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[Report] An Initiative to Nurture Young Musicians in Lithuania

January 25, 2016
By null

A national music festival to promote the training of young Lithuanian musicians was organized by Dalia Dedinskaite and Gleb Pysniak, Sylff fellows who attended the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Called Ars Lituanica, the forum was held between December 3 and 7, 2014, at Balys Dvarionis Music School in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius as a Sylff Leadership Initiatives (SLI) project.

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Young Lithuanian musicians have considerable trouble acquiring high-quality music instruments that will allow them to adequately improve their skills. Violinist Dalia Dedinskaite and cellist Gleb Pysniak were no exceptions, who faced this difficulty when they moved from their native Lithuania to Vienna to receive professional music training. Prices for fine European instruments start at around 10,000 euros for violins 18,000 euros for cellos. These are far too high for many Lithuanians, whose average monthly salary is just 531 euros, according to official government statistics.

Dedinskaite and Pysniak were able to overcome this challenge thanks to their professors’ support and their own determined efforts, but the experience left a deep impression, making them realize the acute need to help young musicians in their own country. It was through this experience that the idea for Ars Lituanica—a national forum and competition for violinists and cellists—was conceived. The idea eventually came to life through their strong initiative, passion for music, and love for their country.

Dedinskaite, left, and Pysniak

Dedinskaite, left, and Pysniak

They first succeeded in gaining the cooperation of famous and acknowledged craftsmen of stringed instruments—Wolfram Ries of Germany and Valdas Stravinskas of Lithuania—who agreed to lend their instruments as competition prizes and for exhibition during the forum. They also secured the patronage of President Dalia Grybauskaitė of Lithuania, who sent a message of encouragement to forum participants. They also gained the support of the Lithuanian Council for Culture, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania, and a number of private businesses. Thanks to these efforts, the forum attracted many outstanding young Lithuanian musicians and the interest of a broad segment of the general public.

The main aim of the forum was to draw the attention of young musicians—along with their teachers and parents—to the importance of musical instruments in the development of their skills and to give the best young Lithuanian musicians the opportunity to use world-class stringed instruments and to perform at concerts in Lithuania.

National Competition

The highlight of the four-day forum was a national violin and cello competition, in which the winners were given the privilege of using top-quality violins and cellos for one year. In the first round, held on December 4 and 5, 18 musicians competed in two age categories, and in the final round on December 7, eight finalists competed for a chance to use the four valuable instruments.

In the 14–17 age group, the winners were awarded the use of a violin and cello made by Lithuanian luthier Valdas Stravinskas. The violin is valued at approximately 5,800 euros and the cello at 10,000 euros. The winners in the 18–22 age group were given the opportunity to use a violin and cello made by German luthier Wolfram Ries, valued at 12,000 euros and 22,000 euros, respectively.

The winning contestants also performed at the Kaledinis Vilnius (Christmas in Vilnius) festival at the Vytautas Kasiulis Art Museum.

A Festive Atmosphere

An exhibition of the first modern string instruments in Lithuania was held as a side event, which was full of visitors over all four days. Luthiers were also on hand to speak with students, teachers, and professional musicians; make small adjustments and new bridges for violins and cellos; and rehair bows.

On December 6 luthiers held a workshop on the history of string instruments, answering questions and giving tips on the proper care of their instruments as well as on how musicians can improve their sound and comfort during performances.

Also on December 6 Dedinskaite and Pysniak joined violin virtuoso and professor Christian Altenburger to give masterclasses to competition participants and other young Lithuanian musicians.

The forum concluded on December 7 with a concert by the competition winners and an awards ceremony.

Major Impact

Ars Lituanica was a tremendous success. The event attracted great media attention, with over 30 articles appearing in major Lithuanian newspapers. Fellows Dalia Dedinskaite and Gleb Pysniak were interviewed by Lithuanian National Radio, and Lithuanian National Television aired footage of the Kaledinis Vilnius festival concert by the prize winners on the main evening news.

“During the Forum, a very cozy, fancy, festive atmosphere could be felt,” commented Pysniak in an article published by 15min.lt, a popular web-based newspaper in Lithuania. “It is a great pleasure to help young talents to pursue greatness in music by improving their performance technique and playing characteristics. And it is good to know that there are so many gifted and promising musicians in Lithuania.”

In the same article Dedinskaite said she was very happy that renowned violin virtuoso and educator Christian Altenburger visited Lithuania and gave his first concert in the country.

“Young musicians were able to not only learn from Mr. Altenburger’s experience but listen to his music as well,” she noted. “The most important thing is that this project was a success and that four young, talented artists were granted the chance to use top-class instruments. I hope that this event will become an annual tradition.”

Going Forward

Dedinskaite, second from right, and Pysniak, third from right, with the prize winners and juries at the ceremony.

Dedinskaite, second from right, and Pysniak, third from right, with the prize winners and juries at the ceremony.

Pysniak and Dedinskaite are themselves outstanding performers, but they were not satisfied with striving only for personal success. Displaying strong leadership, they sought to make a contribution to raising standards of musical performance in their country in a creative and imaginative manner. Their passion and enthusiasm persuaded government organizations and private businesses to offer their support, significantly enhancing the impact of the event. The Tokyo Foundation hopes that their SLI project will inspire and encourage other fellows with similar aspirations to launch a project aimed at bringing positive changes to society.

We hope that the young musicians who participated in the forum will become leaders of the classical music scene, emerging as role models for the next generation of young artists in Lithuania and around the world.

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Dylan Corlay Wins Top Prize at Jorma Panula Conducting Competition

January 18, 2016

Dylan Corlay

Dylan Corlay

Sylff fellow Dylan Corlay, a graduate of the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris and a participant in the 2012 Together in Tohoku project was named the first prize winner at the 6th Jorma Panula Conducting Competition 2015, held at the Vaasa City Hall in Finland on November 13, 2015.

The event is one of the most prestigious contests for next-generation conductors in Europe. Jorma Panula, the competition’s artistic director and chairman of the jury, is a legendary conducting teacher who is considered the “maestro of maestros.” He has been training young conductors for nearly four decades, and many of today’s most illustrious conductors have studied with him. The competition gives young European conductors an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience, promote their own work, increase their visibility as a conductor, and open new doors.

Corlay was also selected as the favorite orchestra conductor in the competition.

The 31-year-old French Sylff fellow is currently assistant conductor of the prestigious contemporary music ensemble, Ensemble Intercontemporain, and conducts student orchestras at the Conservatoire de Tours.

He volunteered his time to participate in the Together in Tohoku project in August 2012 as a French bassoon musician, during which he also led “sound painting” workshops for middle and high school musicians in tsunami-hit areas of northern Japan.

November 13 was, coincidentally, also the day of the Paris terrorist attacks. The great news of Corlay’s achievement is a ray of light on this otherwise sad and dark day. Our warmest congratulations to Dylan!

Visit Corlay’s website at: http://www.dylancorlay.com/

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[Report] Sylff Chamber Music Seminar at the Juilliard School
(January 4-13, 2015)

December 21, 2015
By null

Since 2006, the Sylff Chamber Music Seminar has been held jointly by the Juilliard School in New York, the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna and the Paris Conservatoire. A special support program for the three institutions is funded by the Tokyo Foundation, enabling approximately 14 fellows to gather at one of the host institutions each year, rehearsing and receiving coaching together before performing a final concert for a local audience and members of the host institution. The goal of the seminar is to foster long-term professional relationships among fellows and institutions and to expose them to different performing and teaching styles as well as to develop young leaders and artist-citizens of the 21st century.
Tokyo Foundation Program Officer Tomoko Yamada provides a report of the ninth seminar, held in New York in January 2015.

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All participating Sylff fellows and Tokyo Foundation members.

All participating Sylff fellows and Tokyo Foundation members.

From January 4 to 13, 2015, the Juilliard School hosted eight Sylff musicians from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, and the Paris Conservatoire. These musicians joined four professors and five Juilliard Sylff fellows for a week of chamber music, culminating in a vibrant concert at the renowned Paul Hall in Lincoln Center, the artistic epicenter of Manhattan. The musicians, originally from France, Austria, Australia, China, and Lithuania, performed works by Vissarion Shebalin, John Harbison, and Brahms.

A Tough Beginning

Things got off to a less-than-ideal start when the musicians from Paris arrived a day late and without their luggage after their plane was cancelled. New York City at minus 10 degrees Celsius is not the place to be when you have no clothes except what you are wearing. Even more worrisome for the musicians, this delay meant the potentially devastating loss of a whole day of rehearsal time—no small matter when the schedule allowed only a week or so from the first meeting to final performance.

The musicians ended up going straight from the airport into lessons and rehearsals. One of the fellows recalled: “Not having a break and seeing the rooms the moment we arrived from a two days long and complicated flight and having a lesson so early in the week. . . It would have been nice to practice a little more with all five (group of five among the three institutions who were brought together for the first time to play the Harbison Quintet) of us together before meeting the professor. But he was okay, comprehensive and helped us a lot with our practice (maybe it’s a cultural difference. . . ) The role of the teacher is more like a coach in the USA, helping the student to find a way to be independent. In Paris the teacher is waiting for a result, a concert version, more or less.”

This exposure to cultural differences is one of the strengths of the seminar. Guest fellows are exposed to different styles of teaching and practice that open their eyes to new perspectives. Generally speaking, the European master-teacher sees the student as an apprentice, who needs detailed instructions leading to an expected outcome. The American teacher tends to be more flexible, offering a blend of concrete guidance and greater openness to alternative approaches. Many European teachers believe it is their job to steer the student to the perfect performance. American teachers want their students to find their own voice, allow their soul to find expression in the music, even if the result is quite different from how the teacher would play it.

The Coaching Sessions

A coaching session for the Harbison quintet.

A coaching session for the Harbison quintet.

I enjoyed a rare opportunity to observe the coaching sessions. I was struck by the energy and passion of the coaches. The fellows were obviously taken in as they were scribbling away frantically on their scores, determined not to miss a word from the coaches.

Rehearsals were generally run by the host fellows from Juilliard, who had the delicate task of balancing the rigorous rehearsals with varying needs of guest fellows. Some were suffering from jetlag, while others were anxious to get a taste of the city. Yet others needed to grab some clothes at H&M because their luggage still hadn’t turned up. The host fellows tried to strike a balance between organizing intense rehearsals and making sure that their guests got some free time. I knew from the previous two seminars that each of the three institutions has its own styles of practice and rehearsal. The American approach seems to give the students a large degree of freedom to determine what they need to rehearse and when.

Pre-college Students

Giving advice to the pre-college students.

Giving advice to the pre-college students.

Amid the tightly knit coaching, rehearsal and practice, Bärli Nugent, who is assistant dean and director of chamber music at Juilliard and works as the orchestrator of the Sylff Chamber Music Seminar, managed to squeeze in a session on Saturday afternoon with a group of Juilliard pre-college students and the wind instrument fellows. “Juilliard pre-college students” are teenagers ranging from 10 to 18 who have a serious interest in music-playing and take pre-college classes at Juilliard in preparation for a possible music career. This was a magnificent idea. Fellows got a chance to share their experience and expertise as musicians with younger people. The pre-college teenagers started by performing one movement of the Harbison wind quintet, followed by the Sylff fellows playing the same piece. This was followed by a lecture by a fellow on French bassoon, which is rarely played outside France. Finally, there was an informal discussion among the fellows and pre-college students.

One could see that this was a mind-boggling experience for the pre-college students. I could observe their seriousness in the way they listened intently to the fellows’ performance, silently taking notes on the scores on their lap. During the informal discussion, one of the fellows, a flutist, demonstrated one of his favorite practicing techniques. He played an Irish folksong, beating the rhythm with his foot, and explained that this helps the body to relax and play better. One of the pre-college students, a young Asian girl who had been watching intensely, seemed astonished by this revelation. She had always concentrated on practicing the perfect technique for classical flute, and this more relaxed approach seemed to open her eyes to a new perspective.

The session with pre-college students was also valuable for the fellows, one of whom described it as a highlight of the entire seminar. “The best moment was when we met the pre-college students, listened to them, and played for them, and especially the talk we had together about what music means for us, our futures, our passion” That was the most powerful aspect of the entire seminar for him. As well as learning many new things during the seminar, the fellows also had a valuable opportunity to teach something to local young musicians who may follow in their footsteps. It was a chance for all the fellows to reexamine their own passion for music.

Finding the Music

Sylff fellows including Meta Weiss, standing center, with Shebalin’s grandchildren.

Sylff fellows including Meta Weiss, standing center, with Shebalin’s grandchildren.

As the days went by, the music gradually moved closer to perfection. I realized that the fellows were not simply learning and practicing the music. Rather, they were interpreting the score and finding the music by fusing the differing musical opinions among them. This was particularly true for Shebalin’s String Quartet No. 9. This piece was proposed by Juilliard’s Sylff fellow, Meta Weiss, whose doctoral research had focused on how Soviet politics and the composer’s medical condition manifested itself in his music. Weiss's research in Moscow was funded in part by the Sylff Research Abroad program. Thus, for the first time, research and performance were brought together with Sylff support. Doing this was not easy, however. The score that Weiss had brought back from Moscow was incomplete and there was little additional information available on the music. Weiss worked together with Susanne Schäffer (Vienna) and Clare Semes (Juilliard) on violins and Marina Capstick (Paris) on viola to interpret the score and completed the music for the performance.

Clare Semes reflected: “Learning the music of Shebalin was a very powerful experience. My colleagues and I had the privilege of learning, with great help from Weiss, the ninth quartet of this little-known composer. The journey from the first rehearsal to the final performance was very impactful because I was able to discover the music of Shebalin with new and old friends from Juilliard, Vienna, and Paris.”

The Concert

(From left to right) Clare Semes, Suzanne Schäffer, Marina Capstick, and Meta Weiss performing the Shebalin quartet.

(From left to right) Clare Semes, Suzanne Schäffer, Marina Capstick, and Meta Weiss performing the Shebalin quartet.

The concert began with the Shebalin quartet. Before the performance, Weiss provided the audience with some background on the remarkable story of the piece. Shebalin’s grandchildren were present in the audience as the piece received its American premiere.

(From left to right) Samuel Bricault, Julia DeRosa, David Raschella, Lomic Lamouroux, and Georgina Oakes performing the Harbison quintet.

(From left to right) Samuel Bricault, Julia DeRosa, David Raschella, Lomic Lamouroux, and Georgina Oakes performing the Harbison quintet.

This poignant performance was followed by John Harbison’s quintet for winds. Harbison is a contemporary New York composer who remains little known outside the United States. Most of the fellows had never played his music before. The effort they made to grapple with this unfamiliar music was well rewarded in a performance that was intense and at times playful.

The concert reached its grand finale with Brahms’ majestic Piano Quartet in G Minor, a performance that was greeted with roaring applause from the audience.

(From left to right)Yun Wei, Marc Desjardins, Gleb Pysniak, and Ying Xiong performing the Brahms quartet.

(From left to right)Yun Wei, Marc Desjardins, Gleb Pysniak, and Ying Xiong performing the Brahms piano quartet.

This comment by a fellow who has participated in seminars at all three host institutions sums up the program best:

“Chamber music is a beautiful musical form. It not only allows each musical personality to shine individually but also makes possible a wonderful blending and shaping of colors though a variety of instrumental combinations. These seminars have given me an opportunity to understand my own musical voice by not just exposing me but immersing me in new musical cultures. Each immersion gave me the possibility to reflect upon my own approach to music. To identify similarities and differences, to gather new ideas and tools.

“But, most importantly, coming away from these seminars over the past three years, I can feel that they have mapped my development from being a student seeking a teacher’s guiding path into an artist with my own personality, voice and integrity.”

In Closing

Every great program owes its success to the people working behind the scene to make it happen. I would like to end this report by expressing my sincere thanks to Bärli Nugent of Juilliard, Gretchen Amussen (director of external affairs and international relations, Paris Conservatoire) and Dorothea Riedel (project manager, University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna) whose efforts have helped this program to flourish.

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The Urban Art of Hip Hop among Young Immigrants in Palermo, Italy

July 3, 2015
By 19640

The Migration Observatory of the Institute of Political Education “Pedro Arrupe” is a website that publishes the results of scientific research on migration to the island of Sicily, where the institute is located. Martina Riina, who received a Sylff fellowship in 2014, chose to focus her research for the Observatory on the culture of second-generation migrants by focusing on the ways in which they express themselves through the medium of hip hop.

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Between April 2014 and February 2015 I conducted social anthropological research in Palermo on a form of musical and narrative expression known as hip hop. My research focused on the ways in which young immigrants living in the city express themselves through hip hop culture and on the importance of this form of social and artistic communication in enabling them to find an identity in their new surroundings.

Urban Anthropological Approach

From a theoretical point of view, I tried to analyze the hip hop narrative as expressed mainly in the rap musical genre through sociological and urban anthropological perspectives, focused on the creative expressions of ethnic minorities in big cities, their message, and elements of cultural resistance.

I followed the analytical approach of French sociologist George Lapassade, one of the first scholars to address hip hop culture in his work on immigrants living in the suburbs of Paris. Lapassade compiled his reflections in what soon became the manifesto of youth hip hop culture—Le Rap, ou la Fureur de Dire (Rap, or the Fury of the Word)—a deep investigation into the symbols, practices, beliefs, and lifestyles revolving around this expressive language.

I learned through Lapassade’s analysis about hip hop’s origins in the Afro-American ghettos of New York in the late 1970s. The youth in these communities asserted their freedom of speech through real street expressions of song, music, dance, and mural art, weaving messages of civil rights with a desire to be recognized and to participate actively in the social life of the city’s most deprived neighborhoods, even among those belonging to different ethnic minorities who populated those neighborhoods.

Starting from the history of hip hop, I studied the ways in which young immigrants in Palermo today proclaim their freedom of speech and the right to express themselves, comparing these with the behavior of their native counterparts. I tried to answer two fundamental questions: How do younger immigrants express themselves through the medium of hip hop and how does this “language” help create opportunities for different groups to meet each other and to influence one another through a process of “cultural contamination”?

Presenting Distinctive Narratives

What emerged from my research was that the language of hip hop and, in particular, rap—its main outlet of expression—are significant channels of expression for undertaking a comparison of groups of young people; the fact that many of them, both immigrants and natives, “speak” the same language allows them to talk about themselves, discuss and express their values, and register dissent in ways that are comprehensible to all parties.

In the fieldwork phase of my research, I closely analyzed how this language comes to life—the way it becomes the preferred channel both of communication with others and of self-expression in relaxed, everyday settings, away from family or school.

One of the most interesting aspects of the hip hop language is its manifestation in the form of “verbal challenge” or “poetic duel,” a dimension of rap’s expressive world containing some extremely revealing elements regarding how contemporary youths confront one another and present their distinctive narratives.

The first thing to take note of is that rap is a modern and purely urban form of oral poetry. Given its Afro-American origins, it is characterized by improvisation and interaction with the audience as the “poet” tells their story.

The story may challenge the audience to question their attitudes toward specific issues with which they are involved, encouraging them to listen and respond to statements that affect them as a community.

What young rappers are engaging in are verbal street fights involving blows of rhymes and assonances. The aim of these “duels” is to express their feelings about their rivals and also their frustrations and disappointments in an artistic manner—a process that might help reduce the number of actual, physical brawls. For young immigrants living in Palermo, the improvised dueling of words, known in the hip hop jargon as “freestyle,” is a way of narrating their own stories directly to their peers in a recognizable style, giving them an element of commonality in spite of their uniqueness.

The linguistic specificities, for example, emphasize the different cultural backgrounds and gestures used in the performances. They also have much in common in the ways topics are addressed, the messages contained in both the improvised and structured lyrics of the songs, the problems faced by today’s youth, the performers’ ambitions and desires, how they spend their leisure time, and tastes in fashion, films, and music.

These topics allow immigrants and natives to know each other better, to learn about their differences, and to reduce stereotypes and prejudices.

Educational Potential

During personal observations of these young people’s modes of self-expression, I realized how important it is to formulate project ideas or social initiatives that allow them to be leaders of their own growth and to affirm their communication and artistic practices. Producing rap lyrics, for example, encourages young immigrants to learn the language of the receiving society and, at the same time, gives them a new channel to communicate their experiences. In an increasingly global and interconnected world this is essential in order to gain a better understanding and awareness of multiculturalism.

Stimulating communication and transmitting shared messages are the engines of rap, and it is for this reason that it has the potential to promote creativity and innovative discoveries in educational and training settings, where aggregation and interpersonal relationships are the fundamental conditions of growth.

In conclusion I would like to point out the importance of hip hop today for young people, both immigrants and natives, as an extremely interesting world of artistic expression. The techniques used to create and perform their works require great skill, effort, research, and continuous recombinations of sound and verbal elements. The ready access to multimedia tools helps young people to learn the use of various technologies by themselves. A rap text is often composed of sentences, refrains, and musical elements of songs written by other artists that are mixed together to create new messages with personal, poetic elaborations. This also allows them to “collaborate” with artists far away in time and space—evoking memories of earlier artistic works and building on them through the reappropriation and reinterpretation of their lyrics.

Creative practices like hip hop in contemporary society are, in my opinion, much more than simple artistic genres: they represent people’s inner voice. It is their personal way of saying who they are and where they come from, as well as their conscious attempt to spread a message about their view of the world.

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Fellow Launching a Music Collective in Celebration of NZ Music

February 24, 2015

Holly conducts CPE Bach Double Concerto with Southern Sinfonia - Photo credit, Pieter du Plessis

Holly conducts CPE Bach Double Concerto with Southern Sinfonia - Photo credit, Pieter du Plessis

Conductor Holly Mathieson, a Sylff fellow from New Zealand, is organizing a concert on March 18, 2015, in Berlin, Germany, to launch Horizont Musik-Kollektiv (www.horizontm-k.com), an organization to celebrate the works of New Zealand composers and bring together New Zealand musicians in Europe.

Mathieson earned her PhD in music iconography from Otago University, New Zealand, during which she was supported by a Sylff fellowship.

After receiving her doctorate, she returned to a performing career as a conductor. She now lives in London, where creative artists gather from around the world, working as an assistant conductor to Donald Runnicles at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. She has had many exciting experiences in her career, including assisting Christoph von Dohnanyi at the concert for Prince of Wales’s birthday at Buckingham Palace in 2013.

Berlin launch concert

Berlin launch concert

The idea of setting up Horizont Musik-Kollektiv, for which she will serve as music director, came from her desire to return something to the European artistic community. Mathieson notes that her artistic life has been greatly enriched through her contact with the traditions, music, and history of Europe, and she hoped to contribute to Europe’s art community through the music of New Zealand.

At the same time, she wished to help New Zealand musicians in Europe to play and network with their European peers. She says, “Throughout history, such creative and intellectual crossroads have been where wonderful things have been born.”

Organizing a concert was not an easy task, however. First, she had to raise funds, and she then struggled to find the right venue and a good group of freelance New Zealand musicians. She also needed to find her own time to focus on the project. Berlin was chosen as the concert venue because it is an important center for creative work in Europe and—she thinks—is a great place to try something new.

The Tokyo Foundation is very happy to learn of her initiatives to create a “musical crossroads” for New Zealand and Europe. We congratulate her and wish her great success with the concert and her new organization.

Visit the following site for details about the concert: http://www.horizontm-k.com/#!projects/cee5

Holly Mathieson received a Sylff fellowship in 2008 while enrolled in a PhD program at Otago University, New Zealand. After graduation, she returned to her performance career as a conductor. Currently she is artistic director of Horizont Musik-Kollektiv and co-director of the Reuleaux Ensemble in London. She has worked in performance or masterclass with the BBCSSO, Philharmonia Orchestra, members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Opera Holland Park, Garsington Opera, Zafraan Ensemble, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Southern Sinfonia, and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

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Sylff@Tokyo:Vienna Violinist Enchants Audiences in Japan

January 29, 2015


Violinist Johannes Fleischmann, a 2013 Sylff fellowship recipient at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna, made a tour of venues around Japan in October, including a special lunchtime performance at the Nippon Foundation on October 7.

He was touring Japan with Philippe Raskin, a Brussels-born pianist with whom Fleischmann has been working as a duo since 2010. The Nippon Foundation Lunchtime Concert is a bi-weekly classical music series held at the Nippon Foundation Building that is very popular among music lovers in central Tokyo.

In 2011, Fleischmann participated in concerts for children in areas devastated by the tsunami and earthquake earlier that year as a guest member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. His visit to Japan this time was realized after the duo was selected by the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as ambassadors for the New Austrian Sound of Music (NASOM) Program in 2014–15 to promote Austrian music overseas.

Fleischmann, left, and Raskin, right, with members of the Tokyo Foundation

Fleischmann, left, and Raskin, right, with members of the Tokyo Foundation

The duo’s performance at the Nippon Foundation started with Beethoven’s “Spring Sonata,” followed by the Tokyo premiere of “Matsushima Fantasy” dedicated to tsunami and earthquake victims, composed by Christoph Ehrenfellner. The concert closed with a jazzy improvisation piece that enthralled the Tokyo audience.

The duo’s tour of Japan also included concerts in Machida, Arakawa, Kobuchizawa, Shiogama, and Sapporo. In addition to being outstanding performers, they are socially engaged teachers and leaders, holding workshops for underprivileged children all around the globe. We wish them the best of luck with their careers!


Johannes Fleischmann Born in Vienna in 1983, Johannes Fleischmann received his first instrumental foundations at the age of 5. In 2003, he began his studies at the University of Music and the Performing Arts Vienna, in the classes of Klaus Maetzl and Christian Altenburger. He now performs as a solo violinist and chamber musician at numerous stages around the world and also regularly guests in celebrated orchestras, such as the Vienna Philharmonics and the Vienna Symphony. In 2010 he founded, with pianist Philippe Raskin, the “Raskin & Fleischmann” duo. Since then, they have toured extensively around the world, performing numerous concerts in Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa. http://www.johannesfleischmann.at/

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Music and Social Edification in Peru

August 6, 2014
By 19673

Having gained a “keen appreciation for the uplifting power of music” through his participation in the charity workshops and concerts for areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Paris Conservatoire Sylff fellow Carl-Emmanuel Fisbach launched a Sylff Leadership Initiatives project to utilize music as a potent tool for social cohesion in disadvantaged districts of Peru. Below, the saxophonist details the discoveries made during the initial seminar—held in collaboration with both Europe-based and local musicians—of a five-part SLI project.

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My involvement with the “Together in Tohoku” Sylff project in August 2012 marked a turning point in my conception of the musician’s role in society.

Through that experience, when I was among a group of Sylff musicians who participated in charity workshops and concert in support of areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, I gained a keen appreciation for the uplifting power of music and decided to apply that inspiration to other parts of the world. Little did I know that my path from Japan would eventually lead me to Peru.

A Socio-Musical Intercultural Project

After a string of concerts in Latin Amerca in 2012 and 2013 with the Lima Conservatory and the nongovernmental organization ErArt, which promotes cultural events in less developed areas of Peru, I helped formulate a socio-musical intercultural project titled “Participative Music-Making in Disadvantaged Areas and Pedagogical Training for Saxophonists” that took place in February 2014 with generous assistance from Sylff Leadership Initiatives, ErArt, and the National Conservatory of Music in Lima. The project team included the musicians who accompanied me in Lima during my first tour of the region.

With a poverty rate of 30%; Peru seemed perfectly suited for our planned project of social uplift and edification. From the start of the program, we sought to artistically engage with the local population through concerts and hands-on teaching sessions. Music is a potent tool for social cohesion—one that can transcend social, cultural and linguistic differences while promoting intellectual and spiritual development. Studies demonstrate that participation in cultural events enhances citizens’ sense of belonging within a community. Peruvian saxophonists were instrumental in imaging the project.

The initial 10-day SLI seminar held in Peru in February 2014 was the result of extensive deliberations and was the first in a series of five that will be held every six months through February 2016.

Each seminar has two components: (1) musical workshops in disadvantaged neighborhoods of Lima and its environs to help audiences discover various instruments and contemporary music in partnership with ErArt and (2) professional-level training of saxophone teachers from the principal Peruvian conservatories in partnership with the National Conservatory of Music in Lima.

The long-term objective is for the two Peruvian institutions—ErArt and the Conservatory—to organize more joint activities to sustain the energy generated by the seminars. In many respects, the project was similar to the 2012 Sylff-organized trip to Japan, featuring workshops in Sendai and a concert with middle- and high-school wind musicians at Suntory Hall in Tokyo.

Confronting Reality

The purpose of the Peru project was clear, but preparations were arduous. I had never coordinated such an ambitious project involving partners in such far flung countries as Japan, Spain, France, Peru, and the United States. In February 2014, I travelled to Lima with the cellist Marie Ythier, with whom I perform in the cello-saxophone Denisov Duo. After a taxing flight filled with delays and missed connections, Marie and I arrived in Lima, where everything all at once became real.

On our first day, we traveled to a municipal school to work with local residents of all ages. It was a joy to share our passion for music with such a receptive, open-minded, and motivated group. Everyone was curious, from small children who imitated the cellist’s use of the bow to the institutional directors who would spontaneously come to the microphone to sing a traditional melody while we improvised an accompaniment.

There were some, though, who questioned our motives for coming to their country to perform as professional musicians—a clear indication that our work would not be easy.

Our program included visits to two schools: the Republica de Brasil not far from the center of town and the Fe y Alegría 33 in the suburbs of Ventanilla to the north of Lima. The bus rides, made with our Peruvian counterparts, were profoundly disturbing. Entire neighborhoods consisted of half-built houses with bare earth as sidewalks. Though we had prepared ourselves for such scenes, the poverty was unrelenting and deeply affecting.

Nevertheless, we came to realize that the schools were protected and much cared for—not only physically but also by the respect they evoked from the local people. It was not rare to see advertising campaigns for these schools or to hear slogans on the radio, such as “Our Education Is Our Future,” including mention of specific schools like Fe y Alegría.

According to the music and other teachers we met, Peru lacks teacher training for music instructors, especially in the public schools. This was the main reason we were invited by ErArt to share our European approaches with members of the Education Faculty at the PUCP (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú)—encounters which proved to be highly successful. The same enthusiasm marked our sessions with the saxophonists at the Conservatory and led to our endlessly pleasurable exchanging of musical knowledge.

Our various concerts were well received, even when they focused on so-called “serious” classical music. It appears that this genre is in fact much sought after in South America. A workshop-concert organized by ErArt gave us a chance to provide the audience with key insights into each work, thus creating an intimate, convivial relationship with listeners.

ErArt wishes to strengthen its links with music education institutions in Peru. The initial workshops and concerts I helped develop in disadvantaged areas will be subsequently enlarged by ErArt through joint projects led by the saxophone professors who participated in the project.

Pursuing this work in the months and years ahead constitutes a wonderful opportunity, one that may be particularly useful for Peruvian saxophone players, as courses via the Internet are put in place.

I would once again like to thank the generosity of the Tokyo Foundation, the Paris Conservatoire, and the Juilliard School for their support and assistance in structuring the project so as to strengthen the links between music and society. Without them, this project would not have been possible. I am already eager to begin the second seminar in October!

Schedule of Upcoming Seminars:
—October 2014, with pianist Wenjiao Wang
—February 2015, with Wenjiao Wang and saxophonist Rodrigo Vila
—October 2015, with Marie Ythier
—February 2016 (last session), with saxophonist Claude Delangle and Rodrigo Vila

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Jimmy Chiang Tours Japan as Resident Conductor of Vienna Boys’ Choir

June 9, 2014

Jimmy Chiang with Mari Suzuki, Director of the Tokyo Foundation

Jimmy Chiang with Mari Suzuki, Director of the Tokyo Foundation

Sylff fellow (2005, University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna) and conductor/pianist Jimmy Chiang has performed in venues around Japan as the resident conductor of the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

He and the choir’s “Haydn Team” went on an extensive tour of Japan from late April to mid-June. As in many countries, the Vienna Boys’ Choir is extremely popular in Japan and Jimmy’s Choir performed at many of the most prestigious concert halls in the country, including Suntory Hall and Tokyo Opera City.

“I have been conducting mainly operas and symphonies, so I was surprised when I was approached to conduct the Vienna Boys’ Choir last year. I think I made a positive impact in the short time I ‘ve been with the choir, and I have enjoyed the experience enormously.”

Jimmy has endeavored to make performances more entertaining and engaging. Under Jimmy’s guidance, the boys not only sing but also perform musical instruments, including piano and percussion, and sometimes surprise the audience by appearing on the balcony, giving the impression of yodeling from mountain to mountain. Audiences in Japan have been thrilled. Jimmy’s experience in opera has enabled such dramatic and creative forms of expression, which represent a break from traditional, orthodox choir singing.

Jimmy’s extensive experience and skills have been effective in leading the choir from day one. “I have been pushing the boys to be more professional by showing them my own professionalism as a musician.” Jimmy is a father of two boys and says that being a father has helped him to be strict and loving at the same time.

As a message to young Sylff musicians, he had this advice: “Be honest. Be honest with your music. Be honest with your audience. It’s a challenge building a musical career, but don’t compromise. Try not to lose your originality, and always keep in mind what you set out to do in the beginning.”

Jimmy Chiang
After receiving a Sylff fellowship in 2005 at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where he studied orchestral conducting, chorus conducting, and piano, he was awarded the First Prize in the renowned Lovro von Matacic International Competition for Young Conductors in 2007. His career since has taken him to the most distinguished stages around the world. As a Sylff fellow, he has also participated in charity concerts with other fellows at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. Besides his active performing schedule, Jimmy also devotes himself to music education, serving as artistic adviser to the Hong Kong Children’s Symphony and as tour leader and performer since 2011 of children’s opera productions of Kinderoper Papageno, seen by over 15,000 children in the German speaking world.
Jimmy's official website: www.jimmychiang.com   

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Music Connects Us All

May 12, 2014
By null

The seventh Sylff chamber music program, “New York-Paris-Vienna,” was held recently in Paris with a grant from the Tokyo Foundation. Here, Paris steering committee member Gretchen Amussen introduces some of the enthusiastic comments by the participating fellows and professors.

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From January 16 to 24, 2014, the Paris Conservatoire hosted eight Sylff musicians from Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts and New York’s Juilliard School, who joined forces with four professors and six Paris Sylff fellows for a week of chamber music, culminating in a magnificent concert in the Invalides Army Museum’s historic seventeenth-century Grand Salon. The musicians, representing eight nationalities, performed works by Tomasi, Ravel, Jolivet, De Falla, Villa-Lobos, and Mozart.

“Playing music with new people is always a challenge,” said French fellow and flutist Mathilde Calderini of the experience, “because first you have to ‘find’ each other. But in the end it’s worth it!”

For French fellows Lomic Lamouroux and Carl-Emmanuel Fisbach, who participated in last year’s Viennese encounter, as well as pianist Antoine Alerini, who had gone to New York several years ago, being the hosts meant taking responsibility for sharing French culture. For Lomic, “The human aspect is essential, which is why I wanted to spend time with other fellows so they could better understand our country, our art, and who we are, much as had been the case for me when I went to Vienna.” In fact, for all involved, the cultural dimension proved as important as the music making.

For Juilliard’s Francesca dePasquale, “It’s one thing to speak about the French sound for French composers and completely another to be in France, see the incredible architecture, art, museums, and learn about the kind of sound here. For me, this was very valuable as an artist.” Vienna’s Georgina Oakes agreed, saying “I can’t get over the beauty of the city, which I’m sure will continue to inspire my artistry.”

The cultural aspect of the week got off to a vibrant start with an afternoon tour of the city, followed by dinner at the Auberge des Pyrénées-Cévennes. Traditional French cooking from the Southwest and from Lyon was featured, allowing for new culinary discoveries. Georgina Oakes, doubtless the most adventurous, chose a dish featuring pig’s feet, which she joyfully shared with those sitting close to her. For Georgina, “tasting” a culture seemed as important as hearing a new language and visiting historic monuments.

The project began weeks earlier with the sending of hard-to-find scores and parts to the visiting fellows. Upon their arrival, complex rehearsal schedules were distributed, and students were taken on a tour of the Invalides Army Museum. Of particular interest to the visitors was Paris’s system of reserving time and space for personal practice at the Conservatoire: something that the French students take for granted but that others felt could be incorporated in their home schools. Rehearsals began shortly thereafter, with the sounds of music, animated discussion in multiple languages, laughter, and music-making reverberating late into the night.

One feature of the Paris Sylff project is that students and teachers perform together. For oboist and chamber music professor David Walter, when you “play a program with students, their minds are fresh and full of hope regarding the music. They are ready to jump in if you invite them to do so. You must participate in much the same way they do, and expect from yourself what you expect from them—which is quite demanding and not always comfortable.”

Guitar professor Jean-Marc Zwellenreuther mused that the Brazilian composer Hector Villa-Lobos, “himself a great traveller and lover of Paris, would have been happy to see and hear these young musicians who were so enthusiastic, generous, and kind.” Cellist and professor Diana Ligeti commented, “Speaking and understanding the differences in musical pedagogy in our respective countries made us stronger and more able to give a personal, authentic interpretation.” Flute professor Vincent Lucas noted there were “many exchanges in which each musician listened to one another and engaged with real complicity and intelligence—just as one does with professional musicians.” And French harpist and fellow Maureen Thiébaut said, “For several days, we worked, played, discussed, and almost lived together—doubtless the best way to build both the human and musical cohesion of the ensemble.”

What did the different styles and cultures bring to the music? For Lomic, “The difference in styles was not a break in creativity but just the opposite: What can be better than trying to find a common way of playing, thinking, and sounding, despite individual, cultural, or stylistic differences? The concert was a perfect illustration of these riches: Many different sounds, styles, and nationalities . . . and in the end, a united sound and performance.” Juilliard’s oboist Max Blair found the experience a more interactive one in terms of teaching and rehearsing. “It made me think about the process of collaboration in a new way: striving to find a cohesive interpretation of a piece in which each one knows when to lead and when to follow.”

The presence of unusual instruments—especially the Viennese oboe and French bassoon—was treasured by Juilliard’s Anton Rist: “I have learned about different playing and detaching styles as well as different instruments, and these have helped me to develop my ear for timbre and blend.” Above and beyond this, as Carl-Emmanuel suggested, coming together constituted an opportunity to develop a “healthy distance from one’s own culture, to listen, communicate, and interact fully.”

What did each learn from the other? For Juilliard’s Trevor Nuckols, “from my colleagues in Paris and Vienna, an incredible regard for exchanging ideas both musically and nonmusically, gaining thus a much more open-minded and wordly perspective.” For Lithuanian musicians Gleb Pysniak and Dalia Dedinskaite studying in Vienna, “from the Americans, friendship, care, precision in music; from the French: freedom, optimism, inspiration in music.” Or as French violist Marina Capstick put it, “the language of music is universal, and I could see this clearly during the seminar.” Anton Rist felt he developed his skills as a chamber musician, whereas Mathilde Calderini felt the experience provided an excellent opportunity to build her international professional network. As Georgina Oakes noted, “Music connects us all!”

The seminar experience led to enthusiastic suggestions for the future, such as adding a second concert or even a mini-tour. Vienna’s Julia Zulus suggested finding a work that would allow all members of the group to perform together. . . . All thoughts to take into consideration for future sessions!

As Vincent Lucas said, the “souvenir of this music-making is a lovely one,” and speaking for all the fellows, American Trevor Nuckols waxed eloquent: “Thank you for everything! I’d love to participate in another such international exchange opportunity. It has been a magical and life-changing experience!”

Gretchen Amussen
Born and raised in New York City, the Franco-American Gretchen Amussen studied music and French at university and then organ with Xavier Darasse at the Toulouse Conservatoire. Since 1992 she has worked at the Paris Conservatoire, where as Director for External Affairs and International Relations she has helped promote the Conservatoire, its students and teachers through an extensive worldwide network of educational and cultural organizations.

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The Arts in Crisis and their Survival in the Twenty First Century:
A View from Sociolinguistics

March 27, 2014
By 19604

Can the liberal arts maintain its value in society despite losing both popularity and funding to such practical disciplines as the sciences, engineering, and business administration? Christopher Lees, a Sylff fellow while at National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, offers steps that can be taken by arts scholars to maintain the relevance of their discipline in society, using examples from Greece and sociolinguistics.

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The author deilvering a speech at Sylff ceremony at the University of Athens

The author deilvering a speech at Sylff ceremony at the University of Athens

At last year’s anniversary marking Sylff’s 20-year presence at the University of Athens in Greece, I was given the opportunity to speak about the crisis the liberal arts face today in the context of the economic crisis. Ever increasingly, the arts are brushed to the sidelines, considered of secondary importance compared to the sciences, technology, and business studies. This is apparent the world over with numerous departments being merged, reduced, or even threatened with closure. In Greece too, the infamous and narrowly averted Athina Plan proposed by the Ministry of Education saw it fit to heap foreign language departments together so as to create one giant “Department of Foreign Languages,” apparently with no regard for the academic integrity and significance of each department’s work and research as a separate entity.

In part, this stance towards the arts and their subjects is borne out of today’s predominant philosophy that only visibly practical things are worth people’s time, money and investment. As far as degree courses are concerned, this is often translated to mean that students tend to select a course that they see to be directly linked to the job market. This perhaps explains the popularity of business management and finance-related courses, which, according to David Williams (n.d.), are the most popular among Greek students (but not only Greek students) pursuing postgraduate education.

While students themselves cannot be blamed for choosing a degree course that they envisage will provide them with good employment prospects, this devaluation of arts subjects runs the risk of creating a sense that they are simply not worth studying. I myself, as a former undergraduate student in the UK, was frequently met with bewildered expressions on the faces of those who learned of my intention to study foreign languages at university.

Furthermore, this ever increasing lack of appreciation for the arts also poses the threat of subjects not being given the funding they deserve to carry out important research projects, and this is something which is being increasingly felt on an international level, where students find it difficult to get scholarships, and academic staff face increasing hurdles in publishing their work.

Arts subjects cannot, however, be entirely absolved from blame in relation to the regard in which they are held in society. While a doctor may not need to convince society about the importance of medicine and medical research, and an economist may not need to validate his work by highlighting the significance of sound finance, the arts scholar needs to and should take it upon him- or herself to inform society of the relevance of his/her subject. Quite often, knowledge generated by the arts subjects is confined and recycled within the academic circles of universities, which in turn are often treated as monasteries of knowledge and, indeed, even referred to as not being “the real world.”

Arts subjects and their scholars should, therefore, make the extra effort to share the knowledge they generate with the wider circles of society so that they too may benefit from what these subjects have to teach and offer us. This, I believe, is a general principle by which universities should operate: not to exclude nonmembers of what sometimes resembles the academic elite but to involve them in the work being carried out and to show them how this work is relevant to our lives. In this article, I intend to show how the arts are relevant to society and how scholars may make their work more accessible. I shall do this from the perspective of my own field, sociolinguistics, and then show how the arts can be made more accessible to ordinary members of society.

Sociolinguistics and Society

The relationship between language and society is well documented in linguistics. Just as language reflects social structures, ideologies, and stances, so too does language have the ability to influence and shape society, its structures, and its perceptions (Dittmar 1976, Lucy 1992, Wardhaugh 1992). That is to say that, while the speakers of a language coin or adopt phrases to express themselves linguistically, these same linguistic expressions, through repeated contextualized instances of usage, subsequently contribute to the way speakers think and view the world around them, evidenced by the fact that many linguistic expressions, proverbs, and idioms are unique to specific languages and reflect and form the mentalities of their speakers. Consequently, it is possible for us to refer to the relationship between language and society as being a two-way one: society depends on language to express itself, and language depends on society in order to develop and lexically reflect social structures and values.

According to Kakridi-Ferrari (2005: 53), many sociolinguists feel the need to use their specialized knowledge in order to offer something of practical use to society. As such, one of the main aims of sociolinguistic scholarship is to highlight what language can show us about society, its issues and problems, and how this can then be applied for practical purposes in various areas, from solving issues of inequality and prejudice to better understanding social norms and improving education.

Linguistic sexism, for instance, is an example of how social inequality is mirrored and redistributed linguistically. Sociolinguistic researchers, especially during the US feminist movement of the 1970s, have attempted to highlight some of the features of language that undermine or even exclude the role of women in society. In inflected languages such as Greek, where gender is morphologically marked, this is a particularly problematic issue, especially apparent in nouns denoting professions, for which many still only use a masculine noun ending.

In addition to this, generic references to groups comprising more than one person also, by and large, use exclusively masculine noun endings, thus linguistically excluding women from many sectors of society and creating a sense of a need to adopt male values and practices imposed on them by society and reflected and redistributed linguistically (see Pavlidou 2002). Sociolinguistics is therefore in a position to use its findings to highlight aspects of how language demonstrates sexism in society and to attempt to suggest, at least from a linguistic point of view, how this may be resolved. Once this has been done, both findings and suggestions can be forwarded to the relevant government departments, who may in turn make changes to the existing legislation.

Another area of social inequality visible through language is that of racism. Van Dijk’s (1993) seminal study of how elite discourse, notably that of the press, constructs and disseminates racial prejudice, shows us both how language mirrors a society’s mindset and also how this is then negotiated and propagated though a process of social cognition, that is to say, repeated exposure to expressions of racial sentiment, which then becomes etched in the minds of speakers.

I myself have researched the ways in which Greek newspapers make use of intricate linguistic strategies so as, on the one hand, to represent what they view as mainstream Greek public opinion and, on the other, to fuel feelings of racial tension (Lees 2012). This latter instance serves as a very good example of how the two-way relationship between language and society can be viewed in action against the background of political change in Greece, where older perceptions are being constantly challenged, thus creating a dynamic mix of opinion represented in the language of the press.

As was the case for linguistic sexism, sociolinguistics can again here uncover the linguistic practices of journalists and raise awareness of how these may not always be as objective as one might be inclined to think but are directly related to political and social ideology. Again, by highlighting this, pressure can be brought to bear on the government of the day to make changes to policies concerning racism.

Another important area to which sociolinguistics can contribute is that of education. The foundations of how the social aspects of language interact with education were laid by Basil Bernstein (1971) and his theory of restricted and elaborated codes. Despite the criticism he received, Bernstein was the first to draw attention to the fact that a child’s success at school is directly linked to the linguistic interaction he or she engages in at home. The logical consequence of this is that those children who engage in linguistic interaction at home that closely resembles that of the language taught in schools will be in a better position to do well in education.

It is worth noting that there is often a marked difference between the language taught in schools and the varieties spoken in even a small local community. The emphasis in education should, therefore, be placed on assisting speakers of regional and social varieties to adapt to the standardized language used in schools for the purpose of education, while acknowledging and respecting language rights. This was clearly shown by Labov (1972) in his influential work on the language of the African American community, known then as BEV (Black English Vernacular) and now called African American Vernacular English (AAVE). He concluded that schools should not treat AAVE as substandard, as was often the case, thus placing its speakers at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to those who at home speak the standard form of English taught in schools, but as a distinct social variety of English with its own grammatical rules.

Due to the fact that sociolinguistics, by nature of its subject, is in a position to research and highlight social aspects of language and because language is a social phenomenon, its role in education is particularly crucial. Just as is the case with social prejudice reflected and propagated through language, so is there linguistic prejudice against language varieties. Sociolinguists can work with education policymakers to assure that—while a standard language form is necessary for education and indeed for communication purposes—regional and social varieties of a language are respected and even taught, especially when used by pupils.

A case in point is the research I am currently involved in regarding the language used by Greek teenagers on Facebook (Lees et al. 2014). Since computer mediated language practices have become an inseparable part of teenagers’ lives, and since these computer mediated language practices have their own unique features, we feel that they needed to be treated as a variety of Greek and incorporated into the school curriculum. This is not to say that computer mediated language practices should be taught as standard, merely that it can be used to increase pupils’ critical awareness of the social aspects of language and how, why, and in which contexts these differ from the language taught as standard in schools.

A group of Greek teenagers the author works with.

A group of Greek teenagers the author works with.

In sum, the role that sociolinguistics does and can play in society is apparent and the benefits clear. As previously noted, these benefits need not (and should not) be confined to within the walls of universities and research centers but practically applied to all areas of society where language has an impact. This will ensure that the values and significance of sociolinguistics are known on a much wider scale. The same logic can and, in my opinion, must be applied to all arts subjects so that they may regain some of the prestige and deference lost in the wake of the economic crisis and so that the notion that the arts are not practical subjects and, therefore, not worth investing in can be dismissed. In the next section, some ways in which this can be done are briefly outlined and discussed.

Bringing the Arts Home

There are several ways in which the significance of the arts can be shared with the wider community. For example, scholars may choose to write their research findings in popular newspapers and magazines. Quite different from an academic journal, such mediums allow the scholar to target a much wider audience with various interests. Of course, the style of writing and content must be simplified and even, perhaps, popularized. However, publishing through the popular media allows the scholar to present, discuss, and share their research with a variety of people, many of whom may not even know that fields like sociolinguistics exist, let alone what they do.

Aside from showcasing research, the arts scholar may also use the media of newspapers and magazines to highlight, even on a regular basis by means of a column, the relevance of their topic. For the sociolinguist, this could involve the social aspects of language, including anything from language minority issues to language policy and even street art and graffiti, much of which, especially in Greece, is of a highly political nature. Writing in newspapers and magazines also serves the purpose of dispelling many of the myths concerning language that are often written by nonlinguists who lack the appropriate background to offer academically informed opinions.

Another area in which the arts can be promoted is through the organization of talks in local communities. This can be done either through local community centers or local education authorities. Informal in nature, such talks provide a good opportunity for local community members to come together and learn of the work and research being carried out in any given field. As with the use of the media, talks also allow disadvantaged members of the community to participate in learning in ways that may have previously been inaccessible to them.

Depending on the research interests of the scholar, it may even be possible for local members of the community to actively participate in a research project. In terms of sociolinguistics, a valuable aspect of having community members participate in such projects is that it will enable them to better understand the value of their cultural and linguistic attributes, which in many cases are highly stigmatized.

Finally, another way in which the arts and their subjects can be shared with the local community is through reading groups and free seminars. More formal in nature compared with local talks, such groups generally target people with an academic interest in the field. They may be offered on a volunteer basis and could be integrated into a wider context of volunteer work to provide free education for disadvantaged members of the public or anyone with an interest in the areas discussed. Such groups have been recently introduced in Greece and have so far proved to be a great success.

In conclusion, the fate of the arts and the prestige and respect they deserve largely depends on what we, as scholars, make of them ourselves. It would seem apparent that knowledge and research carried out at universities around the world should be made more transparent and accessible to all members of society, rather than belonging to a select few, especially since such members are the ones who, more often than not, fund such research.

In this article, I have outlined several ways in which this can happen. As opposed to merely complaining about the diminishing regard for arts subjects, those of us in these disciplines should first ask ourselves why this is the case and what we can do both individually and collectively to reverse this trend.


Bernstein, Βasil. 1971. Class, Codes and Control (Vol. 1). London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Dittmar, Norbert. 1976. Sociolinguistics. A Critical Survey of Theory and Application. London: E. Arnold.

Kakridi-Ferrari, Maria. 2005. Glossa kai koinoniko perivallon: Zitimata koinonioglossologias (A Meros) [Language and Social Environment: Issues in Sociolinguistics: Part 1]. Contribution 64: Parousia Journal. Athens.

Labov, William. 1972. Language in the Inner City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lees, Christopher. 2012. Glossikos ratsismos: mia kritiki analisi arthron apo ellinikes efimerides. [Linguistic Racism: A Critical Analysis of Articles in Greek Newspapers]. Master’s thesis. University of Athens.

Lees, Christopher (In press: 2014) “Psifiakes glossikes praktikes kai topoi koinonikis diktiosis: mia proti parousiasi” [Digital Language Practices and Social Networking Sites: An Initial Presentation] Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Greek Linguistics. Rhodes: University of the Aegean.

Lucy, John. 1992. Language Diversity and Thought: A Reformation of the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pavlidou, Theodossia-Soula. 2002. “Glossa-Genos-Fylo: Provlimata, Anazitiseis kai Elliniki Glossa” [Language-Gender-Sex: Problems, Questions and Greek Language] in Pavlidou, T.S. (2002) (ed.) Glossa-Genos-Fylo [Language-Gender-Sex].15–64. Thessaloniki: Institute of Modern Greek Studies: Manolis Triantafillidis.

Van Dijk, Teun. 1993. Elite Discourse and Racism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Wardhaugh, Ronald. 1992. An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Oxford: Blackwell.

Williams, David. n.d. “Study Choice: A Look at the Most Popular Subjects for Greek Graduate Students.” Web article available at: http://www.look4studies.com/default.asp?pid=19&langID=1&nwid=249 (accessed on February 20, 2014).