“Music is the best tool for breaking stereotypes and prejudice”

An interview with Roma Rock School founder Alvin Salimovski

Alvin founded MRS partner Roma Rock School, an organization that gives Roma youth of North Macedonia access to free music education and multi-ethnic music programs where they learn and socialize. We talked with Alvin about the Roma Rock School, how it was founded, his experiences with our rock school, the Music Connects project and much more.

The unquestionable musical talent of the Roma population encouraged me to establish Roma Rock School

Tell us something about Roma Rock School and your role in it.

The Association for multi-ethnic music education “Roma Rock School” was founded in May 2017. I am the founder and executive director of the organization. The unquestionable musical talent of the Roma population encouraged me to establish the organization.

The idea was to create something that had not been done yet, something completely new in the music scene

The idea was to create something that had not been done yet, something completely new in the music scene, a whole new direction in the world of music, and to increase the number of musically educated Roma people. Band members are young people 13-17 years old.

RRS students at the 2018 summer school

RRS differs in many ways from other NGOs in North Macedonia: it’s the first NGO in North Macedonia where:

  • We practice rock music and rock culture
  • We make a mix of rock music and traditional Romani music
  • We provide free music education for children and young people who cannot afford it
  • We focus on teaching music theory and solfege to enable youth to pass the entry exam for secondary music high school or faculty
  • We provide classes for solo singing, learning instrument, and playing in a band
  • We make concerts part of our program
  • We teach writing and recording songs
  • We co-organize summer music camps and other exchanges
MWB, MRS and Fontys Rockacademie visit Roma Rock School, July 2018

How did you get to work with Mitrovica Rock School and Enterprise?

The first concert of RRS was held in December 2017 in Skopje’s famous rock club Marakana. Immediately after that, I was contacted by Wendy Hassler-Forest from Musicians Without Borders and she asked me if I was interested in partnership. Of course I immediately accepted, because for several years I had been following the work of MWB and I was familiar with their projects.

How would you describe the Music Connects project and what does it mean to you personally?

Through this project, young people have the opportunity of free music education, to get acquainted and socialize with other nationalities, gaining knowledge that they have not had so far, playing a different genre unlike Roma music and simply having fun.

Although Roma Rock School was registered as an organization in 2017, we started as a real school in June 2018 thanks to Musicians Without Borders who encouraged this partnership. Now we have our school in the center of Skopje, through the project musical instruments and equipment are provided.

We also established a home studio, so our students have the opportunity to record their own songs. The project #MusicConnects has helped me realize my idea. Without the financial support of the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, my idea would remain only on paper.

Tell us something about the sound engineering training in Skopje. How was it?

Six students attended the Training Week in April 2019, two from our school, three from MRS and one from Enterprise. They had the opportunity to get acquainted with the basics of Cubase, how to record and use the software to record songs. The training was held by students from Fontys Rockacademie.

This training week was very successful because the trainees had the opportunity to interactively participate, that is, they could immediately apply the lessons learned. During the training, the students had the opportunity to record their fourth song, together with their mentors.

And how was it during the Summer School, when the schools got together for the first time?

The Summer School has been for us as an organization and for our students an entirely new and different experience. There were all three music schools there, as well as representatives from MWB and Fontys Rockacademie.

The summer school was an unforgettable experience because students not only worked tirelessly on their first song, but also met new friends from the other two schools and had fun.

It was an unforgettable experience because students not only worked tirelessly on their first song, but also met new friends from the other two schools and had fun. During the summer school we recorded our first own song Changing Colors, and at the end of summer school we had a concert. We’re looking forward for the 2019 Summer School!

Are you a musician yourself?

Yes, I am a drummer, and since I have always wanted to play a bass guitar, now I have the opportunity to do it in RRS.

What’s your personal music taste?

My taste for music can be noticed if you listen to the cover songs of RRS. When it comes to music, it’s very difficult for me to define, but I mostly listen to rock. I’ll choose a few from my play list:

Nu Metal (Rage Against the Machine, Slipknot, System Of A Down, Disturbed, Drowning Pool, Godsmack, Stone Sour), Alternative Rock (Pearl Jam, A Perfect Circle, Audioslave, Staind), Hard Rock (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Whitesnake, Black Sabbath)  Progressive Metal (Tool, Dream Theatre)…

Share some nice memories you’ve made during the Music Connects project

I cannot single out one moment. The rehearsals with our students are a relief from my everyday work obligations and I enjoy the moments of creating music. As for the Music Connects, my dreams came true through this project! Thanks to this project, I achieved my goals.

Regardless of skin color, nationality and the differences between us, music connects us.

One of my most important goals was to show that music is the best tool for breaking stereotypes and prejudice against one nation. Regardless of skin color, nationality and the differences between us, music connects us.

Leave a final message to the readers of this interview

Support our vision and mission and get involved with us to make changes. We not only believe in this, we are living this! I’ll finish with a quote from Bono of U2: “Music can change the world because it can change people.”

Interview by Mitrovica Rock School communications trainee Marina (19)