WESTERN BALKANS

Rock School Program

The Yugoslav wars of the 1990s left the Western Balkans deeply divided along ethnic lines. Nowhere more so than in Mitrovica, an ethnically divided town in northern Kosovo. At the Mitrovica Rock School, we work with local musicians to connect the city’s divided youth.

In neighboring North Macedonia, the Roma population is the region’s most discriminated and excluded ethnic group. Roma Rock School works from branches in the capital city of Skopje and the town of Kriva Palanka to offer music lessons to Roma, Macedonian and other youth.

Together, these schools are working to transform the region’s cultural scene, offering opportunities that are open and inclusive to all aspiring young musicians.

Connecting youth across the divide

The Kosovo war of 1999 left the miners’ town of Mitrovica rigidly divided, with the Serb minority living north of the river and Albanian majority in the south. But before the war, Mitrovica had been a center for rock music: the home of many bands, an annual festival, and regular concerts and jam sessions.

Founded in 2008, the Mitrovica Rock School connects young Albanian, Serb and other musicians through a daily music lesson program, a program for mixed bands, and regular concerts and events. The school has brought together some 1,700 youth (ages 11-25) and has become one of Mitrovica’s first spaces to be shared by musicians from both sides.

Band coaching

The band coaching methodology of Fontys Rockacademie is central to the Rock School program. Ethnically mixed bands write original songs with the support of a band coach. The coach guides the communication process, genre negotiation, and the creative development of the song, ensuring the inclusion and ownership of all band members.

Recording

Bands record their original songs in the Mitrovica Rock School studio, which is operated by the school’s students trained in sound engineering under the program.

Partnership

The Mitrovica Rock School program is implemented under a partnership between NGO Mitrovica Rock School and Musicians Without Borders. Mitrovica Rock School undertakes joint activities with Roma Rock School (North Macedonia). Educational partner Fontys Rockacademie provides training in didactics as well as sound engineering to both schools.

Impact

In June 2021, Griffith University and the University of Melbourne completed a two-year evaluation of the impact of Music Connects, a program that included both the Mitrovica Rock School and Roma Rock School programs. The full report can be found here.

North Macedonia’s Roma minority is highly marginalized, and Romani youth have few educational and extracurricular opportunities. Roma Rock School gives Romani children in North Macedonia opportunities to experiment with popular music and improvisation, coached by professional teachers in a multi-ethnic environment. Students form multi-ethnic bands and write original music together. The program also offers opportunities to travel and perform.

Background

Roma Rock School was founded by a team of educators from the Braka Ramiz i Hamid primary school in Skopje, attended by some 2,000 primarily Romani children and youth.

The initial goal was to use rock music to teach talented young Romani musicians music theory and solfege, the main obstacles to them accessing public music education.

Training

Fontys Rockacademie provides training to Roma Rock School teachers in demand-driven learning, band coaching, and other educational approaches that promote creativity, communication and leadership.

The Rockacademie also provides training in sound engineering, giving teachers and students the tools to record their original music right there, in their school.

Regional cooperation

Roma Rock School participates in training events and summer schools with Mitrovica Rock School, Fontys Rockacademie and Musicians Without Borders.

Wendy Hassler-Forest

Regional program manager Western Balkans

Eefje Wevers

Project coordinator

Milizza Kosova

Mitrovica Rock School: Director of Operations

Emir Hasani

Mitrovica Rock School: Director of Programs

Luljeta Mehmeti Osmaj

Mitrovica Rock School: Financial manager

Alvin Salimovski

Roma Rock School: Director

Elena Slavchovska

Roma Rock School: Coordinator

Alma Mustafovska Salimovska

Roma Rock School: Financial manager

Filter

Rethinking music and reconciliation during a global pandemic

January 28, 2021
We had a good thing going. Not to toot our own horn, but only two…

Youth from Southeast Europe’s first rock school release debut album

February 12, 2019
Southeast Europe’s first rock school, the Mitrovica Rock School, is excited to announce the release…

Mitrovica Rock School celebrates 10 years

October 24, 2018
A little over a week ago, we had the pleasure of joining the Mitrovica Rock…

Interview with Ana Petanovska of High Frequency

September 5, 2018
We talked to Ana Petanovska (15), about her first experience at the Mitrovica Rock School’s…

Interview: Feed D Fury and the power of punk

July 4, 2018
Front woman Marina (18) opens up about living out of her comfort zone, confronting the…

Music Connects: new project launched to connect ex-Yugoslavia’s sonic youth

June 15, 2018
We’re happy to announce the launch of a new project, Music Connects, that aims at…

Our first time in Mitrovica

May 22, 2018
By Tringa (18), a classical guitarist who joined the Mitrovica Rock School in 2017. She…

Mitrovica Rock School in New York City

June 6, 2016
From May 4 to 8, Mitrovica Rock School ambassador band the Artchitects visited New York…

Launching the mixed band program

December 16, 2014
2014 was a busy year for the Mitrovica Rock School: we held over a thousand…

Mitrovica Rock School launches new program for mixed bands

November 4, 2013
In August 2013, Mitrovica Rock School kicked off its new Ambassador Band Program with a…

Established in
2008

Active in
Kosovo
North Macedonia

Key partners
Fontys Rockacademie
Mitrovica Rock School
Roma Rock School

Key numbers

1700

rock school students to date

1500

music lessons, workshops and band sessions per year

60

ethnically mixed bands formed to date