Not everywhere in the world do young, talented musicians have the opportunity to attain an international standard. This is often due to the quality of local course offerings and the lack of networks. Together with the Philharmonic Orchestra, Columbian conductor Alejandro Posada, who had had the opportunity to complete his studies in Austria, therefore founded an academy in Medellin that offers particularly talented musicians from socially deprived backgrounds an opportunity to develop their skills to a level above the otherwise normal Columbian standard.
Together with renowned soloists, conductors and orchestral musicians, the Academy offers regular intensive workshops and orchestral projects which complement the studies and set new standards. Since 2015, the Academy - known as the “Academia Iberoamericana” – is acknowledged far beyond Columbian borders and is well on its way to become a competence center for musical training and further education in South America. And the Academy is by no means just about musical quality - it also all about social competence. Through the programme La Red, similar to programmes found in many other Latin American countries and cities, Medellin has opened 30 music schools in the most disadvantaged parts of the city to offer children and young people music education on a regular basis. This institution, which is inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema programme, aims to offer children both a meaningful recreational activity and at the same time to raise awareness for the great potential of togetherness to help develop one’s own skills and talents. The Academia Iberoamericana identifies those young musicians within its own ranks who display the talent required for a professional career in music. For these youths, many of which come from modest backgrounds, the scholarships awarded by the Academy provide an opportunity to complete their music studies at a university.
Concomitantly, the Academy organises intensive week-long programmes up to six times per year, in which the students develop orchestra programmes in collaboration with renowned musicians, and learn what is needed to progress from average to excellent. Aside from fundamental musical skills, this begins with topics ranging from rehearsal discipline to the responsibility and position of musicians in society. The Academy promotes the approach that music is a social instrument that can play a substantial role in society, rather than the widespread elitist approach often promoted in classical music.
In this spirit, the musicians work with one another, support each other and learn how to use their musical skills as part of a wider social responsibility. Commonality is valued above individuality – nevertheless, each individual must develop his own potential and his own personal skills in the spirit of a common entity.
The results of this work are young, responsible and team-oriented musicians who use the Academy’s offerings with utmost seriousness, commitment, diligence and consistence – while also making contributions in diverse fields, thereby sharing responsibility. What drives them is the insight regarding the potential offered by the Academy, but ultimately it is their personal effort with which each individual uses and implements these offers.
In 2015, after the Academia Iberoamericana had achieved a first class reputation, the Hilti Foundation initiated a basis for the Academy’s international focus. Social music programmes in South America often lack high quality training and further education possibilities. Many of those teachers heading “núcleos” (music schools) in Bolivia, Peru or other South American countries have only had basic schooling for their own instrument and lack pedagogic know-how, knowledge about psychological aspects associated with teaching and awareness for topics such as health or social problems.
The location of the music schools in rural areas, far away from any cities, with poor or no connection to the Internet and the lack of a regular exchange of information between the teachers poses a daily challenge to them. It is not unusual for talented children to quickly surpass their teacher’s level of competence.
These teachers are the target group for the international weekly workshops that the Academia Iberoamericana has been offering since 2015. During the 14-day intensive course, in addition to instrumental lessons, the participants attend pedagogic and psychological courses. They learn about the consequences of having the wrong posture while playing music while also receiving valuable hints on how to make their lessons more targeted and efficient. One module consists of three block courses that the participants complete with a diploma. At the same time, the teachers form a network that enables a year-round exchange between the participants, which they make active use of.
Furthermore, the Academica Iberoamericana sends its most talented Columbian musicians to the participating countries to teach there for a limited period of time. These lessons are recognised as the practical part of their university studies and gives the musicians an opportunity to develop their pedagogic skills.
Know-how transfer from Austria
The Academia Iberoamericana also benefits from its partnership with the Hilti Foundation with the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation. The renowned institution regularly sends musicians and scientists to the intensive course in Medellin. In exchange, upon invitation of the Mozarteum Foundation, every summer two Columbian musicians have the opportunity to take part in the distinguished Summer Academy of the Mozarteum University in Salzburg.