Founded in 2009 by world-renowned horn player Alessio Allegrini and a group of musicians and humanists active on four continents, Musicians For Human Rights (MFHR) encourages professional musicians, audiences, and secondary school and university students musicians to take action to advance the well-being of people living at the margins. With a home base in Italy and a newly formed association in Switzerland, MFHR is active in three areas: performance, teaching, and working with people at risk.
Our very first activities were concerts in Italy by the Human Rights Orchestra to raise funds for MSF (Doctors without Borders) and for Al Kamandjati, an association created by violist Ramzi Aburedwan in Ramallah to provide music lessons for indigent Palestinian children.
We then formed partnerships with secondary schools in several provinces of Italy to provide workshops on music and human rights, each culminating with a free public concert for the students and the local community. Themes discussed in the classrooms were the right to water, the right to health, the right to asylum, the right to food, and the right to culture. We would illuminate each right by creating discussion materials and selecting relevant music. At the Scuola Belli di Roma, for example, a representative from Amnesty International and the Italian journalist Guido Barbieri led classroom discussions about the significance of water to human life, how composers responded musically to water, the need for potable water, and the health and life challenges faced by over one billion people who lack clean drinking water. In schools with a substantial number of students who play instruments or sing, members of the Human Rights Orchestra would rehearse and perform together with the student musicians. We subsequently brought this project to Switzerland in partnership with the Lucerne Festival.
At the invitation of the International Human Rights Forum Lucerne, the Human Rights Orchestra (HRO) presented a fundraising concert in the warm and vibrant acoustics of KKL Lucerne with pianist Maria João Pires. Its success led to a succession of six concerts in Lucerne and recently a concert in Geneva’s Victoria Hall.
We developed our first project for people at risk, a project for young women in detention at Casal del Marmo in Rome. Led by a singer and a percussionist, forty sessions of “Creative Percussion and Vocal Expression” offered the acquisition of musical skills, opportunities for self-expression and creativity, and the sharing of personal and collective experiences. Subsequently we have focused on workshops for refugees, asylum seekers, and other children and adults living in challenging socio-economic circumstances. We are presently in discussions for a new project for people living in detention and a first project for people living with disabilities. In 2012 we also launched a three-year education project in Lucerne at the Kantonsschule Reussbühl focused on human rights topics of the right to asylum and the right to culture.
The musicians received their first lectures about human rights, instituted by Professor Peter Kirchschlaeger in Lucerne. We organized a three-day roundtable on human rights education through music, hosted by the Lucerne Festival. With the participation of the Boltzmann Institute for Human Rights (Vienna) and Musicians Without Borders, we examined the opportunities and obstacles to designing educational units and adding projects into curriculum.
In partnership with the Venice-based European Inter-University Centre on Human Rights and Democratisation, we organized a five-day workshop comprising musicians and leading European human rights experts to explore creation of curriculum for conservatories and university students. The meetings generated pilot projects, lectures, and a book project.
We formed the Human Rights Band (HRB) in response to the request for music well suited to the graduation ceremony of the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation in Venice. With recent performances of the HRB in Vienna and Rome, and upcoming concerts in Ferrara at the Internazionale Festival and at Fondazione Toscanini in Parma, we will be developing the HRB’s engagement with young audiences internationally. At the invitation of Antonio Papisca and Marco Mascia of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Padova, we presented a series of seminars on music and human rights.
We commenced supporting the training of musicians in the pedagogy and methods developed by Musicians Without Borders for partnering with survivors of trauma. We brought their expert trainers to Rome, Bologna, and Torino, and sent musicians to the Netherlands for intensive trainings. Subsequently, we partnered with the Italian government agency SPRAR, System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, to provide music-centered workshops for their beneficiaries in several cities in the region of Lazio, as well as in Bologna and Torino. Similar workshops were provided at refugee camps and cultural centers in Thessaloniki.
We launched Carnegie Hall’s Lullaby Project in Italy. Partnering with Associazione Pianoterra in Naples, we are helping vulnerable young mothers create lullabies, with the goal of strengthening bonds, improving wellbeing, and bringing joy to the mothers and their infants. The Human Rights Orchestra continued its fundraising concerts with performances in Geneva and Lucerne that have now supported 18 organizations in 13 countries.