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A woman wearing Indian clothes dances onstage in front of a group of musicians
India was the guest country in the 2018 Campus-ProjectImage: Meike Böschemeyer

Campus-Project: 20 years of global music making

August 26, 2021

Ukraine, Mexico, India, Brazil, South Africa are all past participants at the Beethovenfest and DW's Campus-Project. Each project was unique.


At first glance the group seems quite disparate: The Mexican conductor Alondra de la Parra's career spans the globe, and she has become a cultural ambassador for her homeland. Her colleague, the Ukrainian Oksana Lyniv, has just become the first woman ever to conduct at the Bayreuth Festival. The German violinist Tobias Feldmann is one of the most important violinists of his generation and at 26, became one of the youngest violin professors in German history. The Russian Kuzma Bodrov is one of Russia's leading composers and is highly sought after for both film and theater.

So what unites these musicians? They all participated in DW's Campus-Project, part of the Beethovenfest in Bonn.

"It is one of our most exciting and best projects," said festival director Nike Wagner, who has been involved with the Campus-Project during the course of her seven-year leadership.

But what exactly is the Campus-Project?

 Kuzma Bodrov
Kuzma Bodrov, one of Russia's most successful contemporary composers, says his Campus experience had a big impactImage: Alexander Tjagni-Rjadno

2001: How the Campus-Project all got started

The year was 2001, and the relationship between DW and the Beethovenfest Bonn was just getting started.

The festival had received the green light to start up again just three years prior, in 1998, and DW would be involved. What could Germany's international public broadcaster and a music festival dedicated to the famous Bonn-born composer develop together?

An idea quickly took shape: Mixing DW's international expertise with the spirit of Beethoven.

The first years of the project were limited to bringing young soloists and orchestras from around the world to Bonn, where they would work and experiment over the course of a few weeks. The stay would be capped off by a concert featuring works by Beethoven and the composers of the respective guest country.

The first concert took place in 2001, with the Kyiv Conservatory Orchestra performing; at the time, Ukraine had been independent for just 10 years.

Youth orchestras from Turkey, Georgia, China, Poland, Russia, Egypt, Vietnam and Brazil followed. A project of particular note, and with a political dimension, was the National Youth Orchestra of Iraq in 2011.

Young horn and flute players rehease music onstage
The National Youth Orchestra of Iraq performed in Bonn in 2011Image: Rachel. Y. Baig

A composition commission has been part of the project since its conception. A young composer from the guest country is tasked to combine the musical tradition of their homeland with the sounds of a Western symphony orchestra.

Campus 2.0: No more one-way street

When Nike Wagner took over as director of the Beethovenfest in 2014, she and her team brought winds of change, including to the Campus-Project, which ceased to be a "one-way street." Young artists from foreign countries would no longer merely perform in Bonn; instead, they would make music together with young musicians from Germany, side-by-side.

This brought the National Youth Orchestra of Germany, as well as other young German ensembles and soloists, onboard.

In a carefully planned logistical dance, the German youth musicians first travel to the year's guest country, where they learn and experience the culture's music-making traditions.

"We want to build connections that transcend geographic, stylistic and cultural borders. And personal exchange between young people works particularly well when there's an instrument in their hands," said Thomas Scheider, who leads the Campus-Project.

It's about broadening horizons, questioning playing techniques, approaches and listener habits, and exploring different and unfamiliar ways of thinking and experiencing. An Indian tabla performer can meet with a percussionist of the Western classical tradition, and a Mongolian horsehead fiddle player with a violinist.

Whether China, Mexico, India, South Africa or Ukraine — each project has its own unique story to tell.

In the case of Ukraine, preparations for the project even led to the creation of a new orchestra, The Youth Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (YSOU), now one of the most important ensembles in the country.

A woman conducts a group of young orchestral musicians
Oksana Lyniv conducts Ukraine's youth orchestra in the 2017 Campus-ProjectImage: DW/F. Görner

Campus 2021: Music all around us

How does a project like this celebrate a major birthday like its 20th? Naturally with a very special concert.

For the first time in the history of the project, the orchestra will be multinational. Young musicians from 15 European countries have been invited to prepare a demanding program alongside members of Germany's national youth orchestra.

A map showing countries highlighted in red
The Campus-Project has invited musicians from all the countries in red — but there are many still left to feature in Bonn!Image: DW

The focus is on spatial compositions of the 20th and 21st century, in which the musicians are placed in groups around the audience.

For instance, Greek composer Iannis Xenakis' work Alax features three equal ensembles that are "triangulated" around the audience, bringing them into the center of the sound.

The young Turkish composer Zeynep Gedizlioglu, who was the selected Campus-Project composer in 2012 and then saw her career take off internationally, will also have a work performed, a new spatial composition entitled Along the songs (Entlang der Lieder), which was commissioned by DW.

These acoustic perspectives represent the core idea of the project: Music is all around us — and it's worth discovering it.

A woman conducts an orchestra as singers stand behind her facing the audience
Alondra de la Parra conducts during the 2016 Campus-ProjectImage: Beethovenfest/B. Frommann

And next…?

A new Beethovenfest team under the leadership of incoming director Steven Walter has already started thinking about this… All that can be revealed right now is that it will remain exciting, bold and international.

The Campus concert will be available to watch live on August 28, 2021 at 8pm CEST (1800 UTC) on the DW Classical Music YouTube channel.


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