It’s been an amazing year for Ilumina!

What began as one violist’s idea took flight and began to connect people across continents in the spirit of generosity and musical passion. The foundation of Ilumina is that music is social work.  It should delight, challenge, illuminate. The theme of the 2016 festival was “This is for you!” and indeed, in everything we do, we want to serve and connect people.

My idea for the festival was to be a musical and social laboratory-- that we could both create world-class, innovative performances and at the same time make new opportunities for a rising generation of musicians from a challenging reality, whose voices deserve to be heard. I wanted the process of making music in community to be the very thing that changed lives—for a group of musicians every year to have access to a different future than they might otherwise.

I really believed that my international colleagues, all world leaders in their art, would be as inspired by these young musicians as I was, and that they would receive just as much as they would give.  The strong bonds we have seen develop are exactly what I had hoped for.  Classical music has always been based on a one-to-one exchange of knowledge.  A single great teacher can change the face of an entire city this way.  In planting seeds of good musical information, Ilumina is working to develop future farmers, who will pass on what they know.

We went big with the program this year! Haydn’s monumental Seven Last Words of Christ was one group project, with every fellow performing a movement with an international artist to a huge crowd in Piracaia.  In São Paulo, we closed the festival with a day of chamber music at MASP, with pop up concerts even spilling out to the Avenida Paulista. The free tickets to the closing concert were gone in ten minutes, with hundreds more people hoping to attend.  We performed a “challenging” program, not holding back from contemporary music and non-traditional performance ideas.  In every concert, with audience made up largely of people hearing chamber music for the first time, we were touched by the commitment and response of the community.

As the world and the world of classical music change, investing in young people from rising nations like Brazil becomes paramount. Classical music needs the stories and energy of a new generation of talent just as much as they need it. In 2015, we watched a group of extraordinary talents begin to make their mark, accepted into some of the best conservatories in the world and winning new jobs.  This is all very impressive, but what matters most are the changes not easily measured, the understanding, respect, spread of generosity and goodwill that come from pursuing a musical life. Music makes it happen.

There has been such an outpouring of generosity in all kinds of ways from around the world and I am so deeply grateful. Our new relationship with our partners, the Minerva Arts Foundation and Cultura Artística, is very exciting and it’s very special to me that much of this year’s festival was funded by individuals who care about social progress through music. It’s humbling to be a part of it all and I can’t wait for what comes next.  Vamos!