After seven years of bringing music to over 800 youth in Kosovo’s ethnically divided city, the Mitrovica Rock School has run out of money and is facing closure as of July.
Five days ago, Jelena, leader of ethnically mixed band Sublime 6, posted a full photo report of her band’s latest concert, saying that she was “feeling proud.” Anywhere else, this might have been a normal thing, but Jelena is one of 35 young Mitrovica musicians who play in inter-ethnic “Ambassador Bands”: top bands formed by Serb and Albanian students in Europe’s most divided city. These young musicians would never have met had it not been for the Rock School.
A real school, by and for young people
The Rock School started in 2008 as a project and was registered as a local organization at the end of 2012. We aimed to establish a permanent local school that would bring young people together through music. At that time, Mitrovica was known only for its intractable ethnic divide – its rich rock music history from before the war was forgotten. To have a real impact, only a long-term, grass-roots approach would be able to bring rock music back to Mitrovica and bring its young people back together. And it worked: over 800 youth signed up, with more than 200 kids who had never met anyone from the other side attending our inter-ethnic summer schools, where friendships formed that last to this day. Most of our teachers are former students, who started as student-trainees and worked, played and sang their way up to full staff positions.
A victim of its own success?
We expected that a successful project would mean a fundable project. But this is not how it works. Most donors agree that a long-term approach is the only way to have lasting results, but their guidelines prohibit repeated or long-term funding. Moreover, many governments are – understandably – focusing on other conflict areas around the world and retreating from Kosovo. The local institutions that should take their place are ineffective, under-funded and frequently corrupt. As a result, the Mitrovica Rock School’s options are running out.
The Rock School needs your help
We now find ourselves in the paradoxical situation where we have more students than ever signing up for lessons and asking to join ethnically mixed bands, while we may have to close our doors in a matter of weeks.
Musicians without Borders has launched a campaign to save the Rock School and our project in Rwanda. Please donate and help us keep alive a project that changes the lives of so many young people in so difficult a place.