The European classical music scene is twofold: on the one side, well known and established large orchestra are able to create, market and manage large events attracting relevant numbers of diversified attenders (often performed in unconventional and suggestive locations and/or framed in major events).
On the other side small orchestras scattered throughout the continent, which, despite their relevance for the cultural development of their communities and for their precious role to honoring and continuing European treasured musical traditions, are not able to propose a competitive cultural offer. As a matter of fact, large music institutions propose models of cultural fruition (big events, new productions, big names, merchandising and marketing) that, while being unsustainable for small orchestras, absorb most of the audience.
This situation apply, to some extent, also to Bosnian orchestras despite their symbolic value and role during the war. It is to mention, for example, the Sarajevo Philharmonic which continued to play on during the nearly four-year-long siege, from 1992 to 1996, as snipers and shells terrorized the population, becoming a symbol of the city’s determination and bravery.
Today, however, the challenges facing Bosnian orchestras are similar with those facing other small classical music institutions around Europe. In Bosnia, as in other post-Communist countries, the massive state infrastructure that once supported classical music education and performance institutions has diminished or disappeared. Now the challenges is to stay financially afloat and building new audiences in an era of limited state support for classical music.
Those not attending classical music concert (most of them young) do so as they feel this art too demanding and unrelated, attendance to classical music concert is limited to special occasion (e.g. Christmas) and many non attenders do not even consider classical music concert in their palette of options for evening entertainment.
The current audience (typically over 50) has quite conservative tastes and this drive small orchestra to propose a rather traditional repertoire which do not appeal new audience. Moreover, squeezed resources limit their capability to experiment new form of communications and promotion which could reach a wider audience.
There are however some positive experiences in reaching a younger and broader audience through new budget-free activities and/or an innovative repertoire that dispelling the myth that classical music performances are old-fashioned and only devoted to an aging and declining audience.
It is to mention, for example, the budget-free casual concerts (flash-mobs) organized by OCAL in various location (central market, cinema, university canteen, outside pubs and so on) which have proved to be very successful in reaching new and younger audience.
Similarly, the Association “Bruno Maderna” combined classical music with Italian, European and US folk music through the Italian singer and song-writer Vinicio Capossela, and complemented it with appealing side events raising awareness on Italian migration during at the beginning of the 20th century.
While the Spanish orchestra have provided enjoyable and engaging concert experience seeking to develop audience through relational strategies – free concerts in community locations to introduce the local orchestra to its (young) public, Italians have staked on the emotions that arise from common individual and collective stories of migrations. In both cases attenders have felt connected and committed to their orchestra.
These 2 experiences have generally increased not only the number of single tickets but also the number of subscription to the whole concert season 2014-2015, in particular of younger concert-goers. A brief analysis of hall attendance and subscribers’ data carried out by the MADERNA and OCAL shows a general increase of single tickets by 20% and, most important, an increase of subscriptions among young (18-30yrs) of about 15%. The latter is a great success as usually the percentage of younger concert-goers buying subscription is rather low.
These experience suggest new ways to revamp the appeal of classical music but they have never been properly embedded in a methodology aimed at developing audience. They remained, instead, rather occasional. With this project we wish to adopt a replicable approach which fully exploit the potential offered by combining classical music performances with a broader cultural proposals dealing with topic relevant to target audience. This will change the perception of classical music in young people in college age as a niche, old-fashioned art.
With this regards all involved orchestras play a pivotal role in affecting this demographics of attendance: MADERNA have extensive relations with the “Liceo Musicale Angelo Masini” in Forlì and the State Conservatory of Cesena, OCAL has a Youth Orchestra while URBAN is composed by members well below 30. They are therefore well equipped in becoming ambassadors of this project towards a younger audience.
> Euterpe: the muse of Music
MADERNA and OCAL have in recent years established fruitful relationships with various orchestras in different countries. Among these, it is to mention the closeness with the Damascus Orchestra and its Director, Mr. Missak Baghboudarian.
Since the outbreak of war in Syria the orchestras (taken as the whole i.e. musicians, managing staff, conductors) and member of the association participating to the project have shown a great empathy towards their colleagues and shared a strong emotional involvement with Syrian refugees. Therefore, it was not surprising to see, while discussing about the opportunity to submit the present project, a firm will to become authors of a cultural action also addressing the situation of Syrian.
Partners contacted Mr. Baghboudarian during project preparation, he has accepted to provide his artistic support to the present project proposal. He will guarantee the artistic value of the proposal together with the other professional artists involved. With his help we have established a connection with the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra (SEPO), the first Symphony Orchestra for the Syrian professional and academic musicians who live in European Union countries or in diaspora, also known as the ”Syrian Exile Orchestra”.
SEPO has been founded in 2015 in Germany, it mix classical European and Arabic music with Arabic folk music. Its members are all classically-trained, most of them at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus. Many are settled in Germany where they use to held their performances (Bremen, Berlin, Stuttgart). Its aim is to offer the public a better understand of Syrian music and culture while hoping to reverse the image of their war-torn country.
Describing the value of such an orchestra would require much more than a few lines. His founder Raed Jazbeh describes the orchestra as an “orchestra of exiles” and, indeed, flight and exile often characterize the atmosphere of its program. Some of the musicians have already performed together in their home country, at the Academy of Music in Damascus, until civil war led them to a forced exile in Europe. Many have received its instrument as a gift by German musicians or music lovers or students, as they could not bring their instrument when they fled away via Turkey, the Mediterranean Sea, Serbia and Hungary to finally reach Germany.
SEPO have enthusiastically accepted to support the project and will participate with its musicians to the transnational orchestra (ACT.5) along with two soloist of the Damascus Orchestra who used to work with Mr Baghboudarian and are now seeking refuge in Germany and France. These artist, together with representatives of the EU orchestras will co-produce the co-create a debut work in the 3 participating countries.
Following Euterpe the greek Muse of music, daughters of Mnemosyne, fathered by Zeus and called the “Giver of delight”, who have inspired musicians throughout the centuries, we have been encouraged by these unimaginable combinations to realize this project idea.
b. Killing two birds with one stone
This unique opportunity of great symbolic value and the strong empathy shown in EU participating orchestras and associations towards Syrian musicians and colleagues have led us to the preparation of a substantial cultural proposal that will positively affect the weakness of small orchestras while raising awareness on the refugee issue by means of classical music. The project:
– promotes transnational co-creation and circulation of musical works, while increasing the repertoire of the European classical music heritage;
– represents a moment of co-creation and co-production among EU artists, and between EU artist and refugee artist or in diaspora aiming at strengthening intercultural dialogue through music;
– represent a human and professional journey which open the way to experiment new ways to engage with audience, change the perception of classical music and to be adapted and replicate by small orchestras throughout Europe.
While the project primarily addresses artistic and musical co-creation and wishes to revamp the interest in classical music (especially in youngster), the peculiar composition of the partnership and its connections has clearly offered the opportunity to reflect together on the refugee crisis in Europe.
The topic of refugees is pertinent to EU participating countries as their citizens are concerned that the influx of refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism and impose a burden on their countries. In EU country this negative view of refugees is tied to negative views about muslims. As a consequence many of them do not see this growing diversity as making their country better and believe that the European Union is doing a poor job of handling the refugee crisis (around 53% of the population in Italy share this opinion, slightly less in the ES and DE).
As for BiH the public opinion seems divided. On the one side, some citizens share to a certain extent this view insofar their country, being the cross road of the so-called “Balkan Route”, risks to see their already damned finances absorbed by thousands of refugees got stucked in their country while seeking respite in an unwelcoming Europe. On the other side some suggest that BiH might be able to absorb significant numbers of Syrian refugees due to the shared history with Syria, an high percentage of citizens of muslim religion, a very recent experience of war that might make many residents sympathetic to Syria’s plight. By offering to host Syrian refugees (with the right mix of assistance in return) BiH could help solve a problem currently bedeviling the West, undermining European integration and fueling right-wing xenophobia while strengthening its own case for European Union membership.
Considering the above, we recognize that this proposal might have been realised through a wider partnership. Nonetheless, during project preparation, despite the great empathy and support, we have perceived some hesitations in dealing with such an emotional and burning issue.
This is absolutely understandable and justifiable: the resources available for small orchestras do not allow enough room to take the risks potentially deriving from innovative projects: many of our European colleagues, while validating the value of our idea, generally stated that their communities were probably not the right audience for such a proposal (dealing with refugees).
We nevertheless believe that the model we propose is relevant to innovate the cultural offer of small orchestra. The limited number of partners will not affect the artistic quality of the results, which will be ensured by the Conduction of Mr Baghboudarian, the seletion of 3 professional composers, the talent of the involved musicians and the collaboration of experienced orchestras.
We will demonstrate, EU-wide, that the model we propose is relevant to innovate the cultural offer of small orchestra. And we will also demonstrate that European audience is ready and open to face this challenge!
– Promote transnational circulation of new musical work co-created by EU and refugee artists.
– Promote new ways to engage with audience and change the perception of classical music.
– Raise awareness on the refugee crisis in Europe and foster intercultural dialogue.