The Open Music School is a musical skill-sharing community and platform with a focus on the integration of less-privileged newcomers into Berlin’s world famous and diverse music scene, which can sometimes be intimidating and hard to access.
Since September 2013, Give Something Back To Berlin has been running musical collaborations with newcomers. Like several other GSBTB projects, it began at the self-organised refugee rights protest movement at Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg. By connecting with the people living there and asking for their wishes and needs, one of the things that was raised was the possibility to play music as a creative outlet, to forget the difficulties of the refugee situation and spread the word about refugee rights through music. Based on that wish we started building up various forms of music-related activities and connections.
It started with casual jamming as an activity for refugee musicians and neighbours. Soon GSBTB connected them with more established Berlin musicians and other famous artists, such as the Swedish band The Knife, who suported them with knowledge, instruments and rehearsal spaces.
The initiative grew organically and people met regularly to jam, play and share music and culture, resulting in the formation of two bands: Wulaba – Refugees Voice and, more recently, G.R.V. – Global Refugee Voice. The two collectives have been a mix of old and new Berliners from countries including Senegal, Sudan, Mali, Syria, UK, France, USA and Germany. The bands have played at Berlin events such as the East Side Music Days, many smaller festivals and are advocates for refugee rights in the local and international scene.
Since 2013 GSBTB’s projects and engagement with music have grown a lot. As our work and communities consist of people from both Berlin’s creative scene, as well as different migrant communities, this meant that we could create a link between the local music scene to newcomer musicans. Over time we’ve supported various artists like the world famous 143 Band – a feminist hip-hop duo from Afghanistan, Babylon Refugee Orchestra, the Wind-up Penguin Theatre, traditional Lebanese folk bands, Syrian indie rock musicians and many more as well as connecting many individual hobby musicians to concerts, events and other bands.
Why does the Open Music School exist?
We believe in the power of music to create meaningful relationships that cross cultures, while encouraging healing, self-expression and community engagement. We don’t believe that learning a musical instrument is only for those who can afford private tuition, or that performance opportunities should only exist for those who know the “right people”. We see value in every individual as part of our community, and if music is something they wish to pursue, we want to encourage that. Making music together is also a lot of fun!
How does it work?
1. Music Tuition
We offer a variety of completely free, weekly group classes run by talented volunteers who are musicians themselves. These groups focus on providing supportive and creative environments for people of any gender, nationality, ethnicity or migration status to learn together. More advanced students are often encouraged to act as teachers’ aids and/or translators, thus creating a communal skill-sharing group free from hierarchy, where everyone has something to offer.
We currently run groups and workshops in Acoustic Guitar, Piano Keyboard, Bass-Guitar, Social Singing and Music Tech (all things electronic), and this list grows every month.
Our offering of music classes are open to all:
- Guitar on Monday evenings at 7pm at Sharehaus Refugio, Lenaustrasse 4
- Piano/Keyboard classes on Tuesdays at 6.30 and 8pm, Sharehaus Refugio, Lenaustrasse 4
- Bass Guitar on Wednesdays at 7pm, Sharehaus Refugio, Lenaustrasse 4
- Social Singing on Tuesdays at 7pm, Solinar, Hertzbergstraße 1
- Open Music Lab (electronic music workshops), Mondays at 5.30pm, Donaustrasse 115
All classes are taught by volunteers, with and without refugee status, and are always free.
2. Meet-Ups for Musicians
In addition to these weekly classes, we also work in collaboration with other initiatives from the music industry and civil society to organize events and concerts. We seek to create opportunities that focus on people forging new connections and sharing information about all things musical in Berlin. There are a lot of talented musicians living in refugee camps and other isolated parts of this city and we want to empower them to become active participants in this city’s music scene. A regular meet-up called The Tent was founded in collaboration with a Syrian musician and CreAid and utilises existing musician meet-ups across the city in locations such as the Klingendes Museum and Noize Fabrik to support newcomer musicians in accessing the mainstream Berlin scene.
We are creating a database of recording studios, music venues, professional music schools, private tutors, youth centres and other people and organisations that we can collaborate with to empower Berlin’s musical newcomer community. We want to be ready and able to advocate for individuals with anything music-related as quickly and effectively as possible.
Our ever-growing Open Music School network has helped us to understand that there is a further need for specific one-off and on-going workshops on a number of niche topics. In the future these will include hip-hop and rap workshops where newcomer artists can connect with established Berlin artists for advice and skill-sharing. Other topics such as how to find jobs within the music industry, funding, more music genres and technical specialties will follow as we listen and develop along with our community.
How do I become part of this project?
Sign up as a student: