A future for classical music

A future for classical music

Why working with youth orchestras gives me hope

More than 100 young musicians, between 14 and 19 years old, played in the Orquestra Aproarte, which I conducted in fall 2021. Enthusiasm, concentration, excitement everywhere. It was one of my most impressive concert experiences.

In the current times at which all activity and thought gets overshadowed by a virus, my encounter with the outstanding young musicians of the Aproarte orchestra had a very strong impact on me. In my native, Germany, the arts were declared to be non system relevant and seemed to be a sector one can temporarily switch off arbitrarily, without doing harm to anyone. Like many freelance artists, I was hit strongly by canceled performances and a weakening of my entire industry, which continues to operate without a clear perspective. Perhaps overwhelmed by the sheer force of circumstances, I began to wonder whether there was a future for classical music at all.

Rehearsals with the Orquestra Aproarte took place at the Artave music school in Santo Tirso, a few miles north east of Oporto. For our program, a selection of highly gifted students from different schools with a special music profile gathered at Artave. Every child who aims to become a student at one of those schools needs to pass an entrance exam and will most likely pursue a career in classical music later in life. Graduates of Artave have made it to tenure in some of the world’s leading orchestras.

We rehearsed an entire week, starting early in the morning. After lunch, the musicians would gather in sectional rehearsals before continuing rehearsals with me until evening. The commitment to learning and to improving the young musicians showed was enormous and highly infectious. They seemed to be undergoing a positive drill, fully devoted to a high performance, yet in a loving environment of fellow students and demanding but caring teachers.

Being part of guiding the future generation of classical musicians is a highly rewarding experience, as it allows us to witness the glorious power of music from a new perspective: music enables young people to focus their thoughts and inspires emotions at the same time. It motivates them to perform at their best and to create something precious beyond words. Working with Orquestra Aproarte made me realize that — alongside conducting professional orchestras — working with youth orchestras is going to be a substantial part of my mission.

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