The Violin Channel recently caught up with Itzhak Rashkovsky, music director of Keshet Eilon.
You have been streaming your Gala from New York on the Violin Channel since Feb 26, 2022. Tell us some background?
Sadly I was prevented from attending this concert physically, due to the limitations of Covid-19. But, I can testify that it was a concert whose central theme was celebrating the return to live music, after the long period in which we were forced to perform in a virtual format. We were also rejoicing the reunion of our familiar and warm audience that, over the years, we kept in touch with, and to a great extent, we had to break away for the past two years. The concert featured excellent young musicians in the lovely cooperation of extraordinary pianists.
Tell us about the Keshet Eilon and how it has evolved since its founding in the early 1990s?
The Keshet Eilon Music Center and String Mastercourse, founded in 1990 at Kibbutz Eilon on Israel's northern border, is devoted to training and promoting young string players from Israel and worldwide intent on attaining the highest musical level. Keshet Eilon, now in its 32nd year, has achieved international recognition in the music world.
Keshet Eilon's first steps were very modest — a handful of musicians met in Kibbutz Eilon, Israel, to make music. The Kibbutz already had a rich cultural tradition, and its founders made music a central value in their lives. They had passed their passion for the second generation of the Kibbutz.
Our beginning was very fortunate. During the 1990s, there was a massive wave of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union arriving in Israel. Amongst them were many musicians. They instilled a new kind of energy into the social and cultural life of Israel and continued to play an essential role in Keshet Eilon's development and success, as well.
Many young newcomers, gifted musicians, were looking for a suitable venue to advance their music study or develop their playing on the string instrument. They have found it at Keshet Eilon, and the latter was happy to embrace them and nurture their skills.
The first Mastercourses have laid the foundations of Keshet Eilon. During its 32 years of operation, Keshet Eilon was gradually exposed to the world of music, gained momentum, and acquired a professional reputation. Echoes of the informal atmosphere, the educational approach that characterizes the project, and especially its high professional level encouraged many string musicians to knock on our doors. The pursuit of excellence, shared by students and teachers, brought many world-renowned artists and senior teachers to join our faculty and participate in the Mastercourses.
It is important to note that Keshet Eilon's melody never stopped even in days of wars and when the border in our area warmed up.
What main goals and principles are guiding you?
Keshet Eilon's credo is that music, one of the eternal symbols of humanity, can serve as a bridge between religions, peoples, and nations. In Hebrew, the word "Keshet" means a bow or an arch, and we use it to symbolize a bridge or connection. Indeed, Keshet Eilon believes in the power of music to bridge the gap between people from different cultures, bringing them to make music together.
Keshet Eilon makes every effort to integrate every talented student to participate in its training programs regardless of financial money. Besides, in its attempt to develop string instruments study for excellence, Keshet Eilon supports young musicians in various ways. It loans them instruments (for those who cannot afford to purchase them), gives several of them scholarships to cover part of the courses' and seminars' tuition, and opens the project's unique Music Library for their use.
Keshet Eilon focuses on each individual's playing. After a long and intensive academic year, our students arrive at our campus, filled with many orchestral and chamber music projects. Here, we give them optimal conditions to focus exclusively on their playing.
A student leaves Keshet Eilon with new musical ideas, innovative inputs, and positive experiences. He or she creates new friendships and connections that can enrich their lives long after the Mastercourse and be expressed in their future musical lives. In addition, the opportunity to get to know Israel as a place of culture and creativity and not merely a country associated with violence and terrorism can turn a student into an ambassador of goodwill for Keshet Eilon and Israel.
What different programs do you offer young musicians over the year?
The Keshet Eilon Campus and other facilities are used to mount special Seminars for young Israeli string players and teachers throughout the year. The seminars, aimed at stimulating and encouraging string playing in Israel, are held twice annually, led by the professional Keshet Eilon faculty.
Approximately 60 to 80 young musicians from all over the country attend these seminars and benefit from the Keshet Eilon faculty experience. Here, Jews, Christians, and Muslim students can play together, and this interaction fosters personal connections through music, which is the essence of Keshet Eilon.
In addition, Keshet Eilon maintains an Annual Concert series — "The Sounds of Keshet Eilon," mounted at Keshet Eilon's Bar-Uryan Concert Hall, featuring world-class performances for the music-loving public, including young musicians, in the Western Galilee and beyond at affordable prices. The programs include string recitals, chamber music concerts, choirs, folk music, and more.
Tell us about the International Summer Mastercourse that will take place between July 24 and August 11?
After two years of not holding the International Summer Mastercourse in a live format due to the Covid-19 virus — we intend to mount it this year in the traditional and safe framework that has proven itself for years.
In general, we are planning to include, among other activities, master classes, chamber concerts of faculty and students, and outdoor concerts that will bring the local Galilee community closer to music and even attract listeners from the center of Israel.
Unfortunately, however, under the shadow of the current war in Europe, we worry that it could cause problems of stopping flights if it continues until summer, and possibly also financial and other difficulties.
Only later can we know the main topics of the upcoming Mastercourse, selected each year as enrichment for students. A little hard to plan for today.
What does a typical day at the Kibbutz look like?
Since our first Mastercourse, the program's daily structure has remained the same:
Morning: individual lessons
Noon-time: Archery practice
Late evening: Social activities
Why did you decide to emphasize archery practice? How does this relate holistically to string playing?
The archery workshop originated in the need to find some form of physical activity for students who spend so many hours of the day indoors practicing their music.
To our surprise, we discovered a correlation between the sport of Olympic archery and string playing. They require similar physical elements: correct stance, hand-eye coordination, concentration, etc. The amazing fact is that over many years, it has been shown that string instrument players excel at archery and learn it with minimum training compared to regular archery students.
We have found that most of the string students and teachers enjoy the sport of archery and that it strengthens and improves the skills that the two activities share.
Who will be on the faculty this year?
Keshet Eilon is happy to cultivate the coming generation of young string players by exposing them to outstanding artists and teachers who are willing to offer their talent, professional experience, and accumulated knowledge to the young musicians on the summer Mastercourses. All of this happens in a familial and convivial atmosphere, enjoyed by both students and faculty members.
The 2022 faculty will include:
Shmuel Ashkenasi (Israel-USA,) Eduard Grach (Russia,) Ilya Kaler (USA,) Olga Kaler (USA,) Nam Yun Kim (S. Korea,) Sergey Ostrovsky (Israel,) Itzhak Rashkovsky (Israel-UK,) Ani Schnarch (Israel-UK,) Roi Shiloah (Israel,) Chaim Taub (Israel,) Ulf Wallin (Sweden,) Robin Wilson (Australia,) Qian Zhou (Singapore)
Paul Coletti (USA,) Tatjana Masurenko (Germany-Russia)
Amit Peled (USA-Israel,) Hillel Zori (Israel)
Julia Gurvitch (Israel,) Anna Kavalerova (Israel,) Eugenia Lakernik (Israel,) Irina Zheleznova (Israel)
How can people apply to the Summer Mastercourse?
People can enter the Keshet Eilon Website, fill in the application form, and submit it online via SlideRoom.