Exile is a historical part of the human experience

Ahmed Alom, pianist
photo: Julián De La Chica

Ahmed Alom is a Cuban pianist who lives and works in New York. He began his musical education at the age of five in his native Havana, then graduated from the Manhattan School of Music as a scholarship holder of the “Viola B. Marcus” and “Flavio Varani” foundations, which is intended for pianists under the guidance of Dr. Solomon Mikowsky. As a soloist he performed with many orchestras in Spain, Cuba, Mexico and the United States of America, having in his repertoire works by Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin, and he often performed as a jazz and Latin jazz pianist. In June, he released his album, which bears the symbolic name Exilio (Exile), and he describes it as a journey from the past to the present, emphasizing the theme of exile. He won a large number of prizes at prestigious world competitions such as the 21st Piano Competition in Jalapa, the National Chamber Music Competition in Mexico, the “Maria Clara Cullell” International Piano Competition in Costa Rica, then in New York, Havana… He shows his versatility through various projects such as the recital “No Man’s Land” with violinist Rubén Rengel at the Linton Chamber Music Festival, and he also participated in the premiere of the Tentacion concert for eight members in collaboration with the collective “Pepole of Earth” and conductor of the year, according to Musical America magazine, Teddy Ambras, as well as his colleague MacArthur Dafnis Prieto.

You dedicated your album Exilio to six Latin American composers who lived in exile. What encouraged and inspired you to make it happen?

The inspiration to reunite all of these Latin American and Hispanic composers came through a combination of events. One of my dear mentors, Leonardo Gell, introduced me to Julian De La Chica, A Colombian composer living in Brooklyn. My mentor collaborated years ago with him, in a project with music of Bach meeting minimalist composers, including De La Chica‘s music. When I had my first meeting with Julian, he introduced me to the Colombian composer Luis Antonio Calvo. Julian has been wrote a book named God’s Punishment, that talks about many aspects of his life and the town where he lived. Luis Antonio Calvo, unfortunately, was diagnosed with leprosy, and because of this he was sent to Agua de Dios, a small town in Colombia where since the 19th century, was known for being a place where many experiments were conducted with people carrying that medical condition. Because of this, Calvo was unable to get out of that town until the end of his days, in a sort of exile inside his own country.

His music is not very well-known internationally, and I fell in love with his compositions immediately. So, our first idea was to record his 4 Intermezzos. After this talk, we kept discussing Calvo’s exile and I realized my personal connection with my present life and the social norms in which we are living these days. Exile is a phenomenon happening since the beginning of societies. I started to connect that struggle with other composers that share some similarities, and while searching about composers from my home country Cuba, I found the music of Ignacio Cervantes and Ernesto Lecuona, both fantastic composers that for mainly political reasons abandoned the country and wrote music from, inspired by past that they left.

After adding the Spanish composers, the idea about the album came to light when I realize that all of this music from different periods and different backgrounds, was able to connect through the same feelings. And to conclude the idea, my own exile as a 24 year old made me think about the responsibility of recording these pieces and conveying a message to all of the people that leave this sort of attachment in many ways.

You describe the album as a journey from the past to the present, emphasizing the theme of exile, the weight of which, unfortunately, many still carry on their shoulders today. Do you think that the burden of exile was one of the reasons for the composers to create their works?

Yes, although we are talking about composers with different styles and approaches that wrote beautiful music, the majority of the composers wrote with that burden on their shoulders. When I hear and play Calvo’s music, I can feel his sensitivity, humility and nostalgia, which in my opinion has to do with the fact of him being unable to get out and knowing that he was getting worse and worse with his sickness. In the case of Ignacio Cervantes, he was more active politically, since he left for Mexico to raise money to support the independence war that Cuba had against Spain. His dances are an example of the nostalgia and traditions that he left behind, bringing a balance between humor and sadness, among many traits of the Cuban social and cultural traits. Lecuona himself wrote many Afro Cuban dances with melodies and rhythms that came from the African traditions from slaves in Cuba. I believe that historically the lives of composers have an influence under their music not only with these Latin American composers, but also in the case of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, among others.

Ahmed Alom, pianist
photo: Julián De La Chica

Your album is symbolically titled Exile (Exilio). Do you think that in today’s society there is spiritual exile, alienation? What are the biggest challenges for you in today’s world?

Yes, the album is named Exile as an homage but also posing a question. Since the beginning of humanity, exile has been part of the human experience, historically. Unfortunately, the ambition of human beings have resulted in a lot of pain, suffering and years of conflict. Every culture at some point had a conflict where exile was present, and
each one is able to think and live it in different ways. My goal as a pianist who is living a present with a lot of conflicts nowadays, is to provide my own concept in a way where it can be understood universally but also, sharing my point of view as a Cuban born musician now living in New York which is a great metropolis for all kinds of cultures. My country has a very deep trauma and history of exile, in fact, Cuba has one of the oldest populations in the world. One of the reasons for making this album is also that in Cuba, this is a recurring topic. I am used like many people like my mother is used to saying goodbye to everyone on a very deep level. Not many of my friends that I went to school with are living in Cuba. So the challenge for me, coming from this culture, is to find the bright parts and aspects in this situation. I know it could have been extremely difficult to continue my career in Cuba, but my life in New York is not only because of my “exile” but also because it is the capital of art and music and everything I enjoy in life. I like to find an objective point, where I can address the problems in my country and all of these emotions, but also take this with a degree of resilience to be able to keep going. To resume, my goal is to be as universal as possible.

You started your musical education at the age of five, in your native city, Havana, then you graduated from the Manhattan School of Music as a scholarship holder of the “Viola B. Marcus Foundation” and the “Flavio Varani” Foundation for Pianists under the guidance of Dr. Solomon Mikowski. How would you describe your first introduction to music and the process of becoming a musician?

The way I got into music I believe was at first because of my mother. We used to have a piano in our apartment that used to belong to my aunt and I would play and try to figure out a lot of the sounds and patterns on the keyboard. My mom used to have a lot of albums including classical music and jazz, and she will mention that I will listen to these albums the whole day and I will memorize the rhythms. That’s when she knew I had a talent for music so she brought me to the class of Hortensia Upmann, who was my first professor in aural training and music understanding. I’m lucky to say that my approach to music was through reading and singing, not by playing an instrument. In fact, I think it was almost like when you learn a different language. When I finished that class I was accepted into music school when I was 8 as a Percussion Major. From there I had to take elementary piano and that’s when I met Beatrice Olivera, who was the first piano teacher that I had who showed me all the possibilities of the instrument. From there I got in love with the instrument and she recommended me to the piano faculty in order to take auditions to change my major. I didn’t want to quit percussion, so after my audition they made an exception and I was able to do a double major in Piano and Percussion until I was around 15 years old. From there on, I had wonderful teachers like Leonardo Gell and Mercedes Estevez, and many others in different fields in music, including history, harmony and theory. I spent two years in Mexico, living with my father and studying with Svetlana Logounova and Ninowska Fernandez. I met Dr. Mikowsky sing Havana in one of his festivals and I played for him at first when I was around 13 years old. He was always a very important influence to me and I was extremely lucky to have been accepted into his studio at the Manhattan school of music in 2017. We still remain in touch and he is always an inspiration, still teaching at his 85 years old.

As a soloist, you performed with many orchestras in Spain, Cuba, Mexico and the United States of America, having in your repertoire works by Beethoven, Chopin, Gershwin. You have often performed as a jazz and Latin jazz pianist. What genre do you like to perform the most? And how do you perceive classical and jazz music, do you find any common thread between those two genres?

This is a question that I get asked a lot. Regarding Classical music and jazz, I think I was lucky, because in my culture, popular music and improvisation are extremely common. I think that helped in my process, because I was able to express a certain freedom, which is difficult to achieve when you are a classical musician. I will listen to afro cuban music, salsa, rumba and many other styles and at school there was a general interest from the students to learn about jazz and other forms of improvisation. We had a big band at school where we would play a lot of jazz standards. I remember I got the Jazz Piano book by Mark Levine, and my practice sessions were both classical and jazz. Eventually, I started to find a tremendous connection between them. When I play Bach, I’ll also hear Bud Powell. I started applying some of these expressive phrasings and I tried to maintain a certain freedom in my interpretation. Certainly the classical piano foundation and technique has helped me to do what I want while I improvise. But the greatest thing for me was to apply my harmonic concepts in classical music. That’s when I realize and I stand my ground with the fact that the music is ONE, and classical music is not any different from jazz or other styles. We have the same sounds and the same ability to express our feelings. We just use them in a different way. I think it’s extremely important for any aspiring musician to approach the music as a whole not only with the instrument. I love to play a Beethoven sonata and I would like to imagine different chords or posibilítese inside the work. That helps me understand why he chose one chord more than another one, and that it helps me to find extremely special moments in the music. I think harmonic and melody understanding allow us to improvise, and by improvising we are becoming composers. If we approach the music as composers we will be able to find her own interpretation and then we will be able to balance it with what we think about the composer’s views of the piece, traditions versus modernity.

Ahmed Alom, pianist
photo: Julián De La Chica

In addition to classical music, you often play jazz. How difficult or easy is it to prepare yourself for a classical piece that requires precision and discipline and a jazz piece that, in contrast, requires freedom and no boundaries?

I think music is extremely difficult in general, but I don’t like to think that in a classical piece we need to work with a different discipline than a jazz piece. In fact, I think this is where the misunderstanding probably comes from. If we only prepare a classical piece based on precision and discipline, what is it that we are doing that needs discipline? In my opinion, and in my experience, approaching a classical piece has to be done in two ways: by learning the technical aspects , playing the notes as you mentioned, but then we must work on creativity. A lot of pianists often practice until all the dynamics and notes are in place, but we hardly stop at a melodic passage or an idea that is not feeling right even when the notes are in place. We need to allow the two kinds of practice: the technical practice in the creative practice. When I play jazz or Cuban music, yes indeed there is more freedom but that also takes a lot of discipline. If we are playing bebop we need to approach it with the same rules that if we were playing a piece from the classical period. Every style has their own rules and we need to know them in order to bend them. I think this is one of the steps that we need to take in order to start thinking about the music as a whole.

You have won a large number of awards at prestigious world competitions such as the XXI Xalapa Piano Competition, the National Chamber Music Competition in Mexico, the “Maria Clara Cullel” International Piano Competition in Costa Rica, then in New York, Havana… Do you think that competitions are important for the development of a pianist’s career? How much did all those awards help you and enable you to get better on the music scene?

I did a lot of competitions when I was younger and I think they are extremely important for the development of young musicians, but I also think that we have to be careful about them. A competition is always good because it gives us a platform to play and to show our development, and also to train endurance and fear of stage. Also it gives a lot of room for feedback from juries and we can learn a lot about other contestants. I think competitions are not good when the goal is only to win, no matter what. A lot of times students will practice the same pieces every year in order to go through the same competitions with the same works over and over. The result will be that in the future, the student won’t have any tools to actually learn music because the only interest is on playing the same pieces. One shall enter a competition always with a mindset of being able to play as beautifully as possible, and to play at platforms where you can take feedback and move on with your development. Coming back to one of your questions about playing classical music, we should give students music with a degree of complexity in which they have challenges but in which they can work on creativity and interpretation. If they only play complex music they will spend their whole life struggling to play a piece and even if they are playing the right way they didn’t go through the right process.

You show your versatility through various projects such as the recital “No Man’s Land” with violinist Ruben Rangel at the Linton Chamber Music Festival, also, you were part of the premiere of the concert “Tentacion” for eight members in collaboration with the collective “People of Earth” and the conductor Teddy Abrams and colleague Dafnis Prieto. What is your experience in cooperation with them and the realization of all those projects?

I am extremely lucky to have worked with such fantastic musicians. When I did the Dafnis Prieto Concerto with People of Earth and Teddy Abrams, I got to work and learn from brilliant human beings. Teddy is one of the musicians I admire the most and I consider him like my mentor. Abrams has a capacity not only to perform in a brilliant way, he’s also an ambassador of culture in his city, where he always has a goal to reach the people and social issues with his music and what he does. He is aware about the responsibility that we have as musicians to be at the service of the times that we live in and to make music not only for our personal enjoyment. With my friends from People of Earth, I am able to enjoy and to learn from 12 people that come from very different places but somehow we make music together. It is an exercise that teaches us to be open minded and to always try to listen to other opinions that might be different from yours. In the case of Ruben Rengel, he’s one of the brightest musicians I have ever met and we are contemporaries. Not only do we share the same language and some traits of our culture, we played a thematic repertoire about conflict, with works by Poulenc and Stravinsky. He’s also an advocate for the aspect of music involving people and social issues, being a member of Ensemble Connect and being very active with public schools, festivals, among other things.

You are quite dedicated to contemporary creativity, but at the same time you cherish traditional values. How do you see today’s flow, the development of art in the world? Do you think that today’s audience has some new interests and expectations at classical and jazz music concerts?

As I said before, to know the rules in order to bend them, I think we also need to know ourhistory and traditions in order to change them or to transform them. Art is extremely subjective and the society of today it’s going faster than ever. But this is the opportunity to approach a lot of audiences because right now, there is a growing interest in other types of music and different things, and we live in a world where it is easier to communicate through social media. I think that socially speaking, people are encouraged to learn more about the different cultures that we are living with, at least in the United States. That makes a difference in music, because that means that we have newer elements for a transformation. The classical concerts are not the same of the past, neither are what we play in concerts. I think it’s very important to create good music and always to try making an impact with what we’re trying to say musically. We are ambassadors of our times and I think we have to be extremely informed of everything else that is happening around us, because this will help us to create and to find inspiration, like the composers from Exilio had at their time.

What kind of literature do you like to read? Is there an interesting hobby or something that pleases you during your vacation or maybe even when preparing for a concert?

I really like to read Dostoyevsky, because he goes into a deep place in the mind and the subconscious that I find intriguing. I imagine him with composers like Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff. Greek and Roman philosophy, like Marcus Aurelius letters, and Cuban poetry by Jose Marti are among the things I enjoy the most. I am an avid chess enthusiast, and I like to play blitz games (3min games) online prior to concerts. I think it helps my brain to wake up and to feel focused and inspired in the concerts. I love to play soccer every time I can, and I love to cook and to prepare coffee in many ways. I love walking around New York, and now I’m getting interested in conducting.

VI Masterclass FEST Anacapri

Organized by the “Concertato” association, whose editor is pianist Veronika Koprivica, the sixth consecutive master class was organized this year in the Italian city of Anacapri, on the island of Capri in the Bay of Naples. Master workshops dedicated to young and talented performers of string and wind instruments, as well as piano, will be held in two sessions from July 12 to 25, 2023. In addition to solo performers, chamber ensembles can also participate.


Samuel Siskind, Composer, Performer and Actor

Samuel Siskind

Samuel Siskind is a young sixteen-year-old composer, vocal performer and actor from Los Angeles. As a resident of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Composer Fellowship Program (LA Phil Composer Fellowship Program), he is currently in his second year of high school in Los Angeles. In addition to his already large compositional works, which he had the opportunity to present in the world’s largest halls such as Carnegie Hall, Royce Hall or the University of California, in February, at the invitation of the artistic director of the prestigious ensemble “The Golden Bridge” Suzi Digby, his work was performed at All Saints Church in Beverly Hills. The biography of this artist is enriched by the experience of filming in Hollywood, when Matthew Wilder recorded several of his pieces in the studio “Capitol Records”. Samuel’s choral piece The Forest was selected for performance on the National Children’s Choir’s major tour of Asia. The versatility of this young artist is also reflected in his unusual sports activities and hobbies. In addition to skiing and sailing, Samuel is currently working on getting his license to fly small planes.

As a six-month-old baby, you were introduced to music, which led you to write your first composition at the age of eight, and at the age of twelve, choral work The Forest, was performed by the National Children’s Chorus in their major U.S. cities and summer tour of Asia. What are your memories of those beginnings and encounters with composing? What prompted you to choose composing and vocal performance?

I was fortunate to be introduced to the piano through a creative method my dad found at our local farmers market. It’s called Simply Music, and the first series for young children introduces various musical concepts through drawing pictures and playing out feelings on the keyboard. I remember doing my homework for this class. I was about five, and we were given a story theme to draw with crayons. Then we put the picture up on the piano, and played that picture… the curriculum was called Play-A-Story. I already had a childhood filled with imaginative play, so once I learned how to play my feelings it was addictive, and composing became my go to pastime. When I played repertoire, whether alone or in public places, I often modified and expounded on pieces to make them more interesting, and bring them alive. Vocal performance came naturally, as I sought more music education than my school’s singing class. My parents found the National Children’s Chorus (NCC), and I auditioned at the end of 2nd grade, and began in the fall of 3rd grade.

Besides your piece The Forest being performed by the National Children’s Chorus, certain pieces of yours caught the attention of producer Matthew Wilder, who recorded those pieces at the iconic Hollywood studio Capitol Records. What is it like to be part of the Hollywood world? What are your memories from that recording session?

Recording at Capital was one of the most meaningful days of my life. Matthew had booked the musicians and studio time at Capitol well in advance. However the week of the recording session, Disney Studios urgently needed a score recorded. Several of the musicians on my piece were called to work on the Disney project. Every one of them decided to stick with me. At such a young age, seeing so many people believe in and trust me, inspired me to work harder.

Many composers have their role models when it comes to designing a piece and rely on the melodies of Bach, Mozart, Chopin… Do you have a role model? During the work process, do you find inspiration in the works of classical music composers or some other genre?

Listening to classical radio, I was exposed to many of the great classical composers at a young age. Singing with the choir only expanded my repertoire into great vocal pieces of the Western European traditions. I’m always finding and listening to new music, often driven by upcoming projects and performances.

During your performances, not only is your composition performed, but you also sing. What fulfills you more at the moment – singing or composing?

The day my choral piece, The Forest, was introduced to my peers at the NCC, I was truly beside myself, very uncomfortable and unsure of how it would be received. My relief wouldn’t come for a few weeks, until they had mastered the song, and I could see that my friends were enjoying singing it. Standing on stage and hearing their joy in singing melodies and text that I worked on after school for years was simply exhilarating. It made me feel that what was personal to me could be universal, and their reaction to it as my first audience was the greatest gift. Last month, I had a commissioned piece performed by professional vocalists at The Golden Bridge Concert, in Beverly Hills. I also found it very nerve wracking to be at the live premier performance with an audience, but I felt a thousand times better once I received the recording. It was very fulfilling. I also put a lot of work into my vocals, and enjoy performing in front of audiences. I’m looking forward to performing in the Tinker of Tivoli in Vail this August, and touring the UK this Summer before recording a Christmas album with the National Children’s Chorus at Abbey Roads Studios in London.

In what genre do you see yourself as a composer, would you like to do film, jazz music or do you still prefer a traditional classical style?

Because my early introduction to playing and composing music was so fluid, I don’t feel bound by styles. I have used jazz influences in a number of my concert pieces. I first explored these themes as a study of Gershwin and Copeland in my 3 movement piece, Piano Concerto for Orchestra (2021). I also use some jazz in my new choral cycle, Release (2022). I am purely driven by creative impulses of what sounds most interesting or moving. I am a film lover, as my dad works in the business, and we’ve done weekly home screenings since I was 3 years old. At this point, I am taking my composing work as it comes. Whatever projects come to me I will happily adapt.

What subject or area in the school you attend most inspires you and helps form your compositional taste and style?

One of the first things I learned from my composing mentor, Dr. Ian Krouse, is that composing is like writing a story, you’re taking the audience on a journey. Of course this goes back to my first piano class, and Play-A-Story. I was fortunate to have an outstanding English teacher at Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences, Julian Laurent, and I invited him to the premier of my recent choral premier because I felt so indebted to him for teaching me the discipline and structure of writing. He is also a musician. Modern history has also been an inspiration for me as I do my pieces, especially studying the eras when many of the composers I admire were working. When I experience a new piece to perform, I often like to know the circumstances around the time it was written. Most composers have many other interests outside of music, because writing music comes from experiencing life.

Samuel giving notes to the choir

When writing a piece for a choral ensemble, what is the biggest challenge for you in the process of working and writing the score?

When writing a choral piece, I find the hardest aspect, creating an original text. Although once I have an idea, I can write my texts in one brief sitting. Discovering the idea can be very challenging, and requires weeks of research and thought.

Samuel with his mentors Drs. Ian Krouse and Pamela Blackstone hearing his piece “Out from the Deep” for the first time

The last commission of your work came from the vocal ensemble “The Golden Bridge” and its artistic director Suzi Digby, making you the youngest composer to receive a commission. How would you describe the process of working and composing that choral piece? What inspired you the most?

The commission by The Golden Bridge was the next leap in building my abilities to write, and collaborate. I never dwelled on the fact that I was so much younger than the previous composers, I just tried to do my best. However, because I was so young, I had to be very disciplined to reward their faith in me.

Samuel with the Golden Bridge Choir and Suzi Digby, Artistic Director, Founder and Conductor.

Your versatility can also be seen in your many hobbies and activities, such as skiing and sailing, and you are due to get your private pilot’s license soon – where does that adventurous spirit come from? Why did you want a pilot’s license specifically?

Most people find their hobbies through being exposed to them. As a teenager, my older brother was a CIT sailing instructor for UCLA summer camp. He had a small boat, and would enjoy taking me around the marina as a boy. My dad took us to the Rocky Mountains every February so I learned to ski. My mom used to take me to eat sushi at the Santa Monica Airport, and watch the planes come and go after school sometimes. I love aviation, and always have. I hope that one day I might have the means to own a small aircraft to fly myself.

Considering your unusual hobby and sporting activities, can art and composing be compared to flying an airplane or sailing? Do you find any commonality in what helps you feel free and fulfilled?

Listening to a great piece of music should make you feel like you’re flying or sailing on an ocean – or freestyling down a mountain. The creativity in plotting your next move is akin to the joy composing brings me. The possibilities are infinite, and the satisfaction in carving out a path where there wasn’t one before is a true high.

What does composing music in general mean to you, how do you perceive it and in what direction would you like to develop your interests and abilities?

Composing music feels like my playground. Music is a language that everyone can understand, and appreciate – so I feel I’m working on something worthwhile. I have been composing music for so long that I literally don’t know what I would do without it. It’s very second nature to me, and makes me feel happy; like the world is ok. When I look back on pieces I’ve written a couple years ago, I feel embarrassed. I’ve learned so much, but that’s the nature of growing up, and continuing to learn. I feel honored every time anyone hears my music or is interested in my music.

Author: Katarina Georgijević


The MERITA project, whose name is derived from the words Music – cultural hERItage – TAlent, aims to improve access and participation in cultural activities, both in larger and smaller towns, promoting European cultural heritage, while strengthening the connection between online and offline engagement, enters a decisive phase. After 61 applications from 27 countries that arrived on the MERITA digital platform https://www.meritaplatform.eu/, the names of 38 quartets chosen to become part of an innovative European project that aims to encourage the discovery of new places that will not only overcome geographical boundaries but also conceptual, cognitive and artistic ones, have been announced. The quartets consist of young people with an average age of between 28 and 29, among whom there are 91 women and 61 men, and they come from all over Europe (Denmark, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Holland, France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the United Kingdom, Poland, Serbia, Finland, Greece).

This project, although still young and at the beginning of its implementation, attracted a lot of attention. This is evidenced by the large number of applications from chamber ensembles, which recognized a new, unusual approach to art and the presentation of young artists. The organizers claim that the word “quartet” is taken as a metaphor for an ideal society, a meeting place of different cultures, which through mutual dialogue builds beauty, taste aesthetics and a lasting artistic bond. In addition to the possibility of live performances, MERITA provides another very important source of information and another gathering place, which is the already mentioned digital platform. It aims to contribute to the building of mutual cooperation, as well as to the improvement of culture and identity.

Francesca Moncada Fondatrice e Presidente de Le Dimore del Quartetto
Photo © Diego Molaschi

In this regard, Francesca Moncada, founder and president of the “Le Dimore del Quartetto” network and the board of the Comitato AMUR, presents this project in the following words: “MERITA is the crowning of a European dream, music as a universal language capable of giving new life to places and spaces waiting to be rediscovered. A dialogue between cultures, arts, communities and territories for the creation of a circular economy and sustainable culture to support simple and proximity-based tourismAll this is MERITA and much more, with this project wins beauty for all.”

With the idea of being a “promotional showcase for artists”, this platform will bring classical music and European heritage sites of cultural interest closer to a new audience. Francesca Moncada goes on to say: “These formations of outstanding young musicians represent a vibrant and intercultural Europe, rooted in tradition and capable of moving towards an innovative and multisensory future. Each quartet is sacred and MERITA will give us the opportunity to discover how this diverse formation of collective intelligence can ignite places and people”.

Undoubtedly, this project has awakened many young artists and united chamber ensembles, making them through acquaintance, togetherness, building contacts, as well as artistic creation prove that art as such is equal for everyone and accessible to everyone. By performing the works of timeless composers in old settings, which preserve the centuries-old tradition, they now gain a new meaning and become fresh with the new spirit of youth, beauty of sound and modernity.

Tommaso Sacchi Assessore alla Cultura del Comune di Milano
Photo ©Alessandra Cinquemani

The Councillor for Culture of the municipality of Milano Tommaso Sacchi also speaks about this: “Le Dimore del Quartetto continues its goal of supporting and spreading musical culture, with a project of European scope, capable of strengthening the ties between the many different cultures that make it up. It is a project that not only promotes the circulation and expansion of string quartets, but also supports the activity of young artists, helping to strengthen in them, under the guise of music, that sense of identity that unites all European culture.”

Simone Gramaglia_Direttore artistico de Le Dimore del Quartetto
Simone Gramaglia Direttore artistico de Le Dimore del Quartetto

The artistic director of the “Le Dimore del Quartetto” network, Simone Gramaglia, says about the MERITA project that it “combines tradition and innovation in a concrete way. Wonderful 38 selected young quartets will have the opportunity to perform, to be heard, supported and above all to express themselves on the international level. Their message and their voice will be able to leave an important mark in the world of music through a strong network that combines passion, vision, determination to create a better future through beauty.” In this regard, it can be said that this project is a chance for young people to present themselves to the world, but also to push their own boundaries by becoming new, more mature people, with the potential to transfer their experiences to some new generations. This already paves a long-term path towards artistic growth and preparation for some new and better times, in which traditional values will be preserved, nurtured and improved together with youth.

You can find out more about the selected ensembles, as well as the further realization of the MERITA project, on its official website:


Author: Katarina Georgijević

Translation: Jelena Čolović

Petar Pejčić, cellist

Petar Pejčić
photo: © Clara Evens

This twenty-one-year-old cellist attracted the attention of the world public by entering the final and winning fifth place at one of the most prestigious competitions – “Queen Elisabeth” in Brussels. The artist captivates with extraordinary talent, clear, precise movements of the bow, in harmony with his body, like a ballet dancer, a piercing and refined sound and above all, an authentic and natural expression on stage, which leaves no one indifferent. Coming from a musical family, he started playing the cello at the age of four, which today is his life’s vocation and faithful companion. Apart from the fact that many people in Serbia know about him as the winner of the “Art Link Société Générale” prize and recognition for the most promising young musician in 2018 and the winner of the first and special prizes at the Republic Competition in Serbia in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016, they remember him for his great successes in the world, as well. Among his numerous recognitions are the special prizes of the company AENA at the renowned competition “Pablo Casals” in Spain, the second prize at the International Competition “Anna Kull” in Austria, the third place at the “Felix Mendelssohn” competition, as well as the fifth place at the “Queen Elisabeth” competition, where among 66 candidates he entered the final with 12 participants. He also shows his versatility through collaboration with Jacopo Godani and ballet dancers in contemporary theater projects. Since 2017, he has been studying in Leipzig at the University of Music and Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy in the class of Professor Peter Bruns.

The String Circle – the first network that nurtures the craft and construction of string instruments

Stefano Trabucchi_Laboratorio

With the desire to improve the professionalism of master luthiers of string instruments and to provide quality instruments to young performers at the beginning of their careers, the creative cultural enterprise from Milan (Italy) Le Dimore del Quartetto, which has been supporting international string quartets and chamber ensembles since 2015, came up with a new project. It was realized in cooperation with the “Antonio Stradivari” Violin Museum Foundation (Fondazione Museo del Violino Antonio Stradivari) and is called “The String Circle”. This network aims to nurture the collective elements of artistic creation and musical performance, with a special emphasis on the development of the combination of the work of artisans and musicians, in a dynamic where one creates the conditions for the full expressiveness of the other and vice versa. With this, the creators of the project want to show how the technical skill of the craftsman is actually a necessary condition for the artistic creativity of a performer to reach its peak.

European support project for young musicians MUSA – free handbook for new generations of artists

Due to the challenges of today, which require from musicians, in addition to good performing skills, entrepreneurial competence, which is crucial for the development of a career, realizing that this kind of guidance and training is almost completely absent in the general curriculum, the MUSA project allows young artists to get to become familiar with new skills. Believing that management, communication, knowing the potential of crossing different artistic disciplines, production, distribution, physical and mental training are necessary skills to turn passion into a profession – MUSA wants to improve the professional prospects of young European string quartets, to provide organizations dealing with this field with a new training proposal and strengthen the link between music and other artistic disciplines and cultural heritage in search of real employment, economic and social development.

Thanks to the innovative MUSA project (MUSA – European Young MUsicians Soft Skills Alliance – the term “soft skills” implies a combination of skills, abilities: communication, interpersonal, social, work under stress, etc.), which is co-financed by the “Erasmus” program of the European Union, professional training dedicated to young string quartets, with members from 20 to 35 years old. During the month of October 2022, the cultural organization “Le Dimore del Quartetto”, which supports international young string quartets and chamber ensembles, presented its achievements in Brussels after the completion of all three parts of the MUSA project. On this occasion, the Research Center ASK (Art, Science, Knowledge) of the Bocconi University in Milan presents a new tool and a free handbook for higher education programs in cultural entrepreneurship for young musicians entitled “The Entrepreneurial String Quartet: Key Learnings from the MUSA Project” and Research – Case study on Le Dimore del Quartetto. This handbook will be available to musicians, professionals, academies and conservatories to strengthen the entrepreneurial skills of those who wish to pursue artistic careers in music in our century.

The MUSA program lasted two years, starting in October 2020 until October 2022 and, involving nine string quartets from France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain and the Netherlands, developed in three phases. During the first phase in Italy in September 2021, the implementers dealt with communication and image strategy. The second phase in Portugal during October 2021 focused on “contamination” among different arts. Finally, the third phase took place in France in May 2022 and focused on copyright, recording and distribution, as well as physical and mental preparation.

These activities were an opportunity for young string quartets, selected by project partners, under the artistic direction of maestro Simone Gramaglia, to deepen their knowledge of the music market and learn how to be their own entrepreneurs. Among other things, the idea was implemented by hosting the quartets in each country, and through an artistic residency in historical villas and other places of cultural interest, during the one-week stay, the musicians attended lectures, workshops and performed at concerts, thanks to which they were able to learn to apply in practice, in front of the audience. Francesca Moncada, the founder and president of the “Le Dimore del Quartetto” organization, also spoke about the importance of this project: “MUSA is the concrete realization of a key career tool for this new generation of musicians taking the first steps of their careers in a transformed landscape that demands new skills”. As a cultural entrepreneur, founder, president and director of the organization “Le Dimore del Quartetto” and the AMUR committee, after experience in advertising agencies (Mc Cann Erickson, B&B Comunication), since 2003 she has dedicated herself to supporting non-profit goals for cultural and educational purposes for entities such as the Milan Quartet Society, the Foundation for Cultural and Artistic Heritage and Church Activities, the Academy of Bel Canto “Georg Solti”, the Association of Friends of the Music School in Fiesole, the French Secular Mission (Mission laïque française) and the French School in Florence. She is also an advisor for the non-governmental and non-profit association “Europa Nostra”, the Musical Youth of Italy, the associations “Piero Faruli” and “Diamo il la”.

Francesca Moncada
Photo: Diego Molaschi ©

Francesca Moncada is the founder and co-creator of the MUSA project – European young MUsicians soft Skills Alliance, as well as the cultural organization “Le Dimore del Quartetto”, which brings together young string quartets. With a consolidated network of houses, ensembles and partners in the field of music and artistic heritage, specialized in the planning and management of various projects, such as festivals and travel routes, master classes and training programs for musicians, educational projects for schools and universities, team-building activities for companies, the “Le Dimore del Quartetto” program was presented in the Chamber of Deputies in 2017 as part of the “Best Practices of Cultural Diffusion” research. In 2018, it won the Cariplo Foundation competition for cultural innovation, and a year later it won the European Heritage Award / Europa Nostra Award 2019, in the category of education, training and awareness. The following year, the global conference “The Best in Heritage” presented it as an “impact project”, and then in 2021, the 150th anniversary of the death of Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso was organized.

The artistic director of the project, Simone Gramaglia, also spoke about the importance and quality of this project, who believes that “the visionary MUSA project brings together the best quality of music that a united Europe can offer”. He further presents this project as “A bulwark of culture and values ​​beautifully represented by the String Quartet, a symbol of perfect democracy, the ability to combine plurality and diversity to grow together. […] Playing well is certainly a priority but it is not enough. Contact with the world, with other forms of expression, with life is necessary in order to have something to say, to express. Le Dimore del Quartetto, together with its prestigious European partners, has thought and wanted to try to put all this together in a single format. MUSA therefore looks to young people, accompanying them on a journey of human and artistic growth. For a better future, for an ever more United Europe”.

Simone Gramaglia

At the mentioned panel discussion in Brussels’ Gare Maritime, with the aim of presenting proposals related to the connection of models developed in the fields of music education, cultural heritage and circular economy, the results were presented by Francesca Moncada (founder of the organization “Le Dimore del Quartetto” and creator of the MUSA project) and Paola Dubini (professor and researcher at Bocconi University), while the guests were lecturers Paul Dujardin (chief project director of the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels), Alfonso Pallavicini ((President of the European Historic Houses), Xavier Pelgrims De Bigard (owner of Grand-Bigard Castle) Sneška Quaedvlieg Mihailović (Secretary General of Europa Nostra), Fiona Robertson (violinist in the Belinfante Quartet) and Pau Marquès I Oleo (founding member of the Belinfante Quartet), Igor E. Zanti (Global Head of Arts & Restoration at IED – European Design Institute), Yasmin Hilberdink (founder of the String Quartet Biennale Amsterdam).

Ukoliko biste voleli više da saznate o projektu MUSA, možete posetiti

veb-lokaciju www.ledimoredelquartetto.eu/musa

Author: Katarina Georgijević

Translation: Jelena Čolović

Festival Horovi među freskama

Početkom ovog meseca, 4. decembra, u atrijumu Narodnog muzeja Srbije počeo je dvadeset četvrti po redu festival duhovne muzike „Horovi među freskama”. Ovaj festival, koji je osnovan 1995. godine s blagoslovom blaženopočivšeg patrijarha Pavla, uz pokroviteljstvo Sekretarijata za kulturu grada Beograda, Narodnog muzeja Srbije, Hrama Svetog Marka i drugih, nije takmičarskog karaktera, već ima za cilj da promoviše autentičnost crkvenog horskog pevanja i očuvanje tradicije, uz akcenat na delima domaćih autora.

The Christmas-New Year series of concerts by the Musical Youth in Novi Sad

As part of the Christmas-New Year cycle, the Musical Youth of Novi Sad, like every year, prepared a rich program, consisting of six concert evenings. Encompassing all genres of artistic music, starting with spiritual, through ethnic Balkan melos and all the way to jazz and classical music, carefully nurturing and following the taste of the audience, Musical Youth is unfailingly able to create a program concept in accordance with the interests of the visitors. If you would like to spend this last month of the year at interesting concert events, as well as to see off this year in traditional style together with the Musical Youth, you can take a look at this year’s program.

The first in a series of concerts will be held on Thursday, December 15, in the Synagogue (Novi Sad), under the name “PESMA HERUVIMA” (The Cherubikon) by Divna Ljubojević and the choir “Melόdi” on the occasion of 30 years of creativity.

The BUNT festival is an integral part of the art scene and music, which can overshadow everyday life

From December 15 to December 28, the tenth “Belgrade Art New Territory” festival will be held, better known as BUNT (hereinafter – Bunt). The audience was impatiently waiting for the beginning of this event, where this year, during six festival days and nine concerts, with a rich musical repertoire starting from baroque, through classical and all the way to traditional Balkan melos, they will experience unforgettable concert days listening to top artists and performers from the domestic and world art scene.

Flautist and founder of the festival, professor Ljubiša Jovanović

Photo: Milan Bašić