German Music Schools celebrate 60 years | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 21.05.2012
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German Music Schools celebrate 60 years

The German Music School Association is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Today, as one of the largest music organizations in the world, it continues to provide a broad music program for all Germans.

School children learn guitar

The Association teaches children music from a young age

Pioneer of music curriculum

Founded in 1952, the German Music School Association was the initiative of a dedicated music educator named William Twittenhoff. His book, "New music schools - a requirement of our time", documents his dreams for pioneering music education programs in Germany . Twittenhoff's goal was soon to become reality. Shortly after the Second World War, Twittenhoff established the ‘Association of Youth and Popular Music Schools ' and became its first elected chairman. It began by incorporating many different interests relating to music: joint training concepts and curricula, and collaborative projects between the schools - a process that eventually developed into the German Music School Association.

Access for all

Logo of the German Music Scools Association

The German Music School Association has tranformed music education in Germany.

Claudia Wanner, Association spokesperson, says it is pivotal to give young children "musical education from an early age. An important component of the Association, said Wanner, "is that music schools are open to everyone. “All children and youth have the opportunity to attend the music schools, to learn an instrument or to sing." One of the requirements for the Association's music schools is that tuition fees be affordable to all. The Associations fees are determined according to the income of the prospective student's family. To eliminate additional barriers, the music schools allow the students to borrow instruments, in instances where they are unable to afford their own, or when they simply want to experiment with different instruments to discover which the most appropriate instrument is for the child.

Recently, the German government facilitated additional ways to broaden the access to the music schools. Wanner says, "the music schools offer a greater fee reduction for children from disadvantaged families. For them, the fees are even cheaper, which is necessary so low-income families don't miss out once again.” Since its introduction the Association has seen an increasing number of students attend.

German Symphony

Following Germany 's reunification in 1990, the Association received a large number of new members. Over 150 new music schools from the former East Germany joined the Association. Since then, the Association has continued to grow; today it has around 920 music schools across the 16 German states, with one million students attending lessons.

The Youth String Orchestra in Berlin

The Youth String Orchestra have the opportunity to perform overseas.

The Association, however, was not exclusive to German music schools, but also included the Youth String Orchestra of the music schools in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The youth ensemble, founded in 1973 emerged out of the Association's partnership with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. The Association's Frank Hartmann, who overseas the young string players, says the ensemble gets to travel a lot. "The children come from Flensburg to Bavaria . And then meet three to five times a year and go on concert tours.”

International Networking

The concert tours are a wonderful cross-cultural experience for the Youth String Orchestra, but it isn't the only opportunity for the Associations to make international contacts. Hartmann is also a member of the European Music School Union, which facilitates international youth exchange and organizes the European Music Festival of Youth. Every two years, ensembles, choirs, orchestras and bands attend music festivals in different countries. The students get to meet other musicians from different countries. Since music is something that can be communicated in any language, there are minimal communication problems.

Claudia Wanner and Frank Hartmann from the Association of German Music Schools

Claudia Wanner and Frank Hartmann are both passionate about the Association.

The cross cultural nature of the association means there's a lot of support from the Federal Government and also the German-French, German, Polish, German-Israeli youth groups. “It's a great partnership to have emerged after the Second World War, that brings together young people to promote understanding of each others cultures. And music, of course, is the ideal for this," said Wanner.

Author: Marita Berg/crl
Editor: Jessie Wingard