nine compositions for accompanied soloists (mostly tenor), a children's cantata, a children's ballet and a suite of eight children's songs on texts by Tine Rabhooy.
In 1929 Schampaert was co-founder of the Municipal Music School in Willebroek, where he was appointed as director-teacher. In this capacity he wrote his Kleine Harmonieleer (Concise Theory of Harmony), a brief pedagogical work that used to be quite a widespread companion guide in music academies. In 1942 he became teacher of harmony at the Royal Flemish Conservatory of Antwerp.
© Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek - Adeline Boeckaert (translation: Jo Sneppe)