1985 Greenpeace

This is my scrapbook full of clippings about animal cruelty, pollution and radioactivity.

What can you do?

I went around the neighbourhood doing jobs for people and saved up the money to give to Greenpeace.

1990 The Study of Nature

Birds, bats, butterflies – they’re all great.

I organised nature camps and biology excursions and set up a local branch of the Jeugdbond voor Natuurstudie (young people’s society for the study of nature).

Very educational – when you are fourteen years old…

1996 On tour through a warzone

The Ricciotti Ensemble went on tour through Bosnia, directly after the civil war.
We brought music to people who had been through hell.
We played for orphans.
Here, I saw how music can be a life force.

A meaningful place is much more important than a faultless performance.
It gave me an entirely new perspective on my role as a musician.

2004 The Night of Bratislava

In 2004, a number of Eastern European countries joined the EU. I went to Bratislava, Prague and Ljubljana to create musical encounters between young, creative and inventive musicians. Amazing adventures happened in which children’s choirs, school children, DJs, rock bands and professional classical musicians came together.

Watch the mosaic of classical, jazz and improvisation in the market hall of Bratislava here

Watch the interaction between different musical styles and people in Prague here

Watch the ‘Night of Ljubljana’ here

Watch the compilation of the performance in Paradiso, Amsterdam here

2005 On the rooftops of Nicosia

Music is space. Where people build walls, music can break through the barriers.

Musicians were standing on the rooftops, balconies and in the streets. Children, singers and dancers took part. For an hour, music sounded from both sides of the buffer zone that separates Turkish and Greek Cyprus from each other. This is how we managed to connect the inhabitants of this beautiful country with each other, through the barbed wire.

Watch Adam Sébire’s beautiful documentary here (50 min).

2007 Bring the Gadžo to the Ghetto

I read about a wall that the inhabitants of the East Slovakian town of Prešov wanted to build around the Roma ghetto. With musicians from the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Slovakia we set to work for a week, involving local school children, conservatoire students and professionals. We created a hectic, tough, fascinating, unique and adventurous concert.

Adam Sébire made a beautiful documentary, which you can watch here (22 min).

2008 On either side of the wall of apartheid

In Cyprus and Slovakia I experienced how music can connect different groups of people. I went to Israel and Palestine to work with musicians and young people and develop a project that could break through the divide. With musicians and children from Bethlehem we made “Carried by the Wind”, to conquer the wall of apartheid.

Adam Sébire made a short documentary about this too (10 mins) which you can watch here.

2009 Underground in Jeruzalem

East Jerusalem became the UNESCO cultural capital. But the Israeli government banned the festival and locked up the organisers

Because culture, art and identity are like oxygen to the soul, I organised a secret festival with local artists in living rooms.

Watch a beautiful impression of it by Hikaru Toda & Jason Brooks here.

2010 Damascus

I fell in love with this beautiful city, the music and the people. Despite the control and mistrust of the regime, young people live here full of dreams, creative ideas and plans for the future. We organised a concert in which different worlds came together: oriental tradition, new experiments, familiar songs, rock and rousing rhythms. Children, students and professionals took part. It was to be a concert for freedom. Not long afterwards, the revolution, the chaos, the violence started..

You can watch the video of the concert here.

2013 A Syrious Mission to Jordan

I was looking for a role that music could play within the desperation of the Syrian civil war. I made a plan and got to work with 13 musicians in schools and refugee camps in Jordan on the Syrian border. Seven times in total musicians travelled to Jordan to give workshops and concerts and to train local musicians. We ended up with a programme for music education in various places..

You can watch a Nieuwsuur report here.

2014 A Postcard from Aleppo

At a distance, you can feel powerless in the face of war, injustice and the loss of world heritage. With writer Abdelkader Benali, we asked the inhabitants of Aleppo to write about their daily life. Eventually it became a performance in which Syrian refugees in the Netherlands took part, we received postcards and wrote back and made many new connections between the Netherlands and Syria.

Visit our Facebook page here

Watch the 30 minute version in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam here

Would you like a performance at your house? We can now offer a mini Postcard from Aleppo. Email anke@twaalfhoven.net for more information!

2015 Aspen Ideas Festival

Of course we could only help and affect a very limited number of children in Jordan. In search of more attention for beauty, imagination and play in the lives of displaced children, I travel to the US to take part in lectures and discussions about the role that the arts can play in conflict and crisis situations.

Watch the discussion at the Aspen Institute in Washington DC here

Listen to the conversation at the Aspen Ideas Festival 2013 here

Watch the debate during the Aspen Ideas Festival 2015 here

2017 Musical Postcards

How can we give a voice to children growing up in some of the most challenging places on this earth? With this project, we brought short musical compositions by 10 to 17 year old children from child prisons, refugee camps, asylum seekers’ centres and the South American favelas to high schools in the Netherlands, the USA and other countries. The school children expanded the compositions, which were then performed by professional musicians in regular concerts.

Visit the website of Musical Postcards International

2017 Musical Postcards in Carnegie Hall

How do you convey the story of a Syrian refugee to a large audience without emphasising victimisation?

By asking young refugees to transform their dream into a piece of music, then working with high school students to expand those compositions and having them performed in the most prestigious concert halls, we can break the stereotype of a child seeking refuge. We emphasise the imagination, beauty and openness for the future and thus build direct contact and exchange between people in a vulnerable situation and others who live in a privileged position.
Musical Postcards is, for me, a new way to view the role of a composer within society. Not (always) doing everything yourself, but designing models for the creative power of others and telling the most important and urgent stories of our time. It is wonderful to work together with musicians such as the New York Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, Philharmonie Zuidnederland and many others!

View the performance in Carnegie Hall.