Responsibility towards Music, people and the planet
Training at Kronberg Academy
What tasks fall to an institution dedicated to the advanced training of exceptionally gifted musicians? Where do our responsibilities lie, and how are we to fulfil them?
Raimund Trenkler, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Kronberg Academy Foundation, and Friedemann Eichhorn, Director of Studies and Deputy Artistic Director, discuss questions including how Kronberg Academy can contribute sustainably to generating social and ecological benefit for all. Pablo Casals helps them to find answer.
Kronberg Academy aims to make “sustainability” one of its central concerns – central even to its training programme. Are you following a trend?
Raimund Trenkler Happily, it is indeed a trend! I rejoice in everyone
who follows it. We have to face up to the facts of life all around us – and to the responsibility we have for each other.
Even as an institution dedicated to music?
RT Yes, of course. We may be musicians or a musical institution, but we remain part of this world and this society…
Friedemann Eichhorn …and in our case, in fact, an international community.
RT That’s right. And the idea that artists may even have a special obligation to think of others is something that Pablo Casals was at pains to impress on us: when he addressed the plenary session of the United Nations assembly in 1958, he appealed to all musicians to place their art “at the service of humanity”.
In those days, of course, they were not thinking about environmental and climate protection…
RT No, they weren’t. Pablo Casals’ main concern was for no lesser cause than world peace, and the appeal he made then was part of his message of peace – he was nominated that year for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, I just cannot believe that Pablo Casals would not likewise be committed to environmental
and climate protection today. Not least because they are essential preconditions for world peace and justice.
Pablo Casals did much to shape the vision that inspires Kronberg Academy. The 20th anniversary of his death was the occasion for the first Cello Festival in 1993, and that really marked the founding of the Academy.
RT Yes, I have always been deeply fascinated by the stance that Casals took up as cellist and human. That is why I have sought to develop the Academy in his spirit. We are guided today by what Casals said and what he did: every single musician has a responsibility towards music, towards humankind and towards the Earth we live on. Seeing our Academy in that light, we simply must do all we can to increase sustainability…
FE I, too, believe Kronberg Academy is not simply “following a trend” in its concern for sustainability. Because thinking sustainably is what comes natu-rally to us, it is not a new position we have to get used to.
In what ideas and actions would you say Kronberg Academy has already incorporated “sustainability” in the past?
FE Quite definitely in everything to do with music itself – there, sustainability has always been our goal and a very important principle! Kronberg Academy considers it has a long-term responsibility to nurture classical music, ensuring
it remains a living thing and stays authentic. Both for people today and for the people of generations to come. That is a sustainability goal.
How do you achieve this … sustainably?
FE Through the artists who perform and teach here. The “intergenerational contract” that we always talk about is an eminently sustainable way forward: the elder generation passes on its knowledge and values to the next generation.
And musicians who have trained here come back to us and become role models for younger successors, whether as performing artists or as teachers.
RT Yes, for instance two very recent visitors were Antoine Tamestit and Kirill Gerstein, both of them highly regarded artists who worked with our students during their stays. They had both been here in the past as “Juniors” at Chamber Music Connects the World, which is where they first met in 2004. It is always very moving to see something like that. And Friedemann here was likewise a “Junior” at Chamber Music Connects the World.
FE Yes, that was in 2000, I have very clear and very happy memories of that first contact with Kronberg Academy. Now, the second or third generation of CMCW participants are teaching here on our study programmes.
RT This is how a living community of shared values has formed that is always growing, developing and renewing itself …
… effectively a system that perpetuates itself…
FE … and of course is powerfully enriched again and again from outside.
RT The training we give here is “sustainable” in another sense, too, where the individual young musicians we work with are concerned. What I mean is, we have to be very careful not to “wear them out”, and so indeed must they themselves. It is a real danger, because they are so much in demand, and one has to recognise the limits and ensure they are absolutely respected.
What does that mean in practice?
FE It mustn’t all be about “concerts at any cost” for the sake of launching one’s career early. By no means every outstandingly gifted young musician will automatically relish giving innumerable concerts all over the world every year. There needs to be careful selection. Every artist is different. Both for music
itself and for the entire musical community it is much more sustainable to let the artists simply be different – and express their different personalities in their music. Right from the start, we have always considered this very important. Likewise, musicians’ health and well-being generally. Our students are engaging in what, physically, ranks alongside top-level sport. We offer
them opportunities to learn how to treat their bodies well, so that they will “co-operate” in the longer term. We intend to develop this further.
And what is new? What else is in Kronberg Academy’s
plans for sustainability?
RT We plan to do more for the environment. When it comes to environmental sustainability almost everyone, and likewise almost every business, every civic authority, every institution, needs to take action – and of course so do we.
What will the Academy do?
RT We will be following two routes. One is minimising our own role in the problem. And the other is contributing as best we can to the solution – with the help of what we have to offer the world.
Let’s begin with your first approach, minimising the Academy’s role in the problem – how?
RT This route is straightforward. We – that is Kronberg Academy as an entity – want to conduct our affairs in as environmentally friendly a manner as possible, and of course as fairly and equitably as possible. This applies to
the events we host, our education and training, and to our routine office and administrative activities. For this purpose, we have begun introducing a sustainability management system and living up to its requirements. Primarily, of course, that means conserving resources. Which is how we ought to be conducting our domestic lives, too! We have to adjust quite a bit and we are not expecting to achieve perfection overnight.
One particular challenge with conserving resources – and specifically with trying to cut CO2 emissions – will surely be the travel involved … most obviously for the artists who come to Kronberg?
RT Yes, this is an important point, because the international encounters that inspire so much here are the lifeblood of Kronberg Academy. We can’t call a halt to these, and we won’t. Artists simply have to travel.
FE However, we are working to mitigate the problem in every way we can. For instance, we look into whether an artist actually needs to come by air. Is rail travel a viable alternative? Who are the artists already in Europe at certain times, perhaps even in Germany? Are there ways to synchronise work going on in Kronberg and concert activities better, so as to simplify travel planning? Or again, if any of our students are to be “On Tour”, performing in New York’s Carnegie Hall, for instance, then we will look first to include those who have a home base in New York. We are also transitioning more and more to online formats for rehearsals, selection interviews and meetings with our partners, with a view to minimising physical travel.
And in what ways is Kronberg Academy endeavouring to be “socially just and fair”?
FE Being socially just and fair should really be a given … It matters very much to us that our young musicians should have equal opportunities. To start with, there is the question of who is financially in a position to study here. Thanks to
our patronage system, happily it makes no difference whether or not a talented young musician – from whatever background – can afford to study at Kronberg Academy. A whole host of people have very handsomely stepped in here as private benefactors, taking on responsibility for funding individuals’ studies. Or again, when we arrange concerts for our students, we obviously take care to see that everyone has an equal chance. Any student can earn the opportunity to appear in front of a big audience through outstanding
achievements. This might be as a chamber musician in one of our “On Tour” projects, or perhaps even as a concerto soloist alongside an orchestra.
RT And on the subject of equal opportunity, we are aiming to make concertgoing accessible to even more people in future. Here, once again, Pablo Casals is our role model: he launched a series of concerts aimed at unskilled workers, and continued to run it for many years. We are looking forward to the extra scope the Casals Forum will give us for initiatives of this kind.
What do you envisage, and for whom?
RT Well, for example, we will have concert formats for family audiences and children, but we will also offer programmes for socially disadvantaged people, with low ticket prices. A further ambition we have is to bring music to people for whom access to musical experiences is normally very difficult. Because they
cannot simply “go to a concert” like everyone else, perhaps for particular health reasons. We are collaborating with the University of Frankfurt on a project involving concerts for people affected by dementia.
FE In all initiatives like these, a prime aim for us is to get our students involved. The hope is that they themselves – here is the sustainability principle again – will in turn come up with similar ideas or develop existing ones further.
I think we may now be looking at your “second route forward”, where Kronberg Academy aims to “contribute to the solution”…?
RT Yes, because it is our hope that the Casals Forum will play a beacon role in promoting sustainable living and the principles of fairness and equality. For that hope to be realised, the new initiatives and plans we have just talked of will clearly be instrumental. And yet there is still more that can be done. For instance, the Forum could host conferences and symposia on social issues and on different aspects of sustainability.
FE And, of course, public rehearsals! We shouldn’t underestimate this music either! Especially when chamber music is being played, or when there is a rehearsal for the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which is to become orchestra in residence here. Once you have people from so many countries making music together, everyone sees how mutually respectful, productive cooperation
between individuals can work. That is high culture, in every respect! It is quite simply the best example we could have.
And what role will Kronberg Academy, as a training institute, play here?
RT In contributing to the solution? Possibly the most important role of all … We have thought about what we can do, as a training institution, along the lines of a “Third Mission”. Research institutes, universities, private companies, they are all in a position to help enable us all to lead more sustainable lives, whether through innovation, for example, or investment in new technologies. But obviously these paths are not open to us as an institute dedicated to music.
FE But we do have a different kind of opportunity, namely we can help motivate people to want to live more sustainably. Because what we have is music. And music is the most sustainable power of all! Music makes people stop and listen …
RT … and moreover, music speaks to us much more directly than any argument – this is now established as neuroscientific fact. I, in any case, am firmly of the belief that music can influence people.
FE Our immense potential in this respect lies in the incredibly good young musicians who study here for several years and imbibe values as they study. Many of them will attain leadership positions in the world of music at some point in the future. These may be as performers or teachers. But the chances are very high that they will one day be listened to all over the world.
So what does Kronberg Academy intend to do?
RT We intend to train these exceptional young musicians to become artists fully conscious of their human responsibility towards music, people and the planet. And it is important to us that they leave Kronberg Academy with this mindset.
FE In other words, while we of course want them to have the very best musical education, we also seek to motivate them to do what Pablo Casals more or less urged them to: employ their artistry in the cause of peace among humankind – and the conservation of nature.
RT We aim to motivate them to seek out their own ways of doing this. And to use what influence they may have as artists to work towards those ends, directly or indirectly, for example by using music to focus attention on socially important topics, and acting as multipliers.
That is a major undertaking. How will you go about it?
FE By setting out on this path together with them while they study here. By imparting knowledge of the subject in all possible facets – above all those concerning social and environmental sustainability – and discussing it with them. But also by working with them to develop appropriate artistic projects.
And this is to be a permanent part of the curriculum?
FE Yes. We intend to introduce “sustainability” as a subject within the study programmes and make it part of the curriculum. This will begin in the coming
academic year, involving lectures and discussion groups. We also have ideas for concert programmes that present sustainability issues through the music. For example, we have just commissioned a composition from Fazil Say with this in mind. It is a string sextet that will grapple musically with the theme of environmental destruction, and it will have its world premiere at the official opening of the Casals Forum during the Kronberg Festival.