The Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic: A model of harmony for Europe

It might seem idealistic to think that music can change the world. But imagine this: a hundred young people from ten countries across the entire Baltic Sea region, some of which were once at war with one other. These hard-working, hopeful students sit together, talk together, eat together, make music together and learn from one another. Led by some of today’s finest musicians, they bring wonderful music to audiences throughout Europe. And then they return to their home countries, taking with them new-found wisdom and friendships. This, essentially, is the idea behind the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic (BYP).

Formed in 2008 by the Usedom Music Festival and Nord Stream AG, operator of the natural gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea, the orchestra brings together the finest young conservatoire-level players from the ten countries surrounding the Baltic Sea: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden. Under the baton of founding conductor and music director Kristjan Järvi, the orchestra performs the classical repertoire as well as specialising in music from the Baltic Sea region and commissioning young composers from the area. Recognising the benefits of the experience BYP offers them, the players have a mission to give something back to society, and their educative role includes performing for and working with young children and adult learners.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic as ‘a compelling example of using music as a powerful medium for cooperation and integration across borders’.

Players are chosen by audition and come together for two to three training periods a year, working intensively on repertoire that they then take on tour. They have travelled the entire region, from Paris to Helsinki, and performed in some of the world’s greatest venues. In autumn 2015, they will be off to Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Denmark, and in April 2016 their ‘Baltic Landscapes Tour’ takes them to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Russia and, again, Denmark. Wherever they go, they are greeted by excited audiences and superlative reviews – as was their first CD, ‘Baltic Sea Voyage’, released this year.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has praised the Baltic Sea Youth Philharmonic as ‘a compelling example of using music as a powerful medium for cooperation and integration across borders’. In October 2015, the orchestra will be presented with the European Cultural Award by the ‘Pro Europe’ European Foundation for Culture and perform at a star-studded gala concert celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reunification of Germany. This important symbolic occasion celebrates the progress and importance of unity, so it is significant that the BYP has been invited to demonstrate its vision of musical collaboration and togetherness – and to show that music can change the world after all.