Foundation laid for Barenboim-Said Academy | Music | DW | 07.05.2014
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Foundation laid for Barenboim-Said Academy

A new music academy in Berlin has been founded by star conductor Daniel Barenboim, who hopes it can contribute to reconciliation in the Middle East.

Daniel Barenboim, speaking as the foundation is laid on his new academy in Berlin

Daniel Barenboim (l) spoke at the laying of the foundation for his new academy

Though still a construction zone now, a former outpost of the "Staatsoper" opera house in the heart of the German capital is set to shine by fall 2015. Starting in the following year, 100 young scholarship recipients will be trained at the site - primarily musicians from Israel and the Arab World.

'The thinking ear'

The academy connects with Daniel Barenboim's broader aim to foster reconciliation through music. That is the concept behind his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Founded in 1999, young musicians from the Middle East perform together in it, a one-of-a-kind project recognized worldwide. Speaking in Berlin, the conductor has now promised that the academy will take a different tack than others as well. It will offer a state-accredited degree, but, Barenboim stresses, will be built on a curriculum that he dubs "the thinking ear."

Courses in humanities and intellectual history are set to go hand in hand with musical training - a nod to American-Palestinian literary scholar and orchestra co-founder Edward Said (1935-2003), who spoke out repeatedly against over-specialization. The new academy is named after both Barenboim and Said.

A model of Frank Gehry's concert hall design

A model shows architect Frank Gehry's concert hall design

The building, declared an historic edifice by the city of Berlin, has been handed over to Barenboim and his associates for 99 years. It houses a 700-seat concert hall, currently under construction and designed free of cost by star architect Frank Gehry. The institution's future director is also a prominent figure in Germany: Michael Naumann, the national government's former minister of culture.

Label launch announced

Construction costs for the academy will run to around 34 million euros ($47.3 million). Monika Grütters, Germany's current head of cultural affairs, has pledged federal support to the tune of 20 million. In attendance for the laying of the foundation of the new academy, Grütters described the endeavor as a "ground-breaking project on cultural reconciliation that can also be understood as a contribution by Germany on behalf of the Middle Eastern peace process."

Grütters went on to describe the academy's future students as ambassadors of German and European musical culture, including for civil society in their home countries. "Even if just a few of them pass on the music and the first-hand experience of this community in Berlin to others at home, they will be achieving the idea behind the Barenboim-Said Academy," she said.

Coinciding with the start of construction on the music training institute, Barenboim announced the launch of a digital music label, Peral Music. A central part of the intent here, too, he says, is to reach young people - particularly those who lack access to live classical music.

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