Western Balkans go pop & rock!

The International KotorArt Don Branko's Music Days Festival, in collaboration with its partners, Luštica Bay and the Tivat Music Festival, is organizing a concert by the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra under the baton of Desar Sulejmani. The concert will take place in Luštica Bay on Sunday, July 28, starting at 9 p.m. Admission to the concert is free.

The young musicians, led by Maestro Sulejmani, are preparing an exciting program. In addition to prominent and virtuosic classical music pieces, the audience will have the opportunity to hear arrangements of pop and rock songs from the former Yugoslavia. The concert in Luštica Bay marks the beginning of their extensive tour across the Balkan countries.

This year’s mentors for the young musicians include Joachim Heimbrock for the first violins, Katherine Majersko for the second violins, Wladimir Kossjanenko for the violas, Margareta Hefer for the cellos, Zoran Zakrajšek for the double basses, Cem Önertürk for the woodwinds, Peter Kerner for the brass, and Philipp Kohnke for the percussion.

The project titled Western Balkans - Young Musicians’ Cooperation and Advancements is supported by the European Union's culture program, Creative Europe. The project is led by the Belgian ThinkYoung organization, and partners in the project, in addition to KotorArt Don Branko's Music Days, include Artium Eudora (Kosovo*), the Artissimo Association for the Nurturing and Promotion of Musical, Visual, and Performing Arts (Bosnia and Herzegovina), the Allegretto Association (North Macedonia), BUNT - Belgrade New Art Territory (Serbia), the Kulturanova Association (Serbia), the Eastern Bavarian Youth Symphony Orchestra (Germany), Deutsche Welle (Germany), and the International Association for Arts, Education, and Cultural Exchange (Germany).

The Western Balkan Youth Orchestra was founded in 2019, as a natural outgrowth of the European Summer Academy of Music in Pristina, at the initiative of conductor Desar Sulejmani. However, due to the pandemic, the beginning of the ensemble’s work was initially postponed. The orchestra works on a project-by-project basis and gathers young musicians from six Western Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, Northern Macedonia, and Serbia, engaging in projects once or twice a year. For each occurrence, training sessions are held with mentors in the countries of the Western Balkans and the European Union, followed by joint rehearsals, and culminating in concerts organized in some of the six representative countries and beyond. Regardless of the different ethnic, national, religious, and cultural contexts that these young people originate from, through the intensive rehearsals, performances, and joint multi-day tours, they are united into a single entity – an orchestra whose complementarity is no less than that of highly qualified professional orchestras who hail from far more stable environments. Through mutual cooperation, the musicians overcome issues of ethnicity and culture differences, such as those arising from the disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. In this way, the members of the Orchestra become genuine ambassadors in the region, one marked by historically recent disagreement and strife.

Desar Sulejmani, pianist and conductor, studied Piano at the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen and the Robert Schumann Music University in Düsseldorf under Professor Till Engel, Chamber Music under Professor Andreas Reiner and Professor Jürgen Kußmaul, and Conducting under Professor David de Villiers. He has performed across Europe as a soloist and chamber performer, and since 2003 also as a conductor. Desar Sulejmani has conducted the Bochumer Symphoniker, the Bergische Symphoniker, the Kosovo Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan, the Neue Westfälische Philharmonie, the Folkwang Chamber Orchestra Essen, the Rotary Orchestra Germany, and the Symphony Orchestra of the Albanian Broadcasting Company, among others. He has served as the Artistic Director and Conductor of the Cologne Orchestra Society and the Chamber Orchestra of Gladbeck. He as well served as Conductor of the Heinrich Heine Symphony Orchestra of Düsseldorf and the Symphonic
Wind Orchestra of Essen. In 2016, Desar Sulejmani was the Music Director of The Magic Flute, an international production of the Joburg Theater in Johannesburg. He was appointed Artistic Director of the Pro Klassik Music Festival in Königswinter (Germany) in 2017. Most recently, in 2019, he founded the Western Balkans Youth Orchestra, of which he is the Artistic Director and Chief Conductor.