“What our projects continue to teach us is that music education, at its most effective, is an on-going process of finding the connections that music brings — to one’s deepest self, to one’s fellow musicians, audience, friends and community, to the mystery of a composition or an improvisation, to the rhythms of life all around. In that connection lies empathy, and we embed an awareness of this double and parallel significance in all that we do.
When teaching people musical skills, our goal is to enable them to play together, to express themselves clearly, and to process past and current experiences. The limitation of this description, however, is that it implies a separation of the process of musical education from the process of music. Furthermore, it suggests a clear start and ending to the process of personal and musical learning, rather than a lifelong exploration.”
[Hassler & Nicholson, 2017, p.428]
The Mitrovica Rock School works with a curriculum developed by our teachers with the support of the Fontys Rockacademie (Netherlands), based on demand-driven learning and adjusted to the local situation. In the absence of higher popular music education in Kosovo, the program is geared towards producing musicians with employable skills in the Mitrovica context. The quality of education is essential to the success of the program: students acquire the tools to play, write their own music, communicate about their music, and give and receive feedback. Students are placed in ethnically mixed bands as soon as they have the skills needed to start writing their own songs.
Beginners work according to a general lesson plan. As soon as they achieve a basic skill level, students choose their own songs, style and genre, while their teachers structure lessons to work towards benchmarks in the curriculum. In band coaching sessions, teachers challenge students to find their own solutions as they develop new songs, encouraging discussion without presenting ready-made answers.
The Mitrovica Rock School has a fluid structure, rewarding talent and initiative with traineeships where students work as assistant teachers, sound engineers or organizers. Nine former student-trainees have graduated into staff positions, while several others have gone on to successful careers outside the school. Junior teachers (former trainees) receive ongoing training from external expert band coaches to ensure continuous learning.
Incorporating music education into the program, raising the standard of musical knowledge and instrumental skills in the team of young music leaders, has expanded the breadth of their community music-making. They are able to incorporate harmony in singing; they can teach instruments as part of group activities; and their rhythmic and melodic work has become compelling and engaging.
We work in close cooperation with Sounds of Palestine, supporting the program with training and musical resources. Sounds of Palestine uses music education as a medium for long term social change, offering regular lessons per week to the many participating children. Hundreds of children from Aida and al-Azzeh refugee camp in the Bethlehem area participate in music appreciation lessons, instrument instruction, folk dancing, choir, music theory lessons and orchestral training.
Music Bridge employs the expertise of Musicians without Borders in partnership with Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin, a pioneer in bringing a multi-ethnic approach to the exploration of arts and culture in the city of Derry-Londonderry.
This collaborative project has been training members of the local communities, community musicians, professional musicians and teachers in using music as a way to enhance empathy and trust between divided communities, encouraging self-confidence and self-awareness in participants, and to contribute to reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The goal of Music Bridge is to establish an open-to-all access to unique and sustainable music education programs where the focus is building meaningful connections between people from a variety of communities throughout Derry-Londonderry and the wider area of Northern Ireland.
Musicians without Borders leads music workshop leadership training for community workers and musicians interested in developing meaningful projects in their communities with a focus on children and youth from fragile environments. Our trainees have been able to organize and implement creative music activities within both single and mixed identity communities with the aim of strengthening their self-identity, creating common goals while learning more about what connects us rather than what separates us. The trainees use their acquired variety of musical skills to further their understanding of positive group leadership, principles of nonviolence and emotional self-awareness.
Currently, our long term workshops take place in local primary schools, community group settings as well as standalone events for the wider public. Teachers and community leaders have commented on the positive change they have seen in their students and participants over the past three years. We are collecting feedback from all of our participants in order to better understand the changing needs of the wider community in Northern Ireland and to adapt our music programs to suit these needs and bring people together.