Creating opportunities for young musicians | Alan Chircop

Just ahead of the third edition of the Malta International Music Festival, we speak to its Artistic Director Mro Alan Chircop, who explains what’s in store in this year’s round-up of classical music performances and masterclasses

Mro Alan Chircop
Mro Alan Chircop

What was the guiding philosophy behind the setting up of the Festival?

This is the third edition of the Malta International Music Festival. As from this year I have been entrusted with the artistic direction of this festival. The first two editions had already proved to be very successful, attracting many international participants and good following .

This year the MIMF grew almost double in terms of numbers, due to an increase in the number of foreign Professors who shall be conducting masterclasses in pianoforte, violin, violoncello, clarinet, saxophone and chamber music.

The same applies for the number of daily concerts which will be presented at several venues in Malta and Gozo during the ten days of the Festival. Moreover, this year we will be holding international music competitions for string and wind instruments, apart from pianoforte.

The main aim of the MIMF is to present an international music festival and competition on the same lines of similar classical music festivals abroad, attracting many participants from many different countries, while enabling music students, teachers and music-lovers alike to benefit from such an opportunity.

Several internationally acclaimed professors this year will be conducting master-classes, attracting over 70 participants from 15 different countries who will also perform during the daily concerts (April 27 till May 6), while around 85 participants from 28 different countries will take part in the international music competitions for piano, string and wind instruments (May 6-10).

Putting this Festival on the list of annual Classical Music International Festivals attract the attention of such numbers (in terms of number of participants from all over the world) putting Malta on this particular map of Classical Music Festivals and Competitions. This together with the provision of quality teaching, performances, concerts and competitions of high standards and competitive levels is the main goal of festival.

To broaden thecollaboration in order for many Maltese students to benefit from this international opportunity in Malta, this year the Festival is being presented in collaboration with the Johann Strauss School of Music – Malta and the Malta Band Clubs Association.

How did you set out to locate the necessary young talent that will participate in the festival?

Promotion has been done on the internet, through social media and forums of students who are seeking participation in international festivals and competitions.

Moreover, we got in touch with many Music Academies to disseminate the information. Certain Academies even held auditions to choose participants who would represent their institution. We also have close collaboration with other European Music Festivals and thus the network keeps growing every year.

Students participating in the master classes will be coming from Germany, Italy, Russia, Georgia, China, USA, Spain, Japan, Turkey, Armenia, Switzerland, Ukraine, Latvia, Singapore and Malta; while the nationalities of participants taking part in the International Competitions include Austria, Belgium, Taiwan, Israel, Germany, Italy, Russia, USA, Spain, Japan, Turkey, Armenia, Switzerland, Georgia, China, Ukraine, Latvia, Singapore, United Kingdom, Romania, Poland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Canada, South Korea, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and Malta. 

What tangible benefits do you hope the students will get from the master classes that they may not currently be getting from more ‘conventional’ educational channels?

Traditionally, music students – be it at whatever level of studies they are (Music School, Pre-College/Academy, Graduate or Masters level) or even young artists at the beginning of their professional career – seek to have asterlasses with professors and acclaimed international artists who could give them a broader spectrum, inspire them or motivate them towards the professional and artistic life, with special emphasis on performance and concert preparation or in view of upcoming auditions, exams, competitions, concert tours festivals, and so on.

Most musicians seek to have as many asterlasses as possible with as many different internationally acclaimed artists during their musical career, as they can be exposed to many different ideas, interpretations, techniques, and in-depth musical creativity from international Masters. All these experiences and attained knowledge integrated within their studies with ‘their’ master, i.e., their personal tutor, are usually very refreshing and inspiring, as one is always reminded, that you never know enough and there’s somehow always something new to learn or improve or become aware of.

That is the main reason why asterlasses conducted by renowned professors and acclaimed artists are always in demand and well attended always walk off with a special learning and inspiring experience which one would find useful and beneficial to work upon in his/her development.

How was the Festival faculty chosen?

We have sought professors and international artists who have a vast pedagogical but also a remarkable international career as performers. The best teachers are usually the most experienced performers and vice-versa. Moreover, apart from their curriculum, career and positions held, we also sought professionals who are very outgoing and are known to delivering remarkable masterclasses at other international festivals around the world.

What inspired you to set up competitions for various age groups this year?

Basically, we really wish to give more opportunities to youngsters, and to encourage them to participate and have a good experience, without putting age as a stumbling block. Moreover, for the more advanced students it is more interesting to compete with upcoming artists who wish to take on a professional career. Thus the different categories make the competitions more appealing for participants, while they aspire for higher levels and standard of performance.

What’s in store for next year’s edition of the festival?

We would certainly want to keep on building on this year’s achievements and seeking more partnerships with other festivals. Once this year’s festival comes to an end, we would evaluate the areas we would want to retain and set our targets for next year’s festival. We have some specific ideasin this regard and we’ll surely announce them as soon as we would be in a position to do so.

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