Daniel Barenboim has united Arab and Israeli musicians through his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, an ensemble he co-founded in 1999 with the late Palestinian literary scholar, Edward Said. Now, he intends to expand the concept into higher education.
The Israeli-Argentine conductor and pianist has announced plans for a conservatory in Berlin geared towards musicians from the Middle East. The academy will comprise training in music, social sciences and international politics, and will be housed in a former warehouse for the Berlin State Opera, where Barenboim is artistic director.
About 80 students are expected to attend the Barenboim-Said Academy of Orchestral Studies, all on full scholarships. It is due to open in 2015. Star architect Frank Gehry and acoustic engineer Yasuhisa Toyota have reportedly volunteered to design an 800-seat concert hall named after Pierre Boulez to be part of the facility. The space will host performances by members of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra and the Staatskapelle Berlin.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Barenboim said the school's curriculum will be apolitical, even with the inclusion of political subject matter. "We're not involved in political negotiations," he said. "We must simply try to understand and appreciate one another."
The German parliament has already approved 20 million euros ($25.5 million) for the academy. An additional eight million euros have been donated by private sponsors.
Below is the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra's performance at the BBC Proms in July.