Alban's Blog

What exactly is your “school project?”

In many ways I hate the word “project” and I prefer to call it at best “commitment at schools”. For my first performances in the US I was obliged to also participate in the so-called residencies program which meant nothing else but doing some pioneer work in schools, elementary as well as high-schools. At first I thought myself for too good and did it more or less reluctantly.

But already the second time I had to realize that it was not only an important and efficient tool to fill a hall in the evening with much more and a much younger audience, but that I learnt it lot about myself – at the end of the session I had to admit to myself that I had fun and felt fulfilled. I gave my managers immediately the order to offer it wherever I was playing. Since I am not very good in selling anything, I had a hard time convey the idea, but today I try to go as often as possible to schools, and pursue that in a much more aggressive way by talking to the school inspectors directly – to do exactly what?

Rather unpretentious and simple: I am sitting in front of 30 to 50 students and play at first some Bach. Dangerous? They don’t understand that? On the contrary: children react to the Bachsuites more directly than to any of the Paganini, Ligeti or Kodaly solo pieces or any other more spectacular solo literature I have offered so far. After that I tell them a bit about me, encourage them to ask any kind of questions, answer willingly and without taboo as many as possible, play a bit more, maybe something modern and like this I break slowly through the ice, the wall, which is between the younger generation and classical music.

I was once asked by a little boy in an underpriviliged school in Berlin why I was doing this. I had never really reflected about it except that it gave me the feeling of doing something good with it. But good what for? To fill a hall? After a bit of thinking I realized how important music and the occupation with an instrument was for me as a young person. In school everything got quite rapidly much easier for me, I managed to concentrate better than my classmates, got more self-confident, learnt through music to get in touch with my feelings – I just had more from my life. I am not out there to encourage more youngsters to become professional musicians, but I believe that every child should play an instrument because it is beneficial for its emotional, social and intellectual development. I have met so many interesting and succesfull doctors, lawyers, scientists, journalists and other professionals whose background was music, who all played with great enthusiasm and wide varying degrees of talent their instruments. I don’t believe that everybody who plays an instrument is smarter than everybody else, but probably he or she is smarter than as if he didn’t play an instrument.

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