The Czech Philharmonic brings music education to young listeners both in its home in the Prague Rudolfinum and as far afield as east Slovakia, where musicians from the orchestra accompanied the Czech/Romany singer Ida Kelarová to give concerts and workshops for young people in Romany settlements in 2014. Now the orchestra continues to work with Kelarová in providing music education to young Romany people. We caught up with the Czech Philharmonic’s head of education Petr Kaldec to talk about this and the many other education programmes the organisation offers, which are expected to reach 50,000 children this year.

Singers in the “Romano Drom” concert
Singers in the “Romano Drom” concert


WORKING WITH UNDERPRIVILEGED STUDENTS

DR: Your Romano drom project works with children from Romany backgrounds. What kind of access would these children have to music education if it weren't for the Czech Philharmonic and Ida Kelarová’s work?

PK: Probably none. These young people come from poor families and excluded communities where there’s zero access to the things that most young people take for granted. There are exceptions, of course, such as thirteen-year-old violinist Mário Žiga. But quite often it all depends on parents and how they lead their children.

Romano drom tries to help children break away from that vicious circle of social exclusion and to confront the sad reality of their not being welcomed by mainstream society. We want them to believe in themselves, to enable them to follow their dreams with self-confidence and integrity and to trust in others without fear.

Do you feel that it’s especially to represent the music of the Romany minority?

You occasionally hear Romany music outside Romany communities. But this joint project is truly unique, because you have this stunning Romany music played by a world-class orchestra and young performers who know the music inside out. And then you’ve another important aspect to it, which is the non-Romany and Romany worlds coming together to create something really beautiful. That happens very rarely, as they’re pretty much separated most of the time, only getting information from one another from social media and the press.

One of the settlements visited during the “Romano Drom” project
One of the settlements visited during the “Romano Drom” project

 

WHAT THE CZECH PHILHARMONIC OFFERS CHILDREN

Your education programmes at the Czech Philharmonic seem very extensive - covering most ages and lots of different aspects of music – composition, performance, instrument building and more. Do you feel that the music education that kids receive in Czech schools is not enough?

Music education in Czech schools has been neglected for a very long time and hardly any time is given to it on the curriculum. That said, we have so many wonderful teachers. The Czech Philharmonic can’t completely bridge the gap but it can offer things that aren’t taught in schools. I’m talking about learning from enthusiastic world-class musicians, getting the opportunity to listen to a live orchestra, participating in the creative process. We want to support music education by all means possible because the gift of music is one of the most beautiful things you can give to a child.

Instrument-building at the Czech Philharmonic © Petra Hajska
Instrument-building at the Czech Philharmonic
© Petra Hajska

 

You run a programme Little Train Ride With Dvořák, and some of your other programmes touch on Janáček and Smetana. Do you feel that it’s important to teach children about the music from their own country?

Of course it is. If we want to build on what’s best in our culture, to understand ourselves better and to learn what outstanding music is, we have to know our own culture really well. But we also want young people to learn about Beethoven, Bernstein, Stravinsky, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. It’s important to get to know the music of other nations. They can become part of “our” culture as well.

Rapt audience enjoying Czech Phil's “Picnic in the Rudolfinum” concert © Petra Hajska
Rapt audience enjoying Czech Phil's “Picnic in the Rudolfinum” concert
© Petra Hajska

 

HOW THE CZECH PHILHARMONIC ENGAGES YOUNG AUDIENCES

Your Music and Art Schools Project gives children the chance to play with members of the Czech Philharmonic in your concert hall. Is the goal of music education at the Czech Phil to help create a new generation of classical musicians?

It actually isn’t. The goal is to help people explore music and shape their relationship to it – “to bring out the love of music in people”, as we often say. Of course it’s great when someone falls in love with music or decides that he or she wants to be a professional musician after having been involved in one of our programmes. That kind of formative experience accompanies a person throughout his or her life. But the relationship to music is the most important thing.

You offer some programmes in English (Create an Orchestra, for example). Do schoolchildren from other countries attend your events?

Not very often. But our English programmes are attended by groups of students visiting Prague and by students from English-speaking schools in Prague. Everyone who wants to enjoy music is welcome at the Rudolfinum.

The new Czech Phil wind section © Petr Kaldec
The new Czech Phil wind section
© Petr Kaldec

 

Your education projects cover not only classical music, but also jazz (with the Nakara Trio), tango (Escualo Quintet) and folk music in the Orchestra in Pieces programme. Do you feel that it’s important that children are taught about all kinds of music, rather than only classical?

Yes, I do. Quality is important for us, genre isn’t. When new listeners start to explore the world of music, it doesn’t matter whether it’s jazz, tango or folk music that starts them off.

Which of your many education programmes has received the best response from the children?

Loads! I can’t pick just one. That’s why we have to programme more and more events to meet the growing demand. Workshops with the Czech Philharmonic members are very popular. The one given by the world-renowned harpist Jana Boušková, who is an excellent educator, stands out. A lot of students are also interested in our guided concerts, Four Steps to the New World. I’m also delighted that people are continuing to sign up for the Romany´n´roll workshops.

FUTURE EDUCATION PROJECTS    

What interesting education projects coming in the future are you most excited about?

In May 2018, we’re going to launch UFOs at the Rudolfinum, a new programme for parents and children. It promises to be a beautiful intergalactic encounter with music interpreted by our musicians. We’re calling them the Czech Cosmic Philharmonic! On International Romany Day (April 8th, 2019), there’ll be a big concert to round off the European Orchestra Laboratory, a three-year-long project supported by Creative Europe. Our own musicians will be joined on stage by young Romany people from the various different communities we’ve been collaborating with on a weekly basis since February 2017. Finally, over the next four years we’re developing a project called Music to Schools, which will bring music teachers together to share their inspiration and ideas. We want to show teachers that they’re not on their own out there, that they represent many kindred souls. 

Go here to learn more about the Czech Philharmonic’s music education programmes.