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Fresh impetus for a Europe-wide chamber music network: ECMA Pro enters its second semester

 Press release, March 2021

“ECMA Pro” is a cooperation project which is funded by Creative Europe and aims to give chamber music an innovative boost – particularly in times made difficult by the coronavirus – and to create a network of international institutions.

 In an academic year that has been very challenging for universities throughout the world, there is now new momentum for chamber music: with ECMA Pro - International Career Development and Socially Engaged Outreach in Chamber Music, the mdw – the University for Music and Performing Arts, Vienna – is, as the project coordinator, able to realise a new, top-class training programme for European chamber music ensembles almost unhindered, despite the coronavirus crisis. ECMA – the European Chamber Music Academy, founded in 2004, has long been established as a leading further training programme for young ensembles, and offers the first interinstitutional European Master chamber music programme: the ECMAster. ECMA Pro was launched last winter semester as a cooperation project involving several music colleges and festivals, and is an extension of this programme, cofinanced by the EU’s Creative Europe Programme.

The quality of chamber music ensembles has improved enormously over the past few years, thanks to increased training opportunities. For many young musicians, founding a chamber music ensemble has become an important part of their portfolio career and also helps to ensure their economic stability.

In addition to the artistic work, ECMA Pro also focuses specifically on the career development of young ensembles, as well as questions concerning the social relevance of their artistic activities. Alternative concert formats are tried out and developed, and building and expanding the audience also play a major role. Another key objective of ECMA Pro is the promotion of transnational mobility and further digital development in the area of chamber music: students and teaching staff are given support in using new technologies and will benefit from digital platforms in their career development. Besides video tutorials, these include for example a switchboard that puts young ensembles directly in touch with international concert organisers. Here, “showcases” organised by ECMA Pro in the form of concerts presented to “professional” audiences, such as concert organisers and representatives of festivals and agencies, help the ensembles to become recognised in the international concert world.

Johannes Meissl, the Vice Rector for International Affairs and Art at the mdw, as well as Professor of Chamber Music and the Artistic Director of ECMA, emphasises the huge innovative boost that chamber music has received through the creation of this Europe-wide network and efficient crisis management: “The cooperating partners are all institutions that are characterised by both a strong sense of tradition and a powerful innovative drive. Particularly in times of crisis, this organised cooperation offers a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge and find common solutions.” Despite the fast-changing coronavirus measures, which differ from country to country, ECMA can look back on a successful first semester, having held “hybrid” and “digital” sessions in i.a. Bern, The Hague and Paris.

Even before the coronavirus, mdw staff would, if necessary, fall back on the LOLA streaming system, which – provided internet connections are stable – helps to ensure the success of chamber music teaching in distance format. However, everyone is also fervently hoping that it will already be possible to hold in-person events in the summer semester. Johannes Meissl: “We very much hope that we’ll already be able to hold face-to-face sessions in Grafenegg in May and in Fiesole in July.”

The project, which is scheduled to run for four years, organises numerous ECMA sessions, trainings and showcases for over 30 ensembles from 16 countries. Besides the mdw and the ECMA itself, the total of 12 partner institutions also include the Grafenegg Festival and the Flanders Festival Ghent, as well as conservatories and music colleges from The Hague, Paris, Oslo, Fiesole, Budapest and Vilnius and the umbrella association AEC (Association Européenne de Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen). With Musethica, a further partner brings a strong social dimension to the project: Musethica combines an excellent musical training with the “Third Mission” and organises concerts in social institutions ranging from “problem schools”, homeless hostels and prisons to neonatal wards, palliative wards and facilities for people with severe disabilities. These concerts help ensemble members to develop a greater awareness of their role in society and of their social responsibility as musicians.

Further details: www.ecma-music.com/en/ecmapro

As much as possible!

How can we ensure a sustainable and fruitful transnational collaboration despite the pandemic? This was the core question discussed at a Project Management Board Meeting of the ECMA Pro project.

The project comes at a crucial moment, with the pandemic slowing down the professional lives of young chamber musicians almost to a halt. With several digital developments in the pipeline – such as a video platform of tutorials for teaching and learning chamber music and a Career Development Switchboard to connect up-and-coming ensembles with concert promoters and festival organizers – ECMA Pro will support emerging artists in a rapidly changing professional environment.

Right now, ECMA sessions, international coaching sessions for chamber music ensembles lasting several days, are – in spite of everything - taking place in all-online or hybrid settings. As discussed in an ECMA Pro Project Management Board Meeting in early December, digital tools such as the low-latency video streaming system LoLa proof vital for a sustainable and fruitful transnational collaboration, even in times of physical distancing and travel restrictions.

Therefore, an ECMA Pro Working Group focuses on further developing formats and tools, adjusting ECMA sessions and the specific ECMA Pro project deliverables to the exigencies of the pandemic that will stay with us for some time to come:

  • How can we organize hybrid and all-online coaching sessions even better?
  • How can we integrate ensembles not connected to any of the technologically well equipped universities and conservatories?
  • Can we find a way to implement Musethica sessions, bringing high-class concerts to social institutions and unusual audiences such as children with disabilities, refugees or people experiencing homelessness?
  • How can we make possible as much as possible within an impossible situation?

Watch out for answers and ideas in this space!



The project ECMA Pro - International Career Development and Socially Engaged Outreach in Chamber Music has been