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This blog was written by Laura Hassler, Director Musicians Without Borders

Growing up, I always loved every ‘other’ kind of music—folk, classical, blues, jazz… But in 2008, I experienced first-hand the power of rock music when I saw the students of our first Skopje Summer School take the stage for the first time… These were teenagers who had grown up in the shadow of war, in the divided city of Mitrovica, Kosovo. A city where young people are separated by such things as the language they speak. Now, they were living their dream of becoming a rock star after an intensive week playing and singing in bands with musicians who, weeks before, would not have had the chance to meet, let alone collaborate with. They took the stage together, performing songs they’d practiced with their new friends to crowds of cheering fans in an outdoor rock concert in Skopje, North-Macedonia. They went home changed, with new friends from ‘the other side’ who shared their passion for rock music. 

If ever there was living proof of our motto war divides, music connects, this was it!

15 years later, and our Music Connects program is still going strong. We’ve just seen another group of young rock musicians unleash their creativity and musical talent in our 2023 Summer School. 65 young musicians played, sang, created, recorded, and performed together. Since 2008, more than 2,000 youth from the still-divided city of Mitrovica have taken the stage in their mixed bands, made friends across ethnic divides, and connected through music as they helped create a permanent, inclusive rock music school in Europe’s most divided city. The project has expanded to include youth from the Roma Rock School, breaking barriers for young musicians from Europe’s most discriminated people, as they, too, take the stage.

From beginners to professionals, sharing music with an audience—performing—is the ultimate goal of all the hard work of becoming a musician. It is about learning and practicing to produce the best we possibly can, connecting with an audience, expressing our truest selves—from an innate understanding that we humans all love music. Performing in a band is about creating something together that is more than the sum of its parts, and then taking the stage to share it. For young people coming from tense, divided, post-war societies, taking the stage means reclaiming control of life and identity, daring to be oneself, daring to express, and connect with the other.

From September 21, International Day of Peace, we are raising money to support our work in places like Mitrovica. Help us make it possible for young people in divided societies to take the stage together. Every donation helps.

Thanks for your support!

Laura Hassler, Director

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