Network Young Ears
The (almost) hidden interface

The YEAH! Award winners Eersteklasconcerten and geo-sounds were honored during the 3.YEAH! Young EARopean Festival in Osnabrück.
The YEAH! Award winners Eersteklasconcerten and geo-sounds were honored during the 3.YEAH! Young EARopean Festival in Osnabrück. | Photo: Network Young Ears / Oliver Röckle

“Young Ears” is a network, that unites people of the musical and the educational world, the political and economical area. The eponymous prize awards outstanding productions in different categories.

Networks are not really tangible, but they exist, and everyone benefits from it without noticing what or how things work and come about. They want to bring people together. “We would like to share and in this way bring about improvements”, says Lydia Grün, managing director of “Network Young Ears”. “Young Ears” sees itself as a starting point for orchestras, stages, concerts and opera houses, organizers, music promoters, publishers, universities and artists, which find here a platform for exchange and the development of musical life, focusing on classical music and crossing all genres.

The network catalyses, focuses and optimizes the communication flow. It develops and fine-tunes ideas of cooperation – for instance, by working on how to better integrate the audience and how music can be made as vivid, true-to-life and emotionally gripping as possible. “Music life” is a fuzzy umbrella term that comprises a great deal of things. On the one hand there is the artistic-aesthetic component; on the other as comprehensive an educational outreach as possible; and then too there are conditions such as cultural policy, funding and project management.

Innovations and ideas

But what is important for the work of the "Young Ears" network? At the regional level, for example, it now holds meetings twice yearly with various participants to discuss key issues of daily musical life. Grün gives a few examples: “How do I design an exciting concert for young people; how is musical communication done inwards, as, for instance in an orchestra, or again outwards; what potential, what dangers, lurk for music in the social media?”

Music lovers, however, hear little about the daily work of the network. Generally, they are presented with only the results of these meetings and this planning. For example, when two institutions in cooperation venture a new concert series or jointly present the works of a young composer. This gives rise to formats such as the children’s concerts Fidolino, which would otherwise never have come about. All this works only because the network can act independently towards established associations; its structures are flexible.

The network emerged only after the prize “Young Ears” had already been established. It was launched in 2005 by Jeunesses musicales and the German Orchestra Association to intensify the focus on children’s and young people’s concerts. “The prize honours productions that break new ground, seek out risks and convey music cleverly and vividly – for instance by integrating the audience. Or by projects that seek to exercise a meaningful and positive influence on music in the everyday lives of young people”, explains Grün.
Young Ears Award 2015, source: Young Ears / Youtube

Although the number of applicants for the prize grew rapidly, it lacked a structure in the background. It was only in 2007 that the network was founded, which now, with four permanent staff members located in Berlin, coordinates some 230 participants from Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland. Almost the entire budget is financed by project funds from foundations, the German Federal Government and sponsors. Long-term planning, however, is hardly possible. As with independent orchestras, so too with the network: agility, innovation and inspiring ideas are constantly in demand.

International orientation

“Model projects” and “knowledge transfer” are terms that Grün likes to bring into play. To the outsider they seem abstract, but behind the scenes they are carefully filled with content and tested for practicability. The focus is no longer limited to formats for children and young people, and now extends to all age groups: “Thinking about the audience shouldn’t be directed to only one target group; we must try to make everyone, young and old, urban or rural, enthusiastic about music”.

The network therefore now looks beyond national borders and with YEAH! (Young EARopean Award) has launched another prize, coupled to an international festival, which most recently took place this summer in Osnabrück. More than a hundred projects from some twenty European countries applied for this third edition of YEAH! For several days performances, workshops and conferences served as the hub for encounters and the exchange of ideas. Grün corroborates that this makes “trends easier to recognise and filter: what’s hot in Scandinavia, what ideas in Turkey might be interesting?”

Network Young Ears is thus also a reflection of today’s social and cultural developments. Its features are structural independence from big institutions and communicative exchange that calls for coordination and optimization, flexibility instead of predefinition, international orientation and financing primarily through its own initiatives. In content the network not only takes up trends in music communication, but also acts itself as a catalyst by scrutinizing, unfolding, testing and bringing about developments in musical life. An exciting interface, invisible to many people.