The most innovative orchestra in the world is Colombian!   The Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín wins the Classical:NEXT Innovation Award

The global society dedicated to classical music Classical:NEXT recognized the Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín, Filarmed, with its renowned Innovation Award.

Classical:NEXT is a network of professionals that work in the classical music industry around the world, and holds a biennial conference where more than a thousand people get to learn about trends and advancements in the field. It sets the standard for musicians, producers, agents, journalists, educators and all related professionals, informing all of them about what’s next in classical music. The meeting, which concludes today in Hannover, recognized Filarmed with the coveted award. This prize to the orchestra’s management model is one more accolade for Filarmed, which also includes a Latin Grammy to the best children’s music album in 2021, for the work titled Tu Rockcito Filarmónico.

The jury recognized the organization’s management model, which strengthens close relationships with its audience, believes in music as an agent for social transformation and focuses its efforts in programs that bring symphonic music closer to the everyday lives of every person in the region. Programs that reach non-conventional spaces, and serve neurodiverse youth, victims and former combatants of the country’s armed conflict, children in vulnerable rural areas affected by violence, blind youth, health workers throughout the country, and other audiences.

How to be an innovative orchestra in the 21st century?

Orchestras around the world have been asking themselves how to remain relevant and strengthen their relationships with the community, after finding that traditional models dating back over 200 years, which constrain the orchestra to traditional theaters and performance spaces, are no longer sustainable.

For Filarmed, it is very important to have that special factor that sets it apart. It’s not the same to be an orchestra in Europe, or the United States, than being an orchestra in a country like Colombia and a city like Medellín which is in a constant transformation, and where community participation is vital to build a better future. “This has been our main motivation, to stay relevant and ask ourselves how we can help build a better society with what we can do: symphonic music,” says Maria Catalina Prieto, Filarmed’s Executive Director.

For Prieto, it is a great privilege to win the Classical:NEXT Innovation Award, a recognition to the work that has been developed over years of conscious work, of being a close and relevant orchestra with a distinct identity. “To be recognized like this at Classical:NEXT, an event that sets the trends in classical music around the world, is of utmost importance” she emphasizes.

“Classical:NEXT recognizes ensembles, artists and orchestras that are doing something unusual in the world of classical music. This is of utmost importance, because part of our mission is looking at the future, to identify opportunities to create, and bring them to inspire the world of classical music. Filarmed brings innovation and wants to show the world that classical music is for everyone. An this is how it shoud be, filled with fresh, dynamic new ideas. This is fantastic!” says newly-appointed Music Director David Greilsammer.

The future of the most innovative orchestra

Filarmed is a nonprofit organization founded 39 years ago. As such, it is funded by a combination of public and private resources, by local, national and international organizations and individuals, in order to create initiatives where music has the most impact in the community.

Currently, the organization is undergoing one of the most interesting periods in its history. Over the next five years, it will work in four fronts: first, to be a musical model in Latin America, being recognized as one of the most important orchestras in the region, and even in the world. Second, to be a daring and innovative organization, able to create captivating experiences with versatile musicians who, beyond playing an instrument, connect with others and collaborate with artists of other disciplines. Third, to be rooted in the community and committed to the wellbeing of diverse populations in different territories, devoting its resources to social transformation, using music to improve lives. And, lastly, being an orchestra that is financially, organizationally and environmentally sustainable.

“We firmly believe in music’s transformational power… we have been working for five years with youth with cognitive disabilities, migrant communities, former victims and actors of the armed conflict. We have recently started to work with children with visual and auditive impairments. These communities have something in common: the potential to resignify their relationship with their surroundings, and their peers through music”, Maria Catalina explains.

 

Innovation, our highest note

The pursuit of artistic excellence and its role as an agent of social transformation are both sides of the coin that is Filarmed. This is how the innovative model that tramsforms its communities was consolidated:

Education

Music in the classrooms, in dreams and life

Filarmed’s music education initiative is divided in three stages: sensibilization, initiation and orchestral practice. The first phase consists of an initial approach to music where basic concepts are learned. In 2021, Filarmed reached 11,156 students of 13 schools in Rionegro, Copacabana, Marinilla, La Ceja, Bello, Segovia and Medellín, thanks to the Inspiración Comfama initiative.

The music initiation phase is delivered through Filarmed’s After School Classes, which creates an opportunity to bring children closer to music in their own classrooms. The program, delivered through a partnership with Comfama, takes place in schools in the municipalities of La Ceja, San Jerónimo and Santa Fé de Antioquia reaching 258 students last year.

The orchestral practice phase, sponsored by Fundauniban, benefits 379 children in the towns of Apartadó, Carepa, Chigorodó, Currulao and Nueva Colonia in the Urabá region, historically affected by violence and drug trafficking. These processes of orchestral and pre-orchestral work don’t just seek to impart musical skills, but to equip children with social skills and values for life.

Knowledge: the best thing to share

In 2020, the orchestra implemented a series of workshops for Medellín’s music ecosystem, taught by Filarmed musicians. The project seeks to improve the capacities of the professionals and music students. Initially, the program had a regional scope; however, thanks to Filarmed’s growth in digital initiatives, its workshops have had a national and international reach.

Social programs

Coro Reconciliación: Peace can also be built with music

Music has the ability to connect, reconcile, and help people view each other as equals, without discriminations. 20 voices of former combatants and victims of the Colombian armed conflict make up the Coro Reconciliación (reconciliation choir). They sing together as a way to build peace, to heal and liberate their hearts.

Soy Músico: inclusion, a commitment

It’s been five years since Filarmed recognized that disabilities can also contribute to the transformation and creativity, and that the relationship with music shouldn’t have limitations. Soy Músico was created in 2017, a program where, with the guide of a group of music therapists, neurodiverse youth and adult population participate in a musical creation and interpretation process to strengthen their musical identity.

Music and health

As a moment of respite and calm for health professionals and patients from Colombian hospitals, Filarmed created “Music and health”, a program which offers a series of virtual concerts and personalized messages full of courage and hope. Although this project was mainly focused on health professionals, the patients who are hospitalized have been benefited as well.

 

Working with others makes us more creative

Filarmed drew its purpose of being an Orchestra for the city and for the world; a relationship of peers with allies and friends from Medellin’s cultural and creative sector, where common projects are being developed to strengthen the sector. In addition to musical fusions with high level popular and commercial artists, the Orchestra works together with museums, theaters, ballet companies and other diverse artistic groups.

The best in Classical:NEXT

The importance of this recognition is not only the entity which awards it, but the experiences that are nominated. Some of the final nominees are Big hART for ‘The Acoustic Life of Sheds’ (Australia), Death of Classical (United States), Heartbeat Opera (United States), Musical Storytelling (Lithuania), Nevis Ensemble (Ukraine), Ngarra Burria (Australia), Opera Calcetin (Chile), The Choral Hub (Ukraine) y Tutti a Santa Cecilia (Italy), all of them use music with a vision of the future and ample social and solidarity content.

 

We will celebrate this recognition as the most innovative orchestra with a concert on May 28th

Orquesta Filarmónica de Medellín will present “Músic and democracy”, a journey through musical works that portray social and political situations. Works about imperialist battles, fidelity, independence, and slavery to name a few. For Spanish-born Francisco Valero-Terribas, the evening’s guest conductor, music in itself is a paradigm of democracy and thereby freedom. “… music is built by different voices that create independent melodic lines, but they only make sense when listened to simultaneously. Each and every voice is necessary, all express a point of view, all have moments of protagonism, and all together combine in a sublime message.”

Program:

  • “Los esclavos felices” Overture
    J. C. Arriaga
  • Opera Arias:
    Deh, vieni non tardar, from “The Marriage of Figaro”
    Ach, ich fühl’s from “The Magic Flute”
    W. A. Mozart
    O wär ich schon mit dir vereint from “Fidelio”
    L. van Beethoven
  • 1812 Overture
    P. I. Tchaikovsky
  • Symphony N° 2 in D major, Op. 43
    J. Sibelius

Soprano: Manuela Tamayo Briceño (Colombia)

Conductor: Francisco Valero-Terribas (Spain)

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