Side by side, from aside

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Yesterday I took a day off to join my daughter who participates in the international Side by side music festival held in town this week (here’s more info about it).

There has been a lot said about the initiative behind this great gathering. In short though, it is an open festival for amateur and professional choirs and classical orchestras within the El Sistema music school for culture for children, project. The purpose is to highlight peoples right to cultural education whatever the economic, religious or ethnic prerequisites may be. And since the teacher at the municipal culture school asked for parents who could join to help with the logistics, I thought it did sound great to volunteer.

And if the simple reason to participate for the good sake helping the wonderful people who work within the school, making our kids grow, wouldn’t be enough, I realised it was really inspirational from a musical perspective.

Because, the people running the festival are not only being great with making the kids engaged. They also have a very high ambition when it comes to the music itself – all with the policy “to set the goal just slightly above the level you think you can make.”

And seeing the professional musicians guide young ambitious kids to reach higher ground through just a couple of hours of practice is really uplifting. I can’t imagine how wonderful it will sound on Saturday after one more day of practice and with the back up from world class Gothenburg Symphonic Orchestra.

All this is quite a bit from the way I make and perform music. I’m pretty much self educated and I have a very limited knowledge of the written language of music, such as notes and stuff. And also, I’ve lately been experienced most of my musical adventures alone or together with a few fellow musicians. It’s not that I have actively avoided learning about music theory. I mean, there are people who think that you only can play music either by hearing or by reading, while the one stating it often is capable to do it either way, not both. And almost every time it comes with an implication that the other way is wrong. I believe that you can get along with either, that you even can make masterpieces with just one of the tools. Good examples are Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson who neither can read or play after notes. In the other extreme you have Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed his ninth symphony after he had lost his ability to hear. But I think you can benefit a lot from being able to use both.

But there I was sitting as a passive observer, if not an unknown world, at least a world out of reach. And it was fantastic to experience the power of some 200 school children singing, while truly believing their voices can make a difference. And goddamned if they couldn’t sounding like that.