1031 CL Amsterdam
We had a good thing going. Not to toot our own horn, but only two months ago an embassy representative approached us saying she had heard we were “the best project in Kosovo.” (So maybe yes, to toot our own horn a little bit.)
Mitrovica Rock School worked: the project had shown that music can create new paths to mutual understanding, even in a highly complex post-conflict environment like Mitrovica. Students of the school, young people from the divided town’s Albanian and Serb communities, found a place where politics could be shut out and where ethnic identity was secondary. What matters at the Rock School is what you can do, what you like and what you’re like.
And while the project worked, we worked to understand why. Lots of things were important: the skilled Mitrovica musicians who led the project; the long-term nature of the program; Fontys Rockacademie’s unique approach to band coaching and the kind of learning environment that created. And most importantly: travelling together, hanging out together, and making music – together.
And then we stopped being able to come together.
Mitrovica Rock School has had tough years before: we’ve faced years of under-funding, and years where the situation was too unsafe to do anything in public. The team is used to making things work when circumstances are not ideal. So online lessons were up and running one week into the first lockdown.
But over the months, the enthusiasm with which students and teachers had thrown themselves into the world of online education waned, giving us pause to reflect on which needs we can still fulfill, and how we can continue to bring people together in meaningful ways.
Going into 2021 – without taking anything away from the kind of year 2020 was – we’re riding on a stroke of luck: from mid-2018 through 2020, the project Music Connects invested in the Rock School’s audio engineering capacity. The aim was to make audio recording more accessible. Since the rise of home studios in the past two decades, musicians worldwide have been writing, recording and producing music together without ever meeting in person. But economic inequality meant that the Western Balkans, with its huge pool of talented musicians, could not fully participate.
Where most young Mitrovica musicians previously lacked the gear, the software and the know-how, this gap is now being bridged, and provides a wonderful opportunity for Mitrovica youth – whatever their background – to continue to write their original music. Together.