On October 12 and 13, the Mitrovica Rock School celebrated its tenth anniversary, with concerts at our branches in north and south Mitrovica. Six mixed bands played their own songs, and were joined at the end by our teachers and Fontys Rockacademie students and teachers. Guests traveled from near and far to help us celebrate.
How it all started
Back in 2001, Musicians Without Borders (MWB) was invited by Dutch peace organization PAX to travel to Mitrovica to meet local organization Community Building Mitrovica (CBM). Having learned of the city’s rock music tradition, MWB sent rock musicians, who quickly connected to musicians on both sides of Mitrovica. They told the same story: Mitrovica’s rock heritage had been decimated by the conflict, and largely replaced by nationalist turbo-folk.
The idea was born of a rock music school, to be shared by youth from both sides. The location would be the basement of the Cultural Center, on the southern foot of the dividing bridge. Musicians Without Borders collected instruments from music schools in the Netherlands, which were shipped to Mitrovica by Belgian KFOR.
By 2008, a shared school continued to be out of reach. So instead, the partners decided to organize a summer school in Skopje, in neighboring Macedonia, a two-hours drive from Mitrovica – “in neutral territory.” This became the Mitrovica Rock School’s first annual Skopje Summer School.
In Skopje, youth from Mitrovica formed mixed bands and worked with local musicians and trainers from the Fontys Rockacademie towards a concert in the city park. The week was such a success that MWB and CBM felt the start-up of the school could no longer be postponed. We decided to open the school from two branches, and continue to organize regular inter-ethnic events in Skopje and elsewhere. The Rock School’s north branch opened in October 2008, and the south branch followed in November 2008.
And then we grew. In 2011, we launched a talent development program. Super-group The Artchitects became the first mixed band to write and record their own songs. The Artchitects traveled to the Netherlands, Italy and New York, and were widely reported in the international press.
Following in their footsteps came 18 more ethnically mixed bands who wrote – and write – their own songs.
… bands no longer have to go to Skopje to work together. Training weeks for mixed bands and mixed workshops take place at our school in Mitrovica. The Artchitects all went on to become teachers and band coaches. We continue to organize annual summer schools in Skopje, and it continues to be the most exhilarating, inspiring event of the year, but now we organize them together with partners Roma Rock School and Music School Enterprise.
Over 1,100 Mitrovica youth have attended our school, and under the project Music Connects we will continue to grow.
We would like to thank all those who have helped the Rock School become what we are today. Keep on rockin’ in the free world, y’all.