sad bambini and gold plated metronomes

There must be some sad bambini sitting it out in the corridor of the Magnificat School, drying themselves off from the last flood and dreaming of 100 Euro metronomes*.  The last time I checked, a good metronome cost at the most 20 Euro, unless of course they come gold plated. 

 If Santa Claus drops from the chimney into the mal-aria Dickensian basement 8000 Euro, these little dreamers can bang away on two timpani, at 4000 Euro each, over and above the 310 Euro mentioned on their webpage as yearly tuition.

But more than that, the Tavasani Piano Competition, January 2008, that has been taking place at the Magnificat Institute for 9 years will not permit all those alleged Jewish bambini who sing and play with Arab bambini (in perfect peace and harmony!) to compete with those same bambini. They must be very sad indeed that a school of the Custody of the Holy Land that prizes itself on peacemaking and dialogue, who broadcasts to the whole world how they “welcome” these Israeli bambini, in effect,  is not giving them the right to compete for all those luscious money prizes over and above those the regular Tavasani categories.

Below is straight from the source. Please note the “Holy Land Custody” Prize is not open to Jewish giovani.

“Art. 12 – All Palestinian Competitors, who previously played in any of the 8 categories, can compete in any of the following prizes:

Qattan Foundation” ($500 – The possibility of giving a concert on the zone); obligatory piece: “3alayki Mini Salam”, a song by B. Zayed (Arr. H. A. Vosgueritchian).

Zia Pina” (
NIS 4000); obligatory piece: J.S. Bach, Prelude and Fugue in Si b Major, BWV 866 from the Well Tempered Clavichord I (first book).

Holy Land Custody” duet ($ 1000); obligatory piece: “Ughniyat Al-Ghusok” a song by M. Ashqar (arrangement A. Pierucci)”

 Public advertisement for the competition has been very faint as the little detail of ONLY the “Rome for Jerusalem” Prize is open to Jews, offered by the “Ufficio per la Pace”. But upon closer inspection, it’s all a bit strange:

 “Art. 13 – The Palestinian competitors and the pianists, from all nationalities, not older than 30 years old, may compete for the “Rome for Jerusalem” Prize, kindly offered by the municipality of Rome, “Office for Peace in Jerusalem“.

   a) The candidates to such a prize may enroll themselves in the Category A (from 1 year to 14 years old) must play the Two Voices Invention n. 14 in Si b Major, BWV 785 and a freely chosen piece, no longer than 5 minutes: 

 1st prize for the Palestinian winner is NIS 1500;
2nd prize for Palestinian winner is
NIS 500;
1st prize for the international winner is
NIS 1500;
2nd prize for the international winner is
NIS 500;

   b) The competitors of the Category B (from 14 to 30 years old) must play the three voices invention n. 1 in Do Major BWV 787 by J.S. Bach and a freely chosen piece, no longer than 10 minutes. 

   1st prize for the Palestinian winner is NIS 2500;
2nd prize for Palestinian winner is
NIS 500;
1st prize for the international winner is
NIS 2500;
2nd prize for the international winner is
NIS 500;”

 There are TWO categories, one special category and prizes for Palestinian pianists and another one for the REST OF THE WORLD, that of course doesn’t mention the “I” word (Israel), except in the catch-all meaning of “International”!!!  

 If  this is public money from the Municipality of Rome, maybe one should do a bit of scrutinizing if this is NOT preferential treatment given to one group. In other words, are taxpayers supporting, unbeknownst to them, a form of discrimination? The whole idea of competition especially in a peacemaking school is INTERACTION, NOT SEPARATION aided and abetted by the organizers.  

   In effect,  the Municipality of Roma gave the Palestinians the privilege of their own little competition and the guarantee of money prizes no matter how good or bad they might be.  But at least they don’t have to share these sums or the stage with a certain hated  ethnic group.  (Thank you, “Ufficio di Pace” for helping to make peace in the Holy Land!)”

But if I were a young Israeli pianist, I would just say bugger to such an obviously loaded state of affairs and compete instead in fair competitions in the country when they DO admit outsiders, they are not so blatantly preferential to themselves.  Most probably SOME ethics would be expected like the head of the institution NOT the head of the jury, especially when he has had his own students competing.
Presumably, the “I” word will be fleshed out as it has been for years gone by and the winner of the “International” section will be paraded around Italy after the competition as evidence of convivenza with “Israelis”. * 


  “In attesa della nova sede sacrifichiamo un pezzo di corridoio e ci mettiamo un’aula scolastica…”  (“Waiting for our new seat, we are sacrificing a piece of corridor and we are putting a classroom there.”) They only forgot to add the Custody has plenty of room, in particular the beautifully renovated concert hall with two grand pianos and an organ, a few steps away perpendicular to the school.

Somewhat updated here to include 15,000 euro for yet another kiddie choir trip.   Interesting is the request for 150 euro for Christmas books. Usually the practice is to photocopy their own material which at 4-5 pages per 50-75 copies, heck, are we talking about gold-plated libri di Natale? Oh, but then there is also the most urgent need for yet another photocopier. Really, even if the thing breaks down, they have a PRINTING PRESS on the premises!!! It takes an amazing amount of self-importance to put such low quality online, while heaping praise on oneself, unless of course the teachers also have tin ears. In such cases, let the kids learn music by themselves.  YOU ARE NOT NEEDED. YOU ARE NOT MAKING PEACE NOR EVEN DECENT MUSIC.

But incompetence itself has its uses and in the culture of attracting baksheeesh, typically middle eastern, a win-win situation.  Any rich beggar knows to keep his accumulated wealth hidden and to appear as needy as possible. This of course preens the ego of the giver as well.  “Look at us (stupid, poor, incompetent, etc.). You (clever, rich) can be the ONE to HELP us (assuming there are not tens of thousands or more) by fulfilling our dreams of finally being able to buy a 200 euro metronome or rescuing us from a damp basement where we sing about peace.”

The test of a racket is the frequency of these dreams ever being fulfilled, in other words, NEVER.  The idea is to seem to remain in a constant state of need, in the same way a beggar would never actually buy new clothes and continue to beg on the street.

 Apparently there is NO END to the ingenuity of dreaming up schemes to spend money in the name of making ‘peace through music’:

It seems that quality is in inverse proportion to the amount of publicity, in this case, their well-travelled choirs. (But who can really help if their “musical” arrangements are so weird, like putting Arabic tunes in ungrammatical 4 part harmony?) No teachers, however, are better than bad ones. Kids get music everywhere, though the internet, ipods—in actuality schools are quickly becoming dinosaurs. The whole premise of education is changing, no more an indispensible authority figure who transmits the wisdom of past generations. So who needs bad musicians who are so busy making peace through music, they can’t even bother to hear kids wildly out of tune?


2 Responses to “sad bambini and gold plated metronomes”

  1. Franco La Torre Says:

    Dear Sir,
    As responsible of the office for peace, I would try to answer to the critiques:
    the prize has been established to support dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian musicians;
    the prize has been established at the Magnificat in order to favour Israeli participation into an institution, which was frequented only by Palestinians;
    since its establishments the award has been granted on equal basis to an Isreali and to a Palestinian musician;
    last but not least, last year, 2007, on the occasion of the birthday of Rome, on 21nd of April, among its celebrations, in the Municipal City Hall (Sala Giulio Cesare) the 2 winners, Netanel Bass (Israeli) and Nizar El-Charter (Palestinian) have perfomed in front of a large audience of authorities and students, and the day after they have been hosted by the Roman Jewish community for a performance.
    I hope that these few lines could help in understanding what (a little, I know) a small initiative, like the office for peace, try to do to support the dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian people, maybe doing mistakes, as any human being, but in goodfaith and in transparency and being accountable in front of the public.
    Sincerely, Franco La Torre

  2. cabbagejuice Says:

    Dear Mr. La Torre,

    The wish of the Italian people for Peace in the Middle East is estimable and appreciated. However, the situation may be more complex than what meets the eye, especially when crossing over the Mediterranean. Perhaps all of the facts have not been readily available to you and the Italian public.

    1. If we’re talking about “dialogue”, why is there virtually NO mention of the Rome Prize in the Israeli media and Israeli music schools (except by chance), and has not been, in the past, except after the fact?

    The number of Israeli competitors for the Rome Prize has been less than a handful every year, despite the ample quantity of excellent young Israeli pianists throughout the country. (Is it by chance for the past two years that the “Israeli” winner’s teacher is a member of the Magnificat staff?)

    2 Why is there hardly ONE WORD of Hebrew announcing this Prize anywhere in the country?

    3. Why is there not ONE mention of Israel or Israeli (the “I” word) in the booklet (published by a “peace school”), except again after the fact when the winners go off to Italy to play to parade their “dialogue”? Then, presumably “ISRAELI” is allowed to be broadcast EVERYWHERE?

    4. If this is a Prize earmarked for dialogue, WHY are NOT the two groups competing good-naturedly with each other, particularly in a “peace” venue? Instead ONE group has a guaranteed prize and the other has to compete with the rest of the world “indiscriminating, of country, race (!), language or religion” (Article 4).

    5. By any definition of the word, all of the above is not “equal”. The process by which one allegedly arrives to a visilbly “equal” result is actually through a very twisted path and in effect, discriminatory, despite all the flowery language used to try to cover it up.

    Private music schools may have their own internal competitions and do as they like. However, Israeli music competitions such as the Keren-Sharett admit all “races, languages and religions” without bothering to call attention to themselves.

    Broadcasting the idea of “non-discrimination” as is said in English, is a “non-starter”, in other words, passe or retro. Maybe this word had some urgency back in the South of the US back in the 1960’s.
    Now, it just elicits a yawn.

    Above, without prejudice

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