The Cuban-European Youth Academy was created to provide a platform where young musicians from Cuba and Europe can come together to make music, exchange ideas, come into contact with each other’s culture and create long lasting memories and experiences. It was founded in 2014 by Thomas Hengelbrock and the Balthasar Neumann Academy.
Since then, it has been an integral part of the ensembles’ work and is constantly being further developed. As of 2015, the Federal Foreign Office has supported this project, which offers young musicians the opportunity to get to know other musical and working cultures directly through transatlantic orchestral projects and workshops.
As an innovative exchange and further education programme, CuE promotes international dialogue and complements perfectly the different musical training and traditions of both the European and Cuban participants. The academy is divided into three areas: Training through master classes in Havana and postgraduate courses, implementation of the transatlantic orchestral and exchange projects and finally the professionalization of the „Havana Lyceum Orchestra“.
Open master classes for young musicians, led by members of the Balthasar Neumann Orchestra, are the cornerstone of the Academy’s work in Cuba. In individual or ensemble lessons, Cuban musicians come into contact with the holistic idea of the Balthasar Neumann ensembles. They consider the environment of each composer and deal with the historical-sociocultural background of their works in order to perform them as authentically as possible. The „Instituto Superior de Arte“ and the „Lyceum Mozartiano de La Habana“ are important local cooperation partners and facilitate the master classes in their music faculties.
For Cuban musicians who have already completed their studies, the Cuban-European Youth Academy offers in-depth postgraduate courses. The focus is on a holistic approach to music from different eras - and who could convey this more authentically than teachers from the ranks of the Balthasar Neumann Orchestra? In addition to the individual and ensemble lessons, the participants attend theory lessons and supplementary courses in order to further their education.
Between 2017 and 2020, more than 40 students completed the so-called „Postgrado“ - an advanced course of study that had to be suspended since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition to the postgraduate courses in cooperation with local partners, an instrumental-practical master’s course is currently being planned at the „Instituto Superior de Arte“.
The Cuban-European Youth Academy’s transatlantic orchestra projects sees Cuban and European students sharing a campus for two weeks, rehearsing together and experiencing an enriching international exchange with other musicians. In addition to classical European works, classical Cuban works are also included in the varied repertoire, which is developed within the framework of the respective projects. Teachers from the Balthasar Neumann ensembles prepare the programmes in sectional rehearsals, offer individual lessons and accompany the young musicians throughout the project. Additionally, workshops about Cuban rhythm and dance, improvisation and panels on social and political topics are offered. The rehearsals and concerts take place both in Cuba and in Europe. Visitors to the rehearsals are always welcome to observe and listening is expressly encouraged.
The „Havana Lyceum Orchestra“ is considered the best classical orchestra in Cuba today. Under the direction of the young Cuban conductor José Antonio Mendez Padrón, talented musicians have been coming together since 2013 to make music at an excellent level. Many of them have been or are being promoted within the Cuban-European Youth Academy.
Thanks to three years of start-up funding from a sponsor, the Havana Lyceum Orchestra has been able to professionalise itself since autumn 2018 and is now an integral part of the Cuban cultural system. Thanks to institutional funding from the Oficina del Historiador, it was possible to create a permanent staffing plan so that the musicians could receive remuneration and organise their own concert series in Havana. The Balthasar Neumann Academy continues to support the orchestra and regularly coaches the young musicians in master classes and workshops.
As part of a two-week tour, the orchestra visited Germany for the first time in August 2021 together with Sarah Willis and the Cuban-European programme „Mozart y Mambo“ and was enthusiastically received at the Rheingau Music Festival, the Elbphilharmonie Summer and the Young Euro Classic, among others.