The Siemens Arts Program has been enabling a scholarship to a conductor as part of the Karajan Academy’s training programme since September 2020.
In addition to the standard two-year academy training, it enables students to assist the chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko, as well as conducting their own portrait concert with the Karajan Academy Chamber Orchestra in the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonie Berlin.
By sponsoring the Siemens Conductors Scholarship, Siemens and the Karajan Academy of the Berliner Philharmoniker are jointly focusing on fostering outstanding emerging conductors.
Two winners at the Philharmonie Berlin
Double success at the Siemens Conductors Scholarship competition
Standing on the podium in front of a world star like Kirill Petrenko is a rare and unique opportunity for many aspiring conductors. On a Sunday at the Philharmonie Berlin, three young talents had this special experience at the final of the competition for the Siemens Conductors Scholarship. For two of them, an even bigger dream came true.
The first time I stood in front of a group of people conducting them – even though it went terribly wrong – I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life.Christian Blex
The Siemens Conductors Scholarship – a career stepping-stone for conductors
From nearly 200 applications from all over the world, ten participants were invited to a three-day selection process at the Philharmonie Berlin. The standard was very high, in keeping with the prize: the scholarship includes two years of training at the Karajan Academy for the Berliner Philharmoniker, as well as the coveted task of assisting the chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, Kirill Petrenko. In addition, the recipient will conduct their own portrait concert with the musicians of the Karajan Academy.
The choice was up to a seven-member jury chaired by Kirill Petrenko. Also on the panel were Andrea Zietzschmann, General Manager of the Foundation Berliner Philharmoniker, Peter Riegelbauer, Managing Director of the Karajan Academy, and Stephan Frucht, Artistic Director of the Siemens Arts Program. The big surprise came with the announcement after the final round: there would be not one, but two scholarship holders. Both Christian Blex and Oscar Jockel impressed the jury with their conducting skills and will share the prize.
The Siemens Conductors Scholarship is nothing less than the idea of finding the best conductor out of many talented young conductors. And that’s the amazing thing here, you can really feel the energy! The applicants really want to be part of something, they’re passionate, they want to move something. These people have been incredibly wonderful. And these people must be given a chance.Stephan Frucht, panel member and artistic director of the Siemens Arts Program
Hours of practice for one perfect moment
“There’s a lot of work involved in a concert: setting up the sheet music, the seating arrangement of the orchestra… But above all the musical preparation. That's what's so fascinating to me about it: it's a craft, but at the same time it's more than that. It also requires good interaction with people, and communication, and everyone is so different. And then the moment comes, and you've rehearsed for hours, for days, and in this one moment in time it has to come together.” explains Oscar Jockel.
Oscar was among the three finalists who made it to the third round in front of Kirill Petrenko, along with Isabel Rubio from Spain and Christian Blex from Germany. Each of them was given 40 minutes to rehearse excerpts from pieces by Debussy, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky with the Karajan Academy Orchestra, with a live audience.
When asked how the competition went for him, Christian Blex replied: "In retrospect, of course, I have to say that things went great. At the same time, it was very stressful and always such a roller coaster of emotions. The greatest thing about the competition was actually meeting the musicians of the Karajan Academy and making music with them. And the prevailing feeling was one of deep gratitude. Because they responded so openly to me. It was so great to make music with them! That's what I'm taking away from the competition."
Rehearsals – how a masterpiece is created
In addition to the work with the Karajan Academy, gaining insights into the rehearsals of the chief conductor Kirill Petrenko with the Berliner Philharmoniker is another valuable aspect of the scholarship.
"When you go to other concerts as a conductor, you see the finished product," Christian Blex explained. "But what we're interested in, of course, is how you got there. We now have the privilege of seeing how a masterpiece is created, are able to observe that process with a lot of different personalities with different artistic styles, and how they all achieve this final project. From rehearsal psychology and people management to pure musicality. I think that's awesome."
Both scholarship holders are looking forward to their time at the Philharmonie Berlin, especially encountering new people, and all that they will still learn there.
They say that when a new chief conductor comes in - or hopefully a female chief conductor someday – then a sound is created in the orchestra that is preserved over several generations. And I'm very interested in what Kirill Petrenko's vision is, and what he's working on. And hopefully we'll get to find that out during our stay - we'll see!Oscar Jockel
The first scholar: Nodoka Okisawa
Nodoka Okisawa is the first conductor we are supporting under this scholarship program. The talented Japanese is a graduate of the University of the Arts in Tokyo and Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin. In 2019, she won the International Conducting Competition in Besançon.
Since September 2020, she has been working alongside Kirill Petrenko as well as the musicians of the academy. In the process, she learns as much from the other scholars as they do from her.
We learn from each other and inspire each other.Nodoka Okisawa