The Violin Channel recently caught up with Russian-Israeli violinist, Itzhak Rashkovsky - Music Director of the Keshet Eilon Summer Mastercourses, in Israel.
Itzhak, tell us about the Keshet Eilon Summer Mastercourse - its history, philosophy and mission?
"Keshet Eilon’s first steps in 1990 were very modest – a handful of violinists from Israel and abroad, met in Kibbutz Eilon, on Israel's northern border, to make music.
The Kibbutz, established in 1938, already had a rich cultural tradition, and its founders made music a central value in their lives. They had passed their passion for the second generation of the Kibbutz.
The Mastercourse participants were welcomed warmly by the local community, who immediately embraced them and made them feel at home. It gave them a feeling of belonging to the Kibbutz and getting to know Israel via the Kibbutz.
From the beginning we were very fortunate - during the 1990s, there was a massive wave of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union arriving in Israel. Amongst them were many musicians.
They instilled a new kind of energy into the social and cultural life of Israel and played an essential role in Keshet Eilon’s development and success.
Many of the young new-comers, gifted musicians, were looking for a suitable venue to advance their music study or develop their playing. They have found it at Keshet Eilon.
This first Mastercourse laid the foundations of Keshet Eilon. We succeeded in retaining many of its distinctive features throughout the 30 years that followed.
Since our first Mastercourse, the program's daily structure has remained the same - individual lessons in the morning, archery in the afternoon, masterclasses in the early evening and, concerts in the evening.
Keshet Eilon credo is that music, one of the eternal symbols of humanity, can serve as a bridge between religions, peoples, and nations.
The word "Keshet" in Hebrew means a bow or a rainbow and, we use it to symbolize a bridge or connection between people from different cultures, bringing them to make music together"
How does Keshet Eilon differ from other summer festivals and academies?
"Keshet Eilon focuses on an individual's playing.
Our students arrive at our campus after a long and intensive academic year, filled with many orchestral and chamber music projects. Here, we give them optimal conditions to focus exclusively on their playing.
Additionally, we have Archery as an integral part of our curriculum. We have found out that it provides a host of benefits to violin playing. It teaches a combination of soft and hard skills, including proper posture, muscle stability, focus, and competitive composure. For many of our students, this is their first visit to a sport's hall!
Another factor that differentiates Keshet Eilon is that we are probably the only Mastercourse in the world that constructs its facilities.
Over the years we managed to build a beautiful concert hall, music library, students’ dormitories, cafeteria, and faculty lodgings.
Throughout the year, these facilities are used for our seminars for young Israeli string players and teachers. Approximately 60 to 80 young string players from all over the country attend these seminars and benefit from the Keshet Eilon faculty experience. Here, Jews, Christians, and Muslim students can play together, and this interaction fosters personal connections through music, which is the essence of Keshet Eilon.
Our message to the world is that Israel is not only about war and violence"
How have you pivoted and adapted this year to the unprecedented difficulties of the COVID pandemic?
"This year was challenging for everyone. It’s not like we had a manual or playbook to refer to for such unprecedented situations.
Refusing to quit so that the music will go on was the only force that guided us through this time, and this is a potent source! Encouragement and support given by devoted friends brought us to the realization that we would operate the Mastercourse in a different format so that the Keshet Eilon will not stop"
What challenges have you had to overcome this year to ensure a smooth online edition?
"Our biggest obstacle was to overcome technological and technical issues regarding the transition to an online Mastercourse.
We were remarkably lucky to have such a dedicated and talented ‘IT Guy’ Vadim Beili. He is the star of the 2020 Mastercourse!
Also, as a project based on donations, we had to overcome a tremendous financial problem since all our fundraising events were cancelled due to the Covid 19. We have made great efforts to raise money through fundraising concerts via Zoom to overcome the problem"
How is the tuition and experience for the students this year compared to the usual in-person Institute? What initiatives have you put in place to maintain your core qualities?
"There is no comparison. Nothing can adequately replace the unique atmosphere of Kibbutz Eilon, its people, its landscape; and the real human touch between participants – faculty members, students and audience. However, we have maintained the regular schedule as we try to keep the format as near as possible to previous years"
What new possibilities have you seen emerge for the classical music industry from these challenging times?
"We have become technologically more skilled as we learn about new ways of working online.
Hopefully, this makes classical music and education more accessible and more widely available. I hope we can return to normal while simultaneously adopting the new skills and technologies that we have learned in recent months"
If audiences want to tune into this year’s Keshet Eilon Mastercourse, how can they do so?
"Please do so via the following links:
Or you can follow all on The Violin Channel's facebook"