The Orchestra Campus music project at Bonn's Beethovenfest has been honored as one of Germany's best ideas. 365 innovators are named each year by a jury sponsored by the federal government and leading companies.
The initiative "Germany - Land of Ideas" awarded a distinction for innovative ideas to the Orchestra Campus, a joint project between Deutsche Welle and the Beethovenfest Bonn.
Each year, a youth orchestra from a new country takes part at the Orchestra Campus in Bonn. Musicians from Russia, Turkey, Vietnam and China have appeared to play a work by the city's most famous son, Ludwig van Beethoven, and surprise the audience with a contemporary composition that Deutsche Welle commissions from a composer from each orchestra's home country.
The young musicians often turn out to be audience favorites at the festival, as was the case in 2010 with the appearance of Sinfonica Heliopolis from Sao Paulo, an orchestra formed exclusively from residents of Brazil's slums known as favelas. In 2011, all eyes were on the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq as the Orchestra Campus guests performed their first concert abroad.
Joy and tolerance
What some of the young performers lack when it comes to technical finesse, they often make up for with their passion and love of playing. In Iraq, musicians may not feel comfortable talking openly about their appreciation for Western classical music, and some conservatives reject the idea of women playing music at all. The players from Brazil faced their own set of problems, as most favela residents could scarcely dream of affording their own instrument on which to practice.
The struggles the ensembles face on their way to Bonn lend a special atmosphere to each of the Orchestra Campus concerts.
The project reminds listeners that music is an international language. Cultural tensions and language barriers can be played down as Palestinians perform alongside Israelis, Muslims alongside Christians, and Kurds alongside Arabs. Openness, tolerance and cooperation are the ideas that inspired the project's organizers and helped make the program a success.
The first Orchestra Campus took place at the Bonn Beethovenfest in 2001. When asked what impressed them most, the young participants from across the world often note the experience of wandering through streets where Beethoven himself once walked. Some, however, say they are simply pleased to be in an environment where they can move about without worrying about violence, attacks or gunfire.
The Orchestra Campus is a chance for both visitors and festival organizers to look beyond their borders to other cultures. The young musicians live as guests of local Bonn families and have the chance to experience everyday life in Germany. Many families stay in contact with their guests well after the festival ends.
Vision is rewarded
The Orchestra Campus concept convinced the "Germany - Land of Ideas" jury. New ideas, creative passion and visionary thinking are the criteria that the panel seeks to reward. The initiative came about in 2006, sponsored by the federal government, leading companies and the Federation of German Industry.
"Germany - a land of ideas: In my view, it's about curiosity and experimentation. That means courage, creativity and an appreciation for new things, without excluding what said Horst Köhler, former German president and a patron of the project.
Of the 365 projects selected each year, an additional winner in several categories is selected by the government and by the public. In 2011, another Beethovenfest initiative won in the category for music. The winning program lets high school students put together and manage one of the Beethovenfest's concerts.
Author: Suzanne Cords / gsw
Editor: Rick Fulker