Simon Rattle leads campaign to save EUYO

Simon Rattle leads campaign to save EUYO


norman lebrecht

May 13, 2016

Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, on tour in Japan, responded swiftly to the closure of the European Union Youth Orchestra with an offer to lobby the EU to reverse its miserable decision.

In an article in today’s Guardian, the EUYO’s CEO Marshall Marcus says the defunding of EUYO was not a considered decision, rather a consequence of some larger, meaningless Brussels policy of the kind that no-one fully understands and which drives many Europeans to despair.



This funding decision is simply the consequence of a change in the EU’s cultural funding policy. Two years ago it was decided by the EU that there was to be no more cultural funding for any single organisation. Instead, €1.45bn of cultural support over seven years (a 7% increase on the previous programme) was only allowed to be used on projects with a highly complicated partnership structure. The new Creative Europe programme has wonderful objectives. But it is project funding to encourage national organisations to get together to become more European, not core funding for what is the original pan-European organisation.

We went to talk to Commissioner Navracsics and also members of President Schulz’s cabinet in early 2015 to say that this “one size fits all”-approach to cultural funding doesn’t work? for an EU orchestra with members from 28 countries, and that we were being forced into the wrong funding box. They listened, apparently, but neither the Commissioner nor the well-meaning cabinet members had any answer. And Navracsics’ hastily put together statement from yesterday seems to only repeat the same category error, a simpleton bureaucrat mantra trying to dodge the absurdity of the EU apparently having no responsibility to give any support to the EU’s own youth orchestra. Excuse me?

This is government in the hands of bureaucrats, by the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats.

 How you can help.



  • Robert King says:

    The EUYO is, as everyone knows, one of the great training orchestras of the world. Just those four letters, EUYO, in a CV from someone asking for an audition puts that application right at the top of the pile. I take them seriously. Very seriously. “EUYO” means “very good”.

    There is a delightful story that still makes me smile, years later. At the last minute, TKC was short of a violinist, so I rang the head of department at one of the London conservatories to see if they had a student who would benefit from the experience of joining a pro orchestras for a few days (and, yes, we always pay students the same fees as we pay our professionals). “Yes, we’ve got a talented player and she’ll be with you tomorrow”. Ironically, in view of this week’s announcement, we were playing in Brussels.

    We seated her at the back of the second violins, but after a few moments of rehearsal my eye was drawn to one of the most perfect bowing arms I’ve ever seen in a string player. This was one high-class player. At the break I introduced myself, thanked the young lady warmly for helping us out at such short notice and asked what she had been playing recently. “I’ve just done the EUYO tour”. “Ah”, I said, “where in the section were you sitting?”. Ever so modestly, she quietly answered: “I was concertmaster”.

    Suffice to say that (until she got too busy) we booked her for everything thereafter – and sat her right at the front.

    And there sits another small reason why the EUYO must continue, summarised in one word: “excellence”. More widely, this wonderful orchestra has to be just about the only part of the EU where all the countries come together with one purpose, with total unity. Isn’t such unity what the EU set out to achieve? Indeed, politicians and bureaucrats could learn a thing or two from studying how a top-level orchestra such as the EUYO brings nations together and achieves everything it set out to achieve, and probably a lot more.

  • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

    Dear Sir Simon Rattle,
    I am shocked and appalled at this latest ‘dumbing-down policy’ from the “Great and the Good” and yet another example of the abuse of Power and Privilege!!

    We have been the victims (we Europeans) of endemic corruption for decades, and even I wonder if it will be too late to reverse the incalculable damage done thus far, and ongoing by the sounds of it.

    My personal friend Mr K. Rusmanis, a former conductor [whom you may recall] actually quit his burgeoning career many years ago to forge anew in the radio and television media, as expected with huge success, in spite of the ‘doubting Thomas’s’ even back then [some three decades ago, maybe more].

    I have [sadly] only learned of the extent of corruption around the world, over the past 3 or 4 years, most annoying, now that I am a disabled [but not stupid] pensioner.

    This exactly why I and millions of others will be voting for the UK to exit the Eurozone, if all was well with the member countries, (i.e. budgets, medicine, arts, culture, education, ad infinity), but as we are well aware, the majority of ‘member states are very far from healthy or providing their respective populations an acceptable standard of life/living!

    SO, on the basis of just what perverted grounds ahs this infantile decision been taken?

    I wish everyone well when seeking an answer or better a reversal of this maddening decision, my sympathies are with the 3,000+ young people who are being divested of their worthy opportunities!!

    If I were only 30 or 40 years younger and in good health, it would be unmistakably obvious where my education and efforts should have been directed!

    I truly believe a responsible and sensible policy instead would be the disbandment of the salaries of every civil servant, MEP, and all the ‘gravy-trainers’, in consecutive disbandment of the EU structure and very existence.

    If nothing else I will make it my purpose to at least identify those or the individual(s) responsible for the irreparable disgrace which we now witness, I beseech you Simon to remain aware of the thickness or thinness of the spreading of your energies, for this, I believe is only the first soldier to fall, all the others are running the same risk!

    This sickening kind of behaviour used to be reserved until they could executed posthumously, yet your good self and countless others thankfully remain with us for now,
    hence the scale of temerity once more leaves us in utter disbelief and catching our breathe! Even Hitler did no such similar evil as this, and of course, why?????

    yours very sincerely and sadly

    Dr. Jane Marguerite Andrews,
    MBA, Psych., LLB (Hons), BA (Hons) Dip Ad
    Charity Trustee, author and public speaker and broadcaster.

    • Mathieu says:

      The UK is not in the Eurozone to begin with. And I do not see what corruption and your friend’s choices of life have to do with the topic discussed here.

      So please spare us the incoherent drivel.

  • Ellingtonia says:

    “Even Hitler did no such similar evil as this, and of course, why?????”………are we really supposed to take this statement seriously? Moreover, why the need to list all your qualifications after your name, smacks of elitist narcissism.

    • Allen says:

      Here we go again – attacking the personality of a poster. You seem to be on a permanent vigil, just waiting for instances of elitism to arise. Very sad mentality.

      Hitler or not, some people think this is important. Have you nothing whatsoever to contribute to the issue.

      • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

        Truthfully, and trying to give you benefit of the doubt, I can only hope you have either misread my full comment, or perhaps no more than a cursory glance, whereupon you have acused me of the exact opposite to that which I wrote?
        Could you please elucidate a little?

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      Drawing the Hitler card indicates as a rule bad taste or worse. And note that his damn party even sponsored an orchestra.

      • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

        Correct, so if we are not ‘use’ this genocidal maniac from history, to simply illustrate just how appalling this current issue is?

      • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

        ….and the EU’s decision is not bad taste??!

        • Pianofortissimo says:

          EU’s decision, that funding is no longer to be given to any cultural organization, is evil, especially when it comes to the EUYO. And that’s all.

        • Peter says:

          That’s not a matter of taste. That is evil ideology at work, no less.

    • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

      By-the-way, do you actually understand narcissism, or did it just sound good at that position in your completely futile effort?

  • Dr Jane Marguerite Andrews says:

    I am delighted thus far, that my comment earlier today, has engendered some responses, at least we are not divest of interest totally.
    I am and do not support elitism of any kind unless the ‘general consensus’ interpolates some positive good as some sort of ‘elitism’, in response I should genuinely like to know just why examples of excellence are either distasteful or anything other than an example of just what the Human Condition is capable of, I suspect psychotic jealousy, or I stand to be educated on the point.

    The idea that, to perhaps be able to claim truthfully individuals, whom have attained excellence, among one’s own family or social circles, is of course quite ridiculous, are we to ‘ban’ engaging with musicians, artists, poets, playwrights, authors, novelists,ceramicist, potters, film directors, doctors, ad infinitum?? if so, you should just reflect, if you should decline the provision of a G.P. for your health needs, for surely here is a positively gargantuan populous, even if a minority population [for now]?

    But you really should consider your comments before assigning them to the page, if they have been evidentially produced with barely a shred of learning or thought, then the author stands, quite rightly, to be publicly humiliated and lambasted.

    I should have no desire to persist in such a discriminatory world, much to the chagrin of the many I suspect?

    Jane Andrfews

  • pooroperaman says:

    Tibor Navracsics: ‘The European Union Youth Orchestra successfully applied for funding in 2014, and its project came to an end, as planned, in 2015. However, the Orchestra’s next application was unsuccessful, as other projects corresponded better with Creative Europe’s priorities. Out of the 112 projects submitted, only 15 were selected for funding.

    These calls for proposals are organised every year. Unsuccessful applicants can always improve their bid and try again within a couple of months.’

    So: ‘unsuccessful…corresponded better…improve’.

    Does this not suggest that Mr Marcus bears a large amount of the blame, for not putting in a better grant application? And perhaps also for complacently assuming that the orchestra would always get its dosh, just because of who they were?

    Methinks he doth protest too much.

    • Max Grimm says:

      Sounds very much like the concept EUYO auditions are based on…

      “Rules & Regulations of the European Union Youth Orchestra 2016

      … 4. All candidates have to compete every year for a place in the Orchestra, even if they have previously played in the Orchestra. Musicians who have been in the EUYO (or on the reserve lists or in the Leverhulme Summer School) in either or both of the two years prior to the current auditions are automatically eligible for the final round audition and need not have a preliminary audition. All candidates must still submit an application form before the closing date.”

    • Etienne Abelin says:

      No, that’s not the point. Even if every single application, every two years is brilliant, it’s very likely that every once in a while a collaboration project exactly geared to fulfill the Creative Europe criteria will get a few more points – and slip in the 10% of successfully funded projects. The problem is exactly as Mr. Marcus outlined: “But it is project funding to encourage national organisations to get together to become more European, not core funding for what is the original pan-European organisation.” Having to fund a core organization is simply not the same as putting together a nice project. It’s letting apples and oranges compete which has to lead to disaster eventually.

      • Mathieu says:

        I agree. An orchestra must have a permanent administrative structure, tours are planned years in advance, etc., none of which can be achieve through short-term project funding.

    • Whoever says:

      Have you ever looked at the requirements for submitting a cultural funding application to the EU? If not, I suggest you find the byzantine application instructions and read through them – which should only take you a full day, after which you can spend the rest of the month trying to understand the meaning of the bureaucratese formulations.

      Methinks thou dost not wot naught.

    • Dan Masters says:

      EU authorities have about 60% of the blame, yes, but Marshall Marcus certainly gets the remaining 40%. Two years ago he should have started an intense lobbying and media campaign to avoid getting to this situation — with the EU authorities but also with all member governments. I am rooting for EUYO, but I think that they are doing too little, too late. An op-ed, a tweet and a post on Facebook, four months before the money runs out, are not the bravest and smartest response. Marcus has always boasted of his friendship with El Sistema founder Jose Antonio Abreu. But it is obvious he didn’t learn anything from Abreu, who became an expert at pressuring and manipulating all governments in Venezuela, left or right, into funding El Sistema. Marcus needs to up his game because 10 or 20 years from now nobody will remember the name of the EU bureaucrats, but they will remember that it was during his watch that EUYO was killed.

  • Wally Francis says:

    Just another example sadly, of how the EU simply isn’t working. I’m pretty sure
    that when the gravity of this very poor decision is fully appreciated there will be viable
    alternatives to save this orchestra. Top marks to Simon Rattle for a timely intervention,
    I am certain many of his esteemed colleagues will also join him in the next few days.

    Little wonder the Brexit movement in Britain is gathering momentum – the Brit’s respond very badly to continuous threats – so the stay lot are actually doing more harm than good just now!

  • Anon says:

    I think the not so hidden deeper roots of the withdrawal of funding lie in the deep seated hatred of the Hungarian middle class (1956…) toward the Russians. The EU commissioner in charge is a Hungarian lawyer.
    The orchestra has recently chosen a Russian born and educated chief conductor. I would bet my grandmother, that that is the actual subcutaneous motive.

  • Wim Verjans says:

    Everyone who feels that culture is an essential ingredient of humanity will be very thankful that personalities of the stature of Sir Simon and Robert King have added their weight to the protest against such an incredible miscarriage of burocracy. At least their voices will be heard!
    I can hardly imagine that after taking notice of these reactions those responsible will fail to recognise the enormity of this unwanted side-effect of their doubtlessly well-intended measure concerning cultural funding and to avert it.
    Let us all hope that the huge fuss we have all been making about this incident can soon be classified as “much ado about nothing”.

  • Maarten Brandt says:

    See below my letter to Mr Navracsics:

    Dear Mr. Navracsics,

    The news that one of the best orchestra’s in the world, the famous European Youth Community Orchestra, will have to end its activities from September onwards due to the fact that the European Union will stop their financial support, came to me as ‘lightning-bolt out of the blue’, as a terrible surprise and, not to say, a traumatic shock. So, my first reaction was one of complete disbelief. Why? Because this decision is in the highest extend contrary to the essence of European thought. That is to say: to bridge the gap between the nations and to bring people of different cultures together. Classical music is the embodiment in sound of an intense dialogue. And this dialogue is badly and more needed than ever before in this turbulent – and often violent – time, in which populistic trends and many conflicts threaten the survival of our hard-won democratic culture. The masterpieces of the symphonic literature of the past and today speak the vocabulary and language of democracy and freedom. And, furthermore, they express in a unique way beyond words the fundamental questions of our existence on this planet.

    The late German composer, Hans Werner Henze (1926-2012) once stated the importance of classical music. He considers this art in particular as a means to enhance the flexibility of our consciousness in terms of an increasing social awareness in the widest sense of this notion. In other words, classical music is not a luxury but an absolute and pure necessity. She offers us the tools by which we are enabled to mobilize our imagination and creativity. And, in order to find appropriate solutions for the vital problems of our existence, this creativity is now of utmost importance.

    Within this context the substantial role and contribution of the European Youth Community Orchestra comes into view, an orchestra in which the best and most gifted musicians of 28 different countries take part. Not only by performing the great heritage of symphonic culture on the highest possible level under the baton of world’s top conductors and in cooperation with the best instrumental and vocal soloists, but also by meeting each other and exchanging their different political, religious and social opinions, which in its turn will lead to better understanding of the already mentioned problems our society has to face. It is this understanding of a new generation who, hopefully, will sooner or later bring those solutions, within reach – solutions being so essential in order to be able to improve our world and make this place a better and more human one.

    Apart from these considerations, the European Youth Community Orchestra is in another sense a real community as well. Because, first en foremost it is the source par excellence of top-musicians from which international orchestras, like for instance the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic do recruit their musicians. The damage of the disappearance of the European Youth Community Orchestra will by far not be restricted to the musicians of this famous ensemble itself, but will do fundamental and irreparable damage to the infrastructure of the orchestral landscape in Europe and the rest of the world.

    Perhaps you’ll remember the reaction of Sir Winston Churchill when he was asked about his opinion on the subject of stopping the support of the arts. His answer was crystal-clear: “Where did we fight for?”

    I do trust in your wisdom and am fully convinced that the arguments I have tried to express in my letter, in order to maintain the financial support of the European Youth Community Orchestra, will lead to a thorough review of your decision.

    With best wishes and regards,

    Yours sincerely,

    Maarten Brandt
    Former teacher orchestral repertoire and dramaturgy of the conductors department of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and former artistic advisor of the Limburg Symfonie Orkest in Maastricht

    Vondellaan 57
    6824 NB Arnhem
    The Netherlands
    0031 6 54722884

  • Etienne Abelin says:

    This is an excellent reply letter by Eric Booth, 2015 winner of America’s highest award in Arts Education:

    Dear Alicja Magdalena Herbowska,

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond to the profound concerns I and many of my U.S. colleagues, as well as colleagues around the globe have felt at the demise of the EUYO, one of the most respected and inspirational youth arts programs in the world. I do not have a feel for the political nuances and gamesmanship behind this appalling outcome, but I can tell you that hearing that one of the great artistic traditions in the world was ended because it did not fit into program guidelines means the government killed it. And what does it say about the state of the EU if it kills one of its most beautiful and successful children? I would like to hear from the Commissioner himself as to why he made such a choice, a choice I urge him to reverse, a choice that will not be forgotten.

    I am an organizational consultant to many professional and youth orchestras. My advise to you, to avoid the permanent black mark of having killed a great international institution for political reasons, would be to guarantee the EUYO five years of consistent funding during which time something less hideous can be devised to sustain an extraordinary tradition.

    Eric Booth

    2015 winner of America’s highest award in Arts Education, and named one of the 50 most influential leaders in the U.S. Arts.

    Eric Booth