VC INTERVIEW | Michael Dreyer, Founder and Artistic Director of Morgenland Festival Osnabrueck
Held from July 11 - 16, 2022, at the Stauffer Center for Strings in Cremona, this year's Morgenland Campus is explicitly directed at string players
In 2016, the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück, in conjunction with the Institute for Music of the University for Applied Science (Hochschule) Osnabrück, started the Morgenland Campus.
Open to 30 students from around the world, campus participation is free of charge to those chosen. The week-long workshop offers students the opportunity to work with musicians of the Festival to learn about non-Western musical styles such as Arabian music and various Asian genres. Tutors hail from Tehran, Beirut, and Damascus as well as Paris, New York, and Cologne.
This year, the festival is collaborating with the Stauffer Center for Strings, which will host this year's Campus in Cremona, Italy.
The Violin Channel had the opportunity to talk to Morgenland Festival's founder and Artistic Director, Michael Dreyer, to learn more.
In 2005, you founded the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück. Can you tell us about the mission of the festival and your vision behind this project?
The Morgenland Festival Osnabrück has dedicated itself to the fascinating music culture of the Near and Middle East, from traditional music, to classic and avant-garde, to jazz and rock. With its focus on a region, which immediately conjures up positive and negative cliché images, the festival has set itself the goal of counteracting these images with authentic ones.
The first idea for this festival was born when I recognized that all my friends and colleagues who are working as musicians, musicologists, and journalists, did not know anything about the musical scene in the Arab world, Iran, and Central Asia. If there was any coverage, it was in the world music scene, and I thought it was pretty limited.
At the same time, we heard about political conflicts in some of these region every day. It dawned on me that we knew so little about the civil society and culture of a region that is so rich and important — and the cradle of our culture as well!
How did you get introduced to Arabian music and music from Asia?
I started traveling the region in 2004 and probably made more than 100 trips to Iran, Iraq, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgisistan, Xinjiang, and the Caucasus.
I met musicians in bars, concert halls, and music academies. I am so grateful to the beautiful people, who later became dearest friends, for introducing me to their musical world. The inspiration for the Morgenland Festival came from this exposure to a whole new and incredibly rich musical world.
We are talking a lot about post-colonialism and Europe-centrism these days, which is absolutely correct and important. BUT, it is not about political correctness, it is about amazing music and beauty that we simply don’t see, what a loss! What a gift to get to know it!
Besides that, I always thought that a real dialogue between musical idioms, like the maqam based system and our chromatic system is an important part of musical avant-garde.
Why do you think it’s important for young classical musicians to play non-Western musical styles?
We live in 2022, we have access to so much musical material and ideas. How could we not use them? How could we not be excited to learn about them? What is musical avant-garde after 4:33 of John Cage, a piece that at this point is 70 years old! I encourage young musicians to ask these questions.
Another important point is that our societies in Europe and the U.S., have been multi-cultural for decades. The music that is played in the main concert halls is completely anachronistic. It should mirror our society and the multitude of our cultural influences, shouldn’t it?
And again: what pleasure and excitement it is to learn about more different musical languages. Maybe young musicians can use them later in their own musical work, maybe not – but we have the option and we are not limited.
How did you decide to initiate the Morgenland Campus and what is your goal for musicians attending?
During the festival, we host a large number of outstanding musicians, so it made sense for them to offer workshops for students. Quickly, it became its own project and in 2016, the Morgenland Festival Osnabrück, in conjunction with the Institute for Music of the University for Applied Science Osnabrück, started the “Morgenland Campus.” The goal is to offer insights and inspire the students to widen their horizons.
For which musicians is it best suited?
The Morgenland Campus addresses all students of music institutes that aim to become professional musicians, aged between 18 and 30 years old. This year is a special edition offered explicitly to string players and we are very excited to collaborate with the Stauffer Center for Strings.
How did the collaboration with the Stauffer Center for Strings come about?
The founding director general of the Stauffer Center for Strings, Paolo Petrocelli, invited me to Cremona a year ago. We quickly understood that we share many ideas about music, education, and culture in our society. So we decided to join forces and bring the Campus to Cremona in 2022. I think this is a real win-win situation and I am very grateful for this collaboration.
What feedback have you gotten from previous students?
We have received really beautiful responses in the last years, many of which mention that Morgenland Campus was “a life-changing experience.”
Other pieces of feedback include that it is “such an inspiring time, a beautiful opportunity to dive in into another musical world together with people who share the same passion.”
One participant wrote that it is about “opening new doors not only regarding new style of music but also of what it means to make music together and what an importance it has to inspire each other with new ideas.”
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s edition of the Morgenland Campus?
I am thrilled to bring the Morgenland Campus to such an extraordinary place, the Stauffer Center for Strings. It is so unique and the whole city of Cremona is, of course, exceptional in the string world. Also. I am very much looking forward to working with Paolo Petrocelli and the beautiful team that joins him at Stauffer Center for Strings.