After finishing high school, I had to decide about my future. Was it going to be psychology or music, as a singer? Either option seemed to have its own benefits. Little did I know that I would end up doing both, but at the time it felt like a big decision. Psychology sounded tempting for many reasons, but right then I decided for the adventure of music; that would form the core of my professional career. At least, that’s how it started.

Opera – life as a bass

The decision being made, I auditioned for the voice department at Maastricht Conservatory (Netherlands). I was accepted, and studied with the Dutch bass Lieuwe Visser. Already during my studies, I got the chance to sing in the chorus for several productions of Opera Zuid, the local opera company. I also made my professional debut as a soloist there, in l’amour des trois Oranges (Prokofiev), after which I was invited to sing several parts in other productions, for example Madama Butterfly (Puccini) and I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo).

But not giving up on my academic development entirely, and after graduating from conservatory, I also pursued a Master’s Degree in Arts and Sciences at Maastricht University. This was an interdisciplinary program where a lot of attention was given to philosophy, history, sociology, and the social construction of technology. Here the foundation for much of my later thinking in psychology was laid.

Later, I got the opportunity to continue my vocal education at Temple University in Philadelphia, USA, where I finished a Master’s Degree in Opera Performance and secured a Certificate of Professional Studies. For Temple Opera Theater, I performed the roles of Dr. Bartolo in le nozze di Figaro (Mozart), Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor (Nicolai), Pan in la Calisto (Cavalli), Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Britten), and Leporello in Don Giovanni (Mozart). I also helped build the sets, and even called a rather complicated show as stage manager (Candide, Bernstein).

I made my professional American debut as Kezal in The Bartered Bride (Smetana) with the Mozart and Friends Opera Festival, followed by an appearance as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni (Mozart) for the Philadelphia Opera Theater. As a young artist, I subsequently traveled to Natchez, Mississippi, to perform the roles of Marquis D’Obigny in la Traviata (Verdi) and the Innkeeper in Man of la Mancha (Leigh/Darion) for the Natchez Opera Festival, followed by appearances in the Des Moines Metro Opera Festival as Nicholas in Vanessa (Barber), again the Marquis in la Traviata (Verdi) , and Simone (cover) in Gianni Schicchi (Puccini). I also spent a year in residence at the Austin Lyric Opera in Austin, Texas, where I appeared as the Doctor in A Streetcar named Desire (Previn), and the triple role of Billy, Larkens, and Jose Castro in la fanciulla del West (Puccini). I finished the season there in one of my favorite roles as Sparafucile in Rigoletto (Verdi).

Back in Europe, I was part of the world premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Perelà, Uomo di fumo at the Opera National de Paris (Bastille). In Paris I had been in the cover cast, but in Montpellier, France, I got to sing the roles on stage (Le Philosophe Pilone, and Premier Garde). A recording of this performance is available on the French Naïve label [see]. In the Netherlands, I sang the role of Trudulyubov in another world premiere, Wet Snow by Jan van der Putte at the Nationale Reisopera. Equally in Holland, I was part of Opera Zuid’s Jubilee production of Prokofiev’s The Gambler, and performed the role of the Mongolian Soldier in Judith Weir’s A Night at the Chinese Opera at the Poortersfestival in Amersfoort. Furthermore, I participated in the experimental production Dump by Arnoud Noordegraaf and Luuk Vierhout in Theater aan de Werf in Utrecht.

This was followed by a new opera by Micha Hamel (Snow White) for the Nationale Reisopera, where I sang the role of Hubert; indeed one of the seven dwarfs, and this was the craziest but most fun of all productions I have ever participated in. Another new production was Jimmy (Top) in the Dutch Chamber Opera Festival in Zwolle. Back at Opera Zuid I sang one of the sailors in the Tale of Tsar Saltan (Rimsky-Korsakov).


Niels van DoesumAt some point in my career, I realized that I had not left my latent interest in human psychology at all. I had only molded this fascination into practice on stage as a singer/performer. Far from being a method actor, I have always had the feeling that my best performances happened when the character felt real to me, and my portrayal genuine and honest. No fancy acting tricks. Then why not expand my intuitive research, that formed the core of the characters I got to portray anyway, to a more scientifically based research? This would combine the best of my two worlds. However, If I was going to do this, it had to be done right. I therefore decided to pursue yet another degree, a Research Master in Social Psychology, which eventually would give me access to a PhD-position and the desired research opportunities.

I applied and got accepted at VU University Amsterdam. For my research projects, I got to work with Prof. dr. Paul van Lange, who introduced me to the concept of social mindfulness [explain]. From the very beginning this was a fascinating topic close to my heart. The new paradigm we developed delivered good results, and writing my thesis turned out to be fun and rewarding. I graduated cum laude from the Research Master. And as I had hoped for, I could continue our project as a PhD-student at VU University. Our first publications are already out [publications], and many other projects are running and/or waiting to be finished. I successfully defended my dissertation in September 2016, and now proudly carry the title Doctor of Philosophy. I currently work as Assistant Professor in Social and Organizational Psychology at Leiden University, the Netherlands.