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Berkhout studied medicine at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, where he graduated in 1992. From 1992 until 2005, he worked as a doctor of orthopaedic medicine in Amsterdam (Kliniek Jan van Goyen Kade, Medisch Centrum Noord). From 1997 until 2000, he specialized to become a general practitioner. Since 2002, he has been working as a GP in Dordrecht, the Netherlands.
Clarinetist Berkhout was discovered in the 1980s by the pianist Pim Jacobs, who presented him on Dutch television as a soloist with The Metropole Orkest under Rogier van Otterloo, together with the clarinetist Eddie Daniels. Subsequently, Berkhout founded a successful quintet with the vibraphonist Frits Landesbergen called The Swingmates. In the early 1990s, Berkhout was chosen by the Schilperoort family as future leader of the Dutch Swing College Band, which was prevented by others after the death of Peter Schilperoort in 1990. As a result this wish of Schilperoort’s widow was never granted.
Despite the fact that Berkhout had won numerous awards such as the Edison Grammy Award, soloist award at the Jazzfetival Breda and the Peter Schilperoort Bandleaders Award, his musical activities dwindled in the 1990s, as he became more involved in medicine.
“Remarkable is Berkhout’s enormous drive. He becomes genuinely enthousiastic when other musicians play good solo’s and he lets himself be inspired to play clarinetsolo’s of a calibre that has not been heard since the days of Jan Morks. He is Holland’s best jazz clarinettist by far.” (Bert Brandsma, saxophonist in the Chris Barber Jazz Band, Doctor Jazz magazine 2012) 
Recent musical work
In 2004, Berkhout felt the ‘Zeitgeist’. He read a book by Lewis Erenberg called Swingin’ the Dream about the role of popular music in the Great Depression. He discovered that in the Swing era, like in the ‘Sixties’, a new culture had bonded with popular music. Moreover, he concluded "that jazz was never so popular and popular music was never so sophisticated" as in the 1930s. In 2006, Berkhout decided to start a long term project next to his work as a doctor. He chose the format of clarinet-soloist with a big band so successfully exploited by Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw in their days. Bernard Berkhout’s Swing Orchestra was born.
In the meantime, dancing has grown in popularity. The 1930s’ dance the Lindy Hop especially fits his music. In 2010, this sparked the idea to record a CD especially for dancing audiences, called Let’s Dance. In 2011, the band visited Great Britain and Denmark and in July of the same year the band was the top attraction at The Amsterdam Lindy Exchange, where dancers from all over the world gathered to dance to swing music.
Berkhout is preparing a musical show in which music from the swing-era is brought to the present day. Spoken word and music will combine to show the relevance of the American music from the Great Depression in today’s world.
Bernard Berkhout’s Swing Orchestra consists of Berkhout (clarinet); Léah Kline (voice); Erik van der Weijden, Hans Goemans, Wim Lammen and Bert Brandsma (saxophone); Nanouk Brassers, Bart Tuinman, Koos van der Hout (trumpet); Jack Koenen, Marcus Glas (trombone); Erik Doelman (piano); Erwin Beijersbergen (guitar); Frans Bouwmeester (bass); Dolf Helge (percussion).
- 1986 - Ode aan Benny Goodman, with the Pim Jacobs Trio
- 1987 - Fascinating Rhythm, The Swingmates (Edison Award)
- 1987 - Airmail Special, The Swingmates
- 1988 - Fascinating Rhythm
- 1990 - Pennies from Heaven, The Swingmates
- 1991 - You’d be so nice to come home to, Bernard Berkhout clarinet, Jeroen Koning guitar
- 1992 - Have you met miss Bell, The Swingmates with Madeline Bell
- 1993 - Have You Met Miss Bell?
- 1994 - Royal Flush, with Ian Cooper and Ian Date (Australia)
- 1994 - Das Sonnenzeichen Krebs
- 1995 - Jazz at the Philharmonic
- 2006 - 4beat6, “The music of Benny Goodman”
- 2006 - Roots, with the Rosenberg Trio
- 2010 - Let’s Dance, Bernard Berkhout’s Swing Orchestra
- "Jazz comes to town": Bernard Berkhout, 9 July 2011, at www.jazz-epe.nl (Retrieved 27 November 2012)
- "Inside the band: Bernard Berkhout." Doctor Jazz Magazine, issue 218, Autumn 2012