Rethinking Excellence: The Villars Music Academy


Rethinking Excellence: The Villars Music Academy

Music has the power to bring people together across borders, barriers and generations. Nowhere is that more apparent than at the Villars Music Academy (VMA). Swiss violinist Aline Champion aims to transform musical training for talented young performers. Along with colleagues from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and other world-renowned instrumentalists, she is rethinking what the foundation of excellence in musical performance should be.

The VMA invites talented young musicians from around the world to an intensive musical and personal learning experience. It centers around masterclasses taught by leading soloists and musicians from the Berliner Philharmoniker, as well as coaching, conferences and workshops. The program provides a unique opportunity for young musicians to accelerate their personal development and become inspired to bring more inner life into everything they do.

The 2023 VMA took place from 13-20 August, with masterclasses taught by five globally renowned musicians: conductor Daniel Harding; violinist Kolja Blacher; violist Antoine Tamestit; and cellists Alban Gerhardt and Gary Hoffman. Out of over 200 applications, 20 young string musicians from around the world were selected for the week-long interdisciplinary program in the beautiful Swiss village of Villars-sur-Ollon. The program culminated in the VMA Closing Concert at the Villars Palace Theater, in which the laureates performed alongside their mentors as well as four soloists from the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra: violinists Simone Bernardini and Luiz Felipe; violist Walter Kuessner; and cellist Martin Menking.

The final of the first Balik Prize took place on August 18th. The Balik Prize is a competition exclusively for the laureates of the Villars Music Academy and was judged this year by the VMA laureates’ tutors as well as representatives from Caviar House & Prunier, the Villars Institute, and Artistic Director of the VMA, Aline Champion. Whilst listening to this exceptional competition, the audience were also given an opportunity to vote for their favorite musician.

Violinist Aoi Saito emerged as the winner of the Balik Prize, and will now have the opportunity to record a CD and a video to help launch her international music career thanks to the generous sponsorship of Caviar House & Prunier.

Raised in Tokyo, Aoi began playing violin at the age of 5 at the Toho Gakuen Music School. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at the Tokyo University of the Arts with honors, and is currently studying for her Master’s degree at the Berlin University of the Arts.

How music promotes the Villars Institute’s values

Music can transcend barriers and inspire action, making it a potent tool for promoting positive change and reinforcing the Villars Institute's mission to accelerate the transition to a net-zero world and restore the health of our planet.

Intergenerational collaboration is crucial for effective climate action, as the consequences of environmental degradation will impact future generations the most. Music, as a bridge between age groups and disciplines, can facilitate dialogue and mutual understanding. Collaborative musical projects involving artists of different generations and experiences can foster a sense of shared responsibility and solidarity, allowing for the exchange of insights and ideas that transcend time.

Artists can use their platforms to amplify climate change awareness, crafting music that addresses environmental concerns and advocates for sustainable practices, while poignant compositions can stir listeners emotionally, motivating them to engage with climate and nature initiatives and make conscious choices towards a better lifestyle both for themselves and for the planet.

Musical events like the VMA can also serve as platforms to educate audiences about the importance of transitioning to Net Zero. These gatherings not only entertain but also provide spaces for knowledge exchange and collaboration among diverse groups. By celebrating music and sustainability together, attendees are encouraged to contemplate their roles in creating a better future.

The emotive power of music, along with its capacity to disseminate messages and its potential to foster unity, make it a crucial catalyst for climate and nature action, and the interplay between generations in safeguarding our world.