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Music Connects (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.

Music Connects

Music Connects is a collaborative project that uses the power of music to connect youth from ethnically divided and marginalized communities in the Western Balkans. This long-term project includes daily lessons, workshops, and band sessions in Mitrovica, Kosovo and Skopje, North Macedonia. 

At Mitrovica Rock School, Serb, Albanian, and other youth cross ethnic, cultural, and language barriers to work together in ethnically mixed bands. 

Roma Rock School counters ethnic stereotypes through its original blend of Romani melodies and alternative rock songs. 

Both schools apply the principles of demand-driven learning, and use band coaching: a didactic methodology that stimulates creativity, communication and inclusion. Fontys Rockacademie in Tilburg provides teacher training and capacity building. Youth exchange organization Clash! hosts cultural exchanges with artists in Berlin, while genre-bending bands from the three participating schools will perform at Balkan Trafik! festival in Brussels.

Demand-driven learning and band coaching

Following the model of Fontys Rockacademie, demand-driven learning and the band coaching methodology are 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.


Professor Dr. Angela Impey of SOAS, University of London, will evaluate the Music Connects project and research its impact on beneficiaries. In June 2021, Griffith University and the University of Melbourne completed a two-year evaluation of an earlier phase of Music Connects. The full report can be found here.

Wendy Hassler-Forest

Regional program manager Western Balkans

Milizza Kosova

Mitrovica Rock School: Director of Operations

Emir Hasani

Mitrovica Rock School: Director of Programs

Alvin Salimovski

Roma Rock School: Director

Alma Mustafovska Salimovska

Roma Rock School: Financial manager


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Established in

Active in
North Macedonia

Key partners
Fontys Rockacademie
Mitrovica Rock School
Roma Rock School
Balkan Trafik Festival
Clash! Exchange & Learning

Key numbers


rock school students to date


music lessons, workshops and band sessions per year


ethnically mixed bands formed to date