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