13:47 25.11.2013 | CBM Team | Project: Culture

Mitrovica, Mostar and Struga Youth at Super Rock Camp in Skopje

After five years of successfully bringing communities together in Mitrovica, Kosovo, Musicians without Borders is expanding its “Rock School” program to other troubled areas in the Balkans. From August 26 to September 2, eighty young musicians from Mitrovica, Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Struga (Macedonia) and the Netherlands, will travel to Macedonian capital Skopje for a full week of band practice and performance. The participants are teenagers and young adults from both sides of flashpoint towns in former Yugoslavia. For the Mitrovica participants, this Summer School celebrates the fifth anniversary of their Mitrovica Rock School. For the Mostar participants, the week is the festive launch of the new Mostar Rock School.

Youth from the flashpoint cities of former Yugoslavia

The Balkan wars have left fierce divides between communities in former Yugoslavia, with Mitrovica in Kosovo and Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina as two of the most tragic examples. Macedonia, which narrowly escaped war, did not escape the ethnic tensions, which continue to surge between its ethnic Macedonian and Albanian communities. Whole generations have now grown up with hardly any contact with “the other side” in environments rife with ethnic stereotyping and violence. The Skopje Summer School brings together young people who have grown up in divided or ethnically tense settings, but with one shared passion: pop and rock music.

Rock and reconciliation at the Mitrovica Rock School

The first Summer School in 2008 led to the establishment of the Mitrovica Rock School. Since then, 300 youth have attended the Rock School, while this year 120 Serb and Albanian teenagers from the divided city will have played and performed together in mixed bands during the annual Summer School. Since the peace in Mitrovica is very fragile and the security situation prevents the students from attending one school, the Mitrovica Rock School works from two locations, one on each side of the river. Once a year the Rock School brings students from both sides to Skopje to learn, perform and break taboos about the “people from the other side.”

New Rock School in Mostar 

Like Mitrovica, Mostar was heavily affected by the war and the city is divided along ethnic lines: Croats in the West and Bosniaks in the East, also divided by a river. But the calmer situation will allow the Mostar Rock School to function in one building and have all of the students, from all ethnicities, in one place. Mostar has a proud music tradition: it is the home of the annual Mostar Blues Festival and many Mostar musicians have gained regional renown with bands like Dubioza Kolektiv and Zoster. These musicians will work at the school as teachers and organizers, and will start working with the school’s teenage students during the Skopje Summer School.

High school youth from Struga

The Struga participants became involved through a rock summer camp organized by local implementer Civil – Center for Freedom in 2009. Civil’s summer camp brought together ethnic Macedonian and Albanian youth from Struga, a town that had been making the headlines due to rising tensions and violence among youth in local high schools. This will be the third year that young musicians from Struga join the Summer School.

Mixed bands at major concert

At the Skopje Summer School, the youth will work together in mixed bands toward a major outdoor concert on Saturday September 1. Rock musicians from Mitrovica and Mostar and trainers from the Dutch Fontys Rock Academy will coach the participants. Under the motto “It’s all about the music,” young musicians of all backgrounds learn about working in a band, song writing and recording during
one of the most intense musical experiences of their lives. For most youth attending the Summer School, it is their first opportunity to meet and play with students from the other side of their home town.

Joint initiative 

The Mitrovica Rock School is an initiative of Musicians without Borders, Community Building Mitrovica, the Fontys Rock Academy and IKV Pax Christi. Rock School students work year-round on band practice and performance, individual and group instrument lessons, marketing, sound engineering and production. The Mostar Rock School replicates the Mitrovica model as a new approach to reconciliation. The Mostar project is a partnership among Musicians without Borders, the Fontys Rock Academy and the Pavarotti Music Center in Mostar. The Skopje Summer School is a partnership with Civil - Center for Freedom, a leading Macedonian NGO in the field of human rights, peace, and arms control.

The 2012 Skopje Summer School and the two Rock Schools are financially supported by U.S. Embassies in Sarajevo, Pristina and Skopje, the Norwegian Embassy in Sarajevo, the Swiss Cooperation Office Kosovo, the Robert Bosch Foundation and Luxembourg Caritas.


Summer School: August 26 – September 2
Closing concert: Saturday, September 1, 17:00 hours to midnight
Closing concert location: “Shkolka” stage, Skopje City Park
Location: Skopje, Macedonia