The art of Listening.

My contribution to the Listening Project led by EUYO.

I am very happy for the invitation from EUYO to be the part of the Listening Project. Why do we need this?

1. First of all we need it as a musicians.    

As you all know – artists are here on earth to share, to share what we do with the audience, we are here to inspire the people – there are plenty of discussions around the subject if the art exist without the recipient, however this not our matter now.

Before we go on stage, before we go to the rehearsal, there is the process of acquiring the skills. That demands focusing on yourself – how do you function, how YOUR sound is like, how to overcome technical trouble, which kind of interpretation we want to approach.etc..

It is so easy to get in a trap of being limited in your own head, to be focused only on yourself.

The real problem starts when we want to collaborate musically with the others. Playing in the group – no matter if it is duo or symphony orchestra – you need to open up to the others. It’s not enough to play your part correctly. It is not about YOU. It’s all about the chamber music so you really need to LISTEN.

Listening. What it exactly means?

 I can tell you from my perspective:

  1. First of all: don’t be too focused on yourself. Trust yourself that you can give more good things than you can screw up. If you done preparation before – it’s all what you have done – now it is the time to trust your abilities and make a step back from your own perspective.

2. Second. Being in the group doesn’t mean you need to hide. Listening doesn’t mean you need to loose your voice. It is the knowledge when you have your time to say, when somebody else is leading the conversation. My very good friend, cellist from my former quartet, once told me  – we were three kids but my grandma always were giving only one sweet saying -” the time for the others will come”. Giving the space when somebody else has something to say, making suggestion of your own intention when you feel it’s your turn. This is so important.

3. Finally, if we hear sth it doesn’t mean we are able to listen to. Listening for me is hearing and trying to understand someone’s intentions. You don’t need to agree. It is just the respect and attention what the others want to suggest. 

Be attentive: who has interesting motive so you could make a space for?

Can you hear your stand partner?

Can you hear the orchestra as a whole?

„Hmm…some section played similar motive in unexpected manner why not to respond in the same way?” That means: I hear you and I listen to you. SO I respect you!

Why I am happy that this subject is under discussion?

The thing is that we don’t need it only as a musicians. I find „the art of listening” as a perfect metaphor for living in the society. We live in a very destructive times when everybody wants talk at the same time and think its opinion is the only one right. Often don’t even make an effort to hear somebody else, I’m not even talking about listening! We forget that we are all creating one thing, which is in the constant process of becoming.

Is the theme of the cellos more RIGHT than the theme of violins? It is just different and we need to make space to it to be heard as well as somebody else is making space for us… 

Once you experience the feeling of the unity in diversity  – no matter if in the orchestra or in the society – you will enjoy it and feel much satisfaction in juggling within listening to yourself and listening to the others. 

If you would like to explore more about this subject – follow EUYO website:

Good luck and enjoy!


2016 birthday summary…

Three years ago I made some summary which is still somehow actual (maybe not in terms of kilometres;)

„The day of my quarter century of being (!) provoked me to do some calculations. I’ve decided to count how many kilometres I have done.

So the results are following:
aprox. 15 000 km Katowice- Bałystok
45 flights (continental and intercontinental) which is 72 891km (almost twice of the eart circumstance).

That, what „being on the way” teaches me, I think, is importance of processes not of the points; it teaches me how to think about time as a space not as a line,that map is not the terrytory and how to switch between them. I have also learnt that sometimes the real beauty meets our indiferrence because is silent.

Being on the way because you wanted to – it’s fine, as an escape – not so. Fear because of the unknown is fine, fear because of the changes is fine, following your own directions (and in your own tempo!) is more than fine.
Still waiting for great moments, firerworks, clear beginnings and clear endings, preparation for every situations, guide’s recipies – meanwhile the poetry is living between the words, music is living between the notes, home between destinations.

Sometimes I have asked myself : „where”, or „if”. Recently I started to change it to „how” and „with who”. 
It seems that people ARE your places. Today I am particulary grateful for my family and all my „families” I used to be a part of and still I am. I also appreciate those brief meetings with some strangers, who I saw probably only once- however they let me be in that what is, I think, the most real and beautiful in the life- daily random situations.”

I do believe in intuition.

About decision making with Director of Classical:NEXT – Jennifer Dautermann.

  • Anna: What was your first idea about Classical:NEXT and how do you find yourself and this event right now?
  • Jennifer: At the very beginning, the idea of Classical:NEXT came from a part of the music industry itself, some representatives of the recording industry. They came to the president of the company I work for – Piranha Arts, and they said: „we want a new meeting for classical music. You have run the world music expo WOMEX for over 20 years and it looks really great, would you make another meeting for classical?” Then my boss came to me and said: „they want to do this, they found the venue for the first year, but you don’t have a team, you don’t have a budget and you have just a few months to put it together, do you want to do it?” I said to myself: „hmm, that sounds crazy [laugh].” But I also thought: „Well, I am kind of a crazy person and why not try it?” However I was also thinking: Classical doesn’t need another meeting, there are already plenty of meetings. What classical needs is reinvigoration, new ideas to increase relevance, it needs to do a massive overhauling update, because things have been done for so long in the same way. I said „I will only do it if it’s about helping to find new paths forward”. 
  • Do you think it goes in direction you thought at the beginning? Are you surprised by something?
  • No, I actually drafted out a masterplan. I called it „Vision 2019” and I wrote that back in 2013, to list out all of the things that Classical:NEXT should be by 2019. We fulfilled it. Pretty much everything – we still miss one thing we haven’t done completely. The first years were very, very difficult. Especially the first year when people were sceptical and even hostile about the whole idea. Most people that I spoke to in the industry about doing this said: „We don’t need that. This industry is too competitive anyway, no one will get together to share their ideas.” Pretty quickly that changed. They saw that actually does work. The aim also was to create a place where competition and ego are left outside and people who take part do so on a level playing field. That is what we have been striving to attain and I have a feeling that is working well. 
  • What you are doing needs a special ability of decision making. How do you know that decision is right? Have you ever stuck in process of decision making?
  • It’s a kind of combination of factors. One beautiful thing about Classical:NEXT is that we are a small team and we are totally independent as a company. That has some negative aspects but also has positive ones. For example, I don’t answer to anyone so I can actually do what I think needs to be done and I simply need to convince my team and other people in the industry. I don’t have to convince a board or layers of hierarchy above me. I can simply say: this is the way the things need to go. 

Some decisions are super easy. Like the decision of: this needs to be about new and better ways of doing things, new ideas, new approaches. You know it needs to be, it needs to happen. Those decisions come from your gut and your knowledge about how life is. Other decisions, however, are not so easy, when you have option A and option B and it’s really not clear. Then what I do, I literally write down both options and their pros and cons and I look at them, to have them visually. Often that decides it. If it’s still not clear, you need to speak to other people, to hear their opinion. I’m actually facing one of those decisions right now with Classical:NEXT Even if then it’s not totally clear, something will need to happen at some point, that will make the decision have to happen. I can just be totally honest with you with a concrete example. Where will Classical:NEXT be in 2021?  We are here [Rotterdam] until 2020 so we are deciding if we stay or move to different location. There are pros and cons for both and neither way is clearly the better way to go. My team and I have laid out all criteria.If it’s going to be option A what needs to happen. If that doesn’t happen then is option B. Ok, but this decision needs to be made very soon. So something needs to happen to fulfil this thing, otherwise we get option B and then you will have to just live with it and say: I did the best I could, I hope it’s right. If it isn’t – I don’t know – but I did my best.

  • Do you believe in your intuition or it’s rather better to stick to calculation?
  • I do believe in intuition. It’s served me very well.
  • What would you advise to people who are starting a new path in their career and they have some crazy, out of the box ideas, like Classical:NEXT [laugh] ?
  • First of all: how much do you think that idea is really needed and YOU need to do it . How passionate are you about this idea. Because it’s your passion that is going to drive it. If you are not really passionate about it the chance of  success is low. This is the fundament. Then I would say: be aware that often with new ideas it’s really hard to get or to keep them going. You are probably going to have a pretty tough time at the beginning. Some people have amazing luck. I’ve heard incredible stories. That can happen, but be ready for the fact that you will probably need to work very hard. Financially it might be difficult for you (not necessarily – it depends on what you do).]. Let’s say you are musician: you have new idea for an ensemble with a brand new approach. Wow, this is so awesome! Be aware that you’ll probably need to have a second thing you’re doing to pay the rent. You need to do something which will make you sure your basic expenses are covered. Be realistic about what might be involved in getting that thing off the ground. That is why the underlying passion is so important. You really need to believe in this. Before starting Classical:NEXT I did another festival, I was doing this basically on my own while trying to pay my rent with another job. I didn’t have weekends, no holidays. It was kind of burn out level of exhaustion, but it happened and it was great. That festival actually led to this. My experience helped me to do Classical:NEXT. In  conclusion, my advice would be: a real passion about this idea and a reality check of how much effort it’s probably going to be and how long it might take.
  • The very last question. This C:N edition is about women. How is to be a woman and a boss? Which kind of challenges you meet?
  • There are many things to say about this of course… Although blanket statements are not good to make, it does seem to be that women tend to be more collaborators than “lone wolf” leader bosses. Of course, I’ve experienced some bossy women. Super dominant, A-personality type women who lead with the style of:  „I’m the boss – you shut up and do what I say.” However, in my observations women tend to be more collaborative. I’ve developed this style, I wasn’t this way at the beginning. I had to learn how to do this. I’ve never been in this position before in my life. I needed to learn how to be a half way decent boss [laugh]. It took a while. I was actually not good in being a collaborator at the beginning, I was pretty awful [smile], but I realised that I need to collaborate with my team, to give them ownership, to trust them, respect them and their input fully, to  acknowledge them and thank them. And actually I don’t see myself as the boss of the team – I see myself as the person with the role of visionary, the person who is looking in various directions and then calling out “let’s go this way, let’s do that thing, let’s change this other thing, because these things make sense to do”. So in the team just like at cN itself, the atmosphere is of a level playing field. Regarding your question. I can talk about it for hours.  Externally, there are challenges with dealing with different types of men one encounters. It depends on the men, of course. Some of them treat you absolutely equally and with respect, some… don’t [laugh]. One issue that is quite often problematic is that they misinterpret a business dinner as a date. This has been the major issue for me, it has been very difficult to the point where I feel  like: do I need to write on my forehead THIS IS NOT A DATE ?! [laugh]. Being friendly in a business context is often misinterpreted by men: they think “she has interest in me as a date”. If there is one thing that I could change about doing this job it would be that, because it’s been a real problem.

„It’s a serious concert”. Memories of Bernard Haitink at his 90th Birthday.

photo credit: Samuel Garcia Garcia

Today is 90th birthday of maestro Bernard Haitink one of the most inspiring musician I have ever worked with.
I will never forget some tiny moments we shared with him, as  euyo, when we played Bruckner 7th Symphony. First in Grafenegg and then in Concertgebouw.He doesn’t say much, he likes to play through from the very first rehearsal, but the most significant was  for me his trust to musicians. He let us play. He was like a surfer – sometimes giving directions to the wave, but mostly floating on the wave. He was giving us the space, he was listening what we want to tell him musically. Even without many gestures, he was able to be clear what is his point of view on some phrases and changes within the piece.
The first impression of him you can have is the greatest respect to music. Being asked what comes first: composer or conductor’s interpretation, the answer was: always composer. My friend asked him: why you are doing this? You could enjoy your retirement and getting relaxed at your home. He said that he will stop when he will stop being surprised by the musical phrases musicians play to him. „They always has something new to transmit”.
I remember two situations that were significant to me. One was at the general rehearsal. The horn player came late on stage and made some noises. Maestro Haitink doesn’t stop often but this time he paused us and with deepest seriousness said slowly: „stop moving around. It’s a serious concert”. For him was no matter if someone is at the audience or not. He is playing music each time with the greatest respect, from the very first rehearsal it is for him „serious concert”.The most moving moment was though at Concertgebouw. During the slow movement of Bruckner, in tiny fracture of moment our eyes have met. It was strong and meaningful connection. Just below his eye, between the wrinkles blinked an eyedrop. My eyes went wet as well. After the concert I went to his dressing room. I could say nothing than” thank you”. He hugged me back. 

There was a time I discovered inspiring sentence written by philosopher Korzybski : „The map is not the territory”. I am still amazed how brilliant is the meaning of it. In the time of „doing” we often stuck (as artists and also as simple human beings) in trying to re-do the life recipes, to re-do the music, to make separation between acting and being. We all are still starring at the map without the trust to territory – starring at the scores without trust that instead of „doing” the music we can become it.
Bernard Haitink is a perfect example of how much humanity, wisdom and knowledge can be integrated in one, unique and personal way.
Happy Birthday Maetro.

Letter from the past.

At Guildhall School of Music in London I have participated in Mindfulness Sessions organised by the school. At one of the meeting, the leader asked us to write letters to ourselves from the future. She took all envelopes with the adresses with a promise to send it a year later. Of course I forgot about it until my best friend told me there is some letter for me from Guildhall. I was curious – what do they want from me? Then I realised what it was. This just simply made my day.

Dear Anna,

this is my letter from the past. I want to let you know that you are happy, because you are doing the things which make you forget about the time. You meet people that inspire you and wish you well.

Despite the fact, that each one of us breathes individually – we are connected and we are able to bond the world. Although the mass influence can reach everyone – you can touch people who were put on your path in the most silent and delicate way but at the same time the most significant.

You don’t need to be great and big, appreciate detail, admire being among people. You can be fully yourself – appreciate who you are. You don’t need to adjust to majority – trust your needs and values.

Wherever you are, whatever you do – let yourself to be amazed, make step back, take two deep breathes.

Here you are – Anna – you know yourself since long time. Embrace and hug all places you lived in and people in whose lifes you appeared.

And now, look around – where are you?

Wherever you are – you are at HOME.


Anna from the past.

Being in EUYO. Notes from the distance.

I am seating in the plane to Bucharest to play the very last concert with euyo. Weird feeling. I am still on high with the previous one in Dubai where we have played Rachmaninov 2nd Symphony with Vasily Petrenko.  The concert again exceeded my expectations, again I have experienced that what we call„euyo spirit” (about „euyo spirit” later on).

My first time was in summer 2014. Since that time I have changed a lot. This frame of four years provokes me to make kind of honest summary: what I have learnt? Which expectations and visions I had at the beginning and what I can see now? What is the factor that makes peoples’ life „before euyo” and „after”?

Let me start form the beginning of my story. I have heard about euyo from my polish friends who got there few years before me. There was a big interview in one of the music magazine with nice photo of proud musicians.They have described it as a unique experience. I had a vision of euyo as non achievable olymp of the orchestra experience. I have tried auditioning several times, but I always ended up on the reserve list. I remember the day when I got email from Ben Noakes – euyo’s manager at the time. I was at Miami Summer Music Festival and the moment I got message I was working on my computer. That was „first come first served” question to all people from reserve list – I wrote back so fast so I sent reply full of misspelled words, trying my the fastest tempo of typing:)… and then the adventure began.

I came to Krems straight from Miami. I did not have much time to prepare my part so very first days I kept asking myself if I am good enough to be there. Also, my first impression was that everyone knows each other already – there was also a limited group of people who were talking about memories from previous tours , some „euyo traditions” and jokes I didn’t get. I felt I was welcomed but in the back of my head had a label: „from the reserve list”, which was actually made by myself. I didn’t feel I’m allowed to interact with people from the „friends bound”.

My „don’t mess up” attitude was broken for the first time by Marschall Marcus welcoming speech. He said very important words, especially to people who felt like me, that they came to golden place of established level of playing and friendship. He said: „don’t be scared of making failures, think how high you can go and what you can give.” This is very important to realise, when we entering something in our mind bigger than us, we try to fit to deserve by „not doing” mistakes, but actually we’re blocking ourselves of our true potential which can be only released by trying. Instead of question „am I good enough for this orchestra” appears another „Am I making enough effort to give what I have the best?”.

Day by day I was discovering new things about euyo and also how is to be the part of good orchestra. As a child of an orchestral musician I used to go on each symphonic concert in my hometown, growing up with the environment of philharmonic. My picture of the best orchestras was focused mainly at the precision and being perfect. Being cheerful at the stage I found childish and unprofessional. Also, in my music school I’ve  heard a lot of times that I shouldn’t move so much seating in the orchestra. That what I saw in euyo was: pure joy of playing music, that technique is not the aim but the tool, I saw a lot of movement which actually helps enriching quality of sound. Those things were general ones which stayed with me after my first tour. Also I have discovered some of my hidden needs of expression – not only in musical way, but also body expression in contact with other people. I grown up in Poland where touching people, hugging suppose to mean more than only friendship. I have learnt that actually you can express your joy of hanging out with people, of the friendship unity by physical gestures and I didn’t realise, that before  euyo, I was blocking that natural behaviour. 

I can’t really be enough thankful for meeting such an amazing and inspiring people I’ve met at euyo. All tutors and conductors provoked us to go further, to get to higher level not because of the fight for technique but thanks to aiming for integrity with the body, with music, emotions and musical material. Among them is Lorenza Borrani, Oliver Kipp, Peter Stark, Zolt Vissontay. Each tour I made notes so I can share with some inspirations and lessons I have learnt not only about music.

I really love the way Oliver Kipp was making 2nd violin section BGO (Best Group of the Orchestra:) We were changing leaders to feel the spirit of being equally important in the group (no one is a passenger in the bus!), we were singing to follow the natural shape of phrase not our hands which are based on technical limitations. I have also learnt very important fact, that good ensemble is led from the back – which means that musicians sitting in the back play their significant role in energy distribution and inner drive of the orchestra. 

His great mission was to teach us how to collaborate with our bodies instead of being against them: to keep inner pulse in the heart and extreme legato in hands (exactly like in life!), to follow breathe before the note, to understand how to make a use of breathe even you are string player, that playing piano is to be even more transparent and expressive, that getting the essence of music is to transmit through body the real character of the music which is already inside us.

I remember also sectionals with Lorenza Borrani. She used to say: „it’s not about the commitment – it’s about delivering the sound. Never leave the connection with the string.” Another time she said: „We all can play the notes – it is a matter of discovering the meaning that works only if we know the relation between them.” (how brilliantly it can be referred to social life!)

One of the most inspiring person was unquestionably Peter Stark. I noted many quotes from his rehearsals. Here are some of them:

  • about the sound : „plan, prepare, play, evaluate, adjust, enjoy”.
  • „It’s not about the speed, it’s about intensity.”
  • „The greatest wild is controlled.”
  • „Use the time before the note. Take time to make choice how it will sound like.”
  • about beginning of the piece: „I hate word „down”. The only direction is upward. You have to make the music lifted.”
  • „One of the most important thing is speed of the piece. Don’t forget about your heart, your inner pulse.”
  • „Conducting is not about giving the beat. Conductor is a surfer on the music wave. He has to know how to balance. He has to let the musicians speak to each other.”
  • on difficult passages : „Please smile there!” :)) (I use it many times with my students and it always works!)

Each tour with euyo was different. People are different, places and time is different, I am changing and this is natural. However everything seems to move forward, the core or the spirit of the orchestra was kept. How is it possible to transfer this through the years and generations? What it actually means?

During this last tour I’ve made decision to record some conversations, little interviews with euyo players and staff (I hope I will find time to write it down and share with everyone). We’ve talked about many different things, not only directly referring to music. I’ve decided to avoid answering question „what’s the euro spirit” following the status of the organisation, description at website, and lines that seem to be proper for respond. I thought, that getting closer to people which actually ARE the euro right NOW, can give me the answer. Now I can say, that even if those people have different point of view, lifestyle, motivation, they are united in one hidden desire: to feel unity, to feel they have significant contribution in aiming for meaning, that being part of the big group makes their voice not weaker but even stronger. Someone can say that this is „teenagers” attitude and in money-focused world is simply naive, that nowadays the only one way to survive is to watching your own, individual business. Maybe. I claim it is naive to think that people don’t need solidarity approach anymore. Describing euyo spirit in one sentence would be: unity in searching for meaning and power in music.

I am already graduated musician – working with many professionals orchestras and ensembles as an extra violinist.  Now I can see how grown-up world often looks like: you need to take care of your income, time spent on each project and rehearsal, you are starting to build serious relationships, even your own family, you are trying to balance your professional and personal life. That all made all priorities changed. You are starting to think that the only one person who is responsible of your life’s picture is YOU. No one demands from you anything, neither your professor nor academy. In that important stage of my life my biggest discovery was that I AM MY LIFE, that nobody will make my life, my professional environment be a place I want to identify with. I have also noticed that this requires an extra strength, because my stand partner, my boss or my neighbour might have different priority, or simply doesn’t care or believe in values I stand for. Being part of the EUYO and the same being a part of a „real” life makes me appreciate more and more the thing I’ve found here: a unique and somehow unreal idylla of brotherhood in music. This is the thing I might never experience anymore, but at least gives me motivation and faith I am not alone with this need and this attitude is possible. EUYO experience is not only a privilege, it is also responsibility, that once you’ve experienced „the spirit” you need to share it with others, no matter in which life circumstances you are RIGHT NOW, in THIS MOMENT.

I am writing this line after the last concert. I need to admit – I don’t cry often, but this time was an exception and I cried a lot on stage in Bucharest.  In the plane back to Poland I sat with Emily Davis, who also played for the last time, so we managed to talk about our feelings. She cried too. We both agreed that those tears weren’t because something will never happen again or we will never have brilliant concerts in our professional life. That was a direct reaction of feeling GRATEFULNESS, that we were very lucky being a part of something exceptional, being a part of the EUYO family.