Personal letter from the founders

Dear Friends wherever you are!

Festival & Forum 21, is a festival for the Arts of the 21st century. Launching a festival, and initiating a scientific study around children, music and school are the two visible ambitions of Festival & Forum 21. You can read all about Festival & Forum 21, our background, our ambitions and our strategies in other parts of this site.

Allow us to tell you why we continue to stand up for the Arts and about the importance of gathering many from all over the world to be part of a movement manifesting the importance of the Arts for the survival of our planet. With music as a portal!

We live in an era where Society seems to be falling apart with wars, anti-democratic movements, criminality, drug abuse and economies in turmoil. We see how political leaders throw vast amounts of money and resources into costly yet inefficient short time patch work trying to stop and repair destructive behaviors in Society - with no lasting effect. To afford such spendings decision-makers have to cut fundings for other areas in Society. Cutting funds for the Arts is unfortunately one of the first steps.

Decision makers do not see that when eliminating or reducing funds for the Arts they are in fact building a future where costs for handling escalating destructivity will soar to unimagined levels, far beyond short time savings today.

Our ambition with Festival & Forum 21 is to gather culturally engaged people from every area all over the world. We welcome people active in any of the creative Arts, be it world renowned artists or local talents involved in the Arts. We welcome musicians, singers, actors, dancers, painters, sculptors, architects, writers and all categories of creators that we didn’t include in this text. We invite all who feel their hearts getting touched by seeing, listening to and being part of expressions of emotions of all kinds. Well, didn’t we include basically every living human being on this Globe by these words?

We will be asking all of you to be part of gathering evidence, facts and numbers how massively supporting all Art forms can turn a destructive Society development into a creative, harmonious and peaceful World. We see music making in many classrooms as a first step, as a portal to all Art forms.

Scientists have for decades reported how music can affect brain development in children in remarkable ways. We, Sofia and Göran Staxäng, the initiators of Festival & Forum 21, have for more than thirty years made film documentaries from music making schools in various parts of the world, schools where music is involving every single child.

We have made hundreds of interviews with children, parents, classroom-/music teachers and school principals in these music making schools. We have over and over heard the same declarations how making music together in any kind of formation like choir, orchestra, band…. and more, result in more harmonious school atmospheres, in enhanced study motivation and study results as well as in training important abilities for life after school.

When children, under the leadership of a competent and dedicated music teacher, make music together, they train abilities such as listening, concentration, focus, structure and impulse control. They develop skills to quickly shift focus, to work together, to help and support each other. In a music rehearsal they learn to understand that bullying destroys the result, it’s only through respect and support of the weakest links in an ensemble that the end result will be good.

If all children would be given the chance to attend music making schools starting at early age we can build bridges between cultures, different language and religious groups.

Expressing emotions
Making music is not just about creating beautiful sounds, harmonies or rhythms; painting is not just about copying objects or living beings; dance is not just about moving bodies, legs and arms to music; acting is not just about role playing; literature is not just about telling stories. The creative Arts are about expressing emotions, alone in our chamber or together with others. When we train our abilities to express emotions and dare being part of a group doing that, we become part of a bigger context. “In making music the hearts start to beat in the same way for everybody, in everybody. They play and they sing together and they become friends, because music makes our hearts more gentle.”

See below full speech by Riccardo Muti. His words can be applied to any Art form!

Be part of a starting point manifesting how the Arts can build a better future for all!
We invite you to be personally or digitally present at the Grünewald Hall in the Stockholm Concert Hall on March 24 at 6 pm.

If you cannot be physically present at this occasion, we invite you to register for our Newsletter on this site. You will receive a YouTube link shortly before the start of the event allowing you to be present in real time and follow what we hope will be a starting point for a movement involving many to manifest how the Arts can be part of building a better, more creative and peaceful World!

March 10, 2024

Sofia and Göran Staxäng
Founders of Festival & Forum 21

Many people have been involved in helping and supporting us through many years. Let us mention just a few:

  • Dr. Gunnar Göthberg who has written articles together with Göran about the role of the Arts, proof-read our texts and has accepted to be part of our Interim Board of Directors;
  • The film maker Mattias Modig who, with formidable intuition, patience and distinct accuracy has been filming and editing our film presentations, our concerts and more… for more than ten years;
  • Gilda Joffe, an American musician and writer who has supported, proof-read and commented our English texts;
  • Professor Töres Theorell who has cooperated and advised us during many years;
  • Dr. Ritva Matell, who after a random meeting in 1998, introduced us to her husband Georg Matell;
  • Dr. Georg Matell, who became a driving force together with Professor Töres Theorell in launcing the first edition of Festival & Forum 21 – in August/September 2000;
  • the Latvian violinist Gidon Kremer who assisted with advice and became Principal Artist in two festival productions, 1998 and 2000.
  • The soprano Caroline Gentele who has listened and commented on our work, who has worked with us for many years and who now has accepted to become part of our Interim Board of Directors.
  • All our singers in Cantemus, a Choral Academy in Stockholm since 1999. Our singers have been part of and dedicated their time to master often challenging musical works. The have endured and supported our work in spite of our repeated declarations about the importance of music in all classrooms.
  • Our fantastic web master (who has asked not to be mentioned by name) who for decades has built digital profiles for various musical ventures on Internet.
  • Our children who for years patiently have endured their parents working late nights.
  • All friends who continuously have shown interest and support.
A thank-you-speech by Riccardo Muti receiving the Birgit Nilsson Prize in 2011.
Words that concentrate the ideas of Festival & Forum 21:

“Music is extremely important. Education in music is essential, fundamental! Why?

Young boys and girls in modern Society can look upon an orchestra, a symphonic Orchestra or a Chorus as a symbol of Society, how a Society should work and stay together.

In an Orchestra you see many instruments that all are written in the page of the score. Everyone has a different line and all the lines are supposed to link together and play together. Every player knows that his or her freedom must exist but should not stop or damage the freedom of any other player. All the players, together in their freedom and expressing their feelings, must work in one direction to achieve harmony, togetherness. When children learn to stay together and share the concept of harmony that must be equal for everybody, they learn how to stay together in a Society.

Music doesn’t know barriers. When musicians sit together, they don’t need to know the names of each other, they may have different cultures, they may speak different languages, they may belong to different religions, maybe they have different colors in their skin but everything disappears because they have the same heart. In making music the hearts start to beat in the same way for everybody, in everybody. They play and they sing together and they become friends, because music makes our hearts more gentle.” Riccardo Muti