Rector: Band part of every country's military culture and tradition

Ivari Ilja
Ivari Ilja Source: ERR

Rector of the Estonian Academy of Music and Theater Ivari Ilja said that retaining the Band of the Estonian Defense Forces is important as it carries an important part of military culture and tradition. It is also vital to maintain musicians' jobs as their disappearance would disadvantage professional musical culture in Estonia, Ilja said on the "Esimene stuudio" talk show.

Ilja said that a band is a traditional part of almost every country's defense force. "It would be very unfortunate were Estonia to become an exception to that rule," he remarked.

"On the one hand, it is part of our professional music and military culture, and (EDF Commander) Lt. Gen. Herem said in an interview that the EDF budget is meant for ensuring the state's defensive capacity and not promoting brass-band music or financing Estonian music culture."

According to Ilja, the EDF band forms an important part of military culture and tradition and plays a part in maintaining military consistency. "I believe it is vital for our Defense Forces to have a band and hope a way will be found to avoid laying off both bands (EDF and Police and Border Guard Board bands)," he said.

Finland, Latvia and Lithuania all have several defense forces bands, Ilja said.

He added that moving the bands under the Estonian War Museum would not be a clear solution as that too is finance from the budget of the Ministry of Defense.

Maintaining the bands is also important from the point of view of keeping musicians' jobs. "As rector of the Academy of Music and Theater, I believe that Estonia cannot afford to lose musicians' jobs. It would send a very unfortunate signal to our young people that their country does not need them and they shouldn't bother studying music. More so as the EDF has suggested in the past that it has had enough of an amateur band and could start buying in the service," Ilja said.

"All manner of disappearance of musicians' jobs is harmful for our professional culture, dangerous even," the rector added.

National opera house annex could add artistic level

The annex of the building of National Opera Estonia stands to be supported as a cultural object of national significance. Ilja said it is important operas and ballets can be performed in a suitable environment. He added, however, that disputes might arise concerning support for four priority objects.

"Our national opera is built to serve as a drama theater and its acoustic profile makes it impossible for music to truly enchant the audience there," he said.

Ilja said that a modern music hall would allow the use of modern stage techniques, effects and opera and ballet performances sporting a high artistic level. He emphasized that it is important for young Estonian singers to experience that it is possible to build a successful career in Estonia.

"And, of course, world class opera or ballet stars simply won't come to our opera stage that we all hold dear because the conditions are not what they expect," he said.

Estonian musicians have done well in the coronavirus crisis

Daily Eesti Päevaleht wrote on Wednesday that the Academy of Music and Theater will not be renewing the contract of head of its performing arts school Jaak Prints from this fall.

"We had a three-year contract with Jaak Prints for administrative tasks or the position of head coordinator of the performing arts department. Of course, Prints will continue as the course instructor," Ilja said. He added that there is no way to extend the contract beyond three years.

The position will go to Mart Koldits from fall. "We expect him to take the preparation of our dramatists and stage directors to a new level as it is something we have been criticized for in the past. I believe Koldits is the right person for the job," the rector said.

Ilja said no musician he knows has given up the profession during the pandemic but admitted the year has been tough.

Estonian musicians have fared slightly better compared to musicians elsewhere in the world in terms of coronavirus restrictions. "Comparing Estonia to other countries, we have done relatively well. We could still put on plays and concerts with 50 percent occupancy in late 2020," he said.

The rector added that restrictions could have been milder still and that when performing establishments were finally closed, it did not seem to have any effect on Covid figures.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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