The Western Balkans Youth Orchestra

"Playing the Future" - Idea and Mission

Making music brings people together. This applies of course also to young musicians in the Western Balkans region, where peaceful cooperation across borders and ethnic divides is still an issue after the breakup of Yugoslavia over 25 years ago.


As an extension of the successful concept of the European Summer Music Academies, the WBYO project was officially launched in August 2019, to get operational in spring 2020. As a project orchestra, it will come together once or twice a year at different locations in the Western Balkans, as well as in changing configurations. It will bring together young professional musicians in equal numbers from each of the six non-EU Western Balkan countries* (AL, BIH, RKS, MNE, NMK and SRB). Under the guidance of well-known professors from Western Europe and the Western Balkans, rehearsals will initially take about a week. The orchestra will then set out to give a concert in each of the 6 countries* – in order to make the success of this collaboration audible and tangible across borders! The concertmaster will rotate – so as to always be from a country* other than the one in which the performance takes place.


During this approximately 2-week program, the young musicians will be actively guided by a tutor who will support them in processing what they have experienced while making music and meeting different religions, ethnicities and cultures. This coaching will also explore ways for these young people to pass on their experience to their peers and other young artists.


The initiator and artistic director of the WBYO is Mr. Desar Sulejmani, a conductor and pianist from Essen, who has himself Albanian roots. Mr. Sulejmani has been a major driving force behind the European Summer Music Academy, which has already taken place for eight successive years in Kosovo. 


The initial work and concert phase of the March 2020 project will involve a string orchestra made up of 25 musicians. This undertaking is financially supported by the Rotary Club Aachen-Land, in cooperation with the Rotary Clubs Aachen-Charlemagne and Aachen-Nordkreis, with whom a charity concert will be held on 15 February 2020 in order to raise money for the project. Further donations are coming from the Rotary Clubs Fulda and Canterbury Sunrise. The own funds thus generated were doubled by a grant of the Rotary District 1810, with the aim of opening up possibilities for the long-term and sustainable financing of the project.


In order to ensure optimal support for this project and its objectives, as well as for a successful application and implementation of the concerts on site, the initiating German Rotary Clubs are using their international network to build a group of local Rotary clubs in the Western Balkans ("Rotary Network for WBYO"). They will take care of the promotion of the idea and the concerts on site, and communicate with the local press. This cross-border cooperation in itself is an essential component and an important outcome of the project.

*) In the WBYO context, the designation is without prejudice about positions on status.