This month we spoke to Tony Pesikan, a percussionist and music trainer working in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this interview he tells us all about how we began his career as a workshop leader, his musical background, and a touching memory.
How long have you been working with Musicians Without Borders?
I have been in touch with MWB, since a long time ago, over 20 years. Our paths have crossed many times, and we have collaborated on many projects and continue to do so. Two particular projects are very much dear to my heart: One of the first projects in which I was involved and with which I was delighted was: Srebrenica, “Let’s shake the cobblestones”, and the second project was related to work in schools in and around Sarajevo. It was a very interesting project in which we showed that music really has no boundaries, and how children, regardless of nationality, religion, name, location, want to hang out, play, love and create good works.
How did you first get involved in this work?
I would interpret it like this: “With a good horse, the dust rises.”
When a person has good energy, such energy cannot be hidden, and it becomes a magnet for people and different organizations that eventually get to know each other and connect. So I think all of us who work with interactive things and who make people happy somehow find each other and who have the same goal for a better society.
Tell us about your background as a musician, and the philosophy you bring to your work.
Even before I was born, my parents wanted me to play percussion! So from a young age I was already drumming on furniture, pots, etc. I developed a talent and love for instruments and I play all possible percussion instruments as well as Orrf instruments.
As the war in Bosnia ended in 1996, I was 18 years old then, so the door opened for me to do what I’m doing now. I was educated in Sarajevo and Scotland. I went through hundreds of seminars and education programs. My life goal and philosophy is to pass on all my knowledge that I have to future generations. I do my work with love, and I leave it to others to evaluate whether I am doing it correctly. As far as I know for these 27 years no one has complained!
I also think that I do this job with patience, tolerance, safety, chance, love, and honesty, which is very important. I always work with a motto, If I want it, I can do it; if I don’t know how to do it, I will learn it.
Can you tell us about a milestone, a proud moment, a happy situation you experienced while working for Musicians Without Borders?
There were many productive and heart-warming moments, while doing this job that I love. I want to single out a memory of a boy A__. He was about 12 years old then, I don’t remember exactly what year it was, but it was in Srebrenica. He was a small, shy, silent boy in the corner, who was afraid to approach me and the powerful percussion that was unknown to him. But with patience and working step by step he stopped holding back. He was actually shy due to stuttering and the incorrect pronunciation of the letter ‘L’. he pronounced ‘V’ instead of ‘L’. So he felt rejected because the children made fun of him, and day by day he would get a complex and feeling of rejection, loss of self-esteem. I worked with him through different methods, incorporating speech therapy methods, and little by little we corrected the obstacle. He fell in love with the instrument and worked with me literally day and night!
After the end of the project, like any other, we lost contact with each-other. But, an incredible thing happened in Tuzla a few years ago. Before the corona virus pandemic, an adult, well-built person approached me and said “Do you remember me, Mr. Tony?!” I, of course, replied “No.” The gentleman, of course, continues and introduces himself as the A__, teacher of Music Education, in Elementary School Tuzla. He told me, “you saved my life! And I’m actually doing what I love, you corrected my speech, I don’t feel rejected. I still work according to your methodology!” At that moment, I remembered the already small boy in the corner, a tear came to my eyes. I didn’t hide it! I gave him a big hug and told him thank you for your perseverance and trust.
That would be one of the countless stories and situations that I experienced with MWB and I hope I will experience more of them in the near future.