Barenboim-Said Akademie begins construction

A new, unique music academy is taking shape in Berlin: Starting in the fall of 2016, gifted young students will embark upon a new course of study. In addition to musical instruction, the Barenboim-Said Akademie will include a core curriculum in music and the history of thought. The pedagogic and musical leadership will be provided by Daniel Barenboim. The renovation of the former stage depot of the Berlin State Opera on Französische Straße began today, May 6, 2014.

The idea of the Academy is deeply rooted in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded in Weimar in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim and the Palestinian-American academic and critic Edward W. Said. The ensemble consists of equal numbers of young Israeli and Arab musicians who, through their shared music making, individually advocate for peaceful coexistence. "Perhaps the Academy is best understood as an unusual attempt to further, through the means of music and thought, a kind of human development that leads to mutual understanding," said the Academy’s founder Daniel Barenboim in Berlin on the occasion of the Academy’s groundbreaking.

The realization of the new Academy exemplifies the successful cooperation between public and private financing: The City of Berlin has contributed the building on the terms of a 99-year lease; €20 million of the total construction cost of €33.7 million are provided through the budget of the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media. The remainder was raised from private donors. Federal Comissioner Monika Grütters declared: "The Barenboim-Said Academy is a pathbreaking project for intercultural reconciliation that can be understood as a German contribution to the Middle East peace process. Its students will be ambassadors of a German and European musical culture to the civil societies of their countries of origin. If even a few of them will transmit their music and their experience of living as one community in Berlin and the world at large back to their homes, they will plant the idea of the Academy where it is intended to go.”

In just under two years of construction, the landmark building of the former stage depot of the Berlin State Opera will be converted into an academy with 21 rehearsal spaces, a large auditorium and a publicly accessible foyer and café. At the same time, Berlin will receive a new state-of-the-art concert hall: The US architect Frank Gehry designed the hall, with a capacity of 622 seats, as a pro bono project. The hall will be named after the composer, conductor and music theorist Pierre Boulez. The acoustics are planned by the reknowned Japanese acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. The Academy will open its doors in the fall of 2016.

The Barenboim-Said Academy

The Barenboim-Said Academy was founded by Daniel Barenboim in Berlin on July 31, 2012 as a non-profit organization. Its aim is to educate young students from the countries of the Middle East in music and the humanities. The Academy will launch its first pedagogic programs already next year when the first scholarship holders from Israel and the Arab world will begin their studies in a pilot phase.

The Academy is an extension of the successful tradition of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under the leadership of Daniel Barenboim. For the past 15 years, the ensemble has brought together musicians from the various countries and societies of the Middle East. For six weeks every year, it travels to the world’s most prestigious venues as part of its summer tour.

The Founders

Daniel Barenboim is the General Music Director of the Staatsoper in Berlin, a post he has held since 1992. In 2011, he was appointed to the same position at La Scala in Milan. Barenboim was born in Buenos Aires in 1942. At the age of five, he started piano lessons with his mother. Later, he also studied with his father. Barenboim gave his first public concert at the age of seven in Buenos Aires; he made his international debut as solo pianist in Vienna and Rome at the age of ten. As a nine-year-old, he moved to Israel with his family. “The eleven-year-old Barenboim,” said the German conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler at the time, “is a phenomenon.” Between 1975 and 1989, Daniel Barenboim acted as principal conductor of the Orchestre de Paris. From 1981 to 1999, he conducted in Bayreuth, and from 1991 through June of 2006, he was Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In Chicago, the orchestra members named him honorary conductor, and in Berlin the Staatsoper unter den Linden appointed him a principal conductor for life. In 2006, Barenboim held the Norton Lectures at Harvard University, which have been published as Music Quickens Time, one of his many books. Together with Edward Said, he co-authored Parallels and Paradoxes: Explorations in Music and Society. His musical oeuvre has been documented in over 500 audio and video recordings.

Edward W. Said was born in 1935 in Jerusalem, raised in Cairo, and studied in the United States at Princeton and Harvard. In 1963, he began his teaching career at Columbia University in New York, where he held the preeminent position of University Professor of English and Comparative Literature until his death in 2003. He wrote more than 20 books, which have been translated into 30 languages. His ground-breaking work Orientalism opened up new horizons in the study of post-colonialism. Said was active in the editorial committees of numerous magazines and journals and lectured at more than 200 universities in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. A gifted pianist, he also was the music critic for The Nation for many years. In the political sphere, he was a major voice on the situation in Palestine and an unflinching proponent of justice and self-determination for all. Edward Said was the president of the Modern Language Association as well as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Royal Society of Literature, the American Philosophical Society, and Honorary Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. He also was a member of the executive board of PEN International until 1998. Since Edward Said’s death, his widow Mariam C. Said has been actively involved in the running of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra as the Vice President of the Barenboim-Said Foundation USA.