Roma per Gerusalemme, a farce

In previous blogs, I gave credible evidence why the Premio “Roma per Gerusalemme” (Rome for Jerusalem) musical peace prize given for 5 consecutive years in January was a farce.  This initiative, connected up with “Note di Pace” (notes of peace!) instead encourages  separation of Israeli and Palestinian musicians by allowing them exclusive prize categories.

This state of affairs apparently is not against the policy of the  Magnificat School of  Music which incidentally doesn’t admit its own Jewish students (that is, if they had any) in their own 10 year old Tavasani Piano Competition, of which the Rome Prize has been an attractive addition.

The weird way this prize is set up defeats the purpose of public money–two separate categories,  one for “Internationals–the whole world plus Israel” and one for “Palestinians” with the SAME prize money earmarked for both.  A magnifying glass was needed to find the Israeli competitors.

The results of the fifth edition, January 2009,  were immediately dispatched on Donna Olimpia’s Popular School of Music website, connected up with the “Note di Pace”  as though having only 20 (!) candidates for 12 (!)categories were news of some “international” importance.

Actually what is truly important may not be stated and lie between the lines. But one can start asking questions about the miserable number of participants, only 70 registered competitors for at least 27 categories in the main competition, the Tavasani, which  includes those who were recycled for more than one prize. This small group was significantly reduced by the increased closure due to the Gaza situation that did not permit West Bank students without Israeli ID to pass to Jerusalem. *

In a country of thousands of young pianists, where were the Israeli competitors? Very simple to answer:  there were virtually no announcements in Israeli music schools or in the Hebrew press.

But it gets even worse. The overweening proportion of Magnificat students, past and present, were WINNERS!!!**  They snatched up nearly ALL the prizes, not only the Premio di Roma but in their own precious Tavasani competition.

This also begs the question, in the Arab sector with conservatories booming all over the place, the Edward Said, now with more than 700 students, not to mention other good schools in Nazareth, a town that  surprisingly turns out quite a few excellent pianists, WHY the Magnificat starred in their own show? The answer is also simple and pretty disgusting.

Due to the political situation many competitors, at least half,  were turned back at the Bethlehem and Ramallah checkpoints. But this didn’t faze the jury or the administration of the Magnificat AT ALL. In fact, getting rid of the competition is an excellent way to promote your own products and own kiddies.  With incredible faccia, it was announced and placed on their site that “only one or two didn’t turn up”. ***

When did the Church become exempt from telling the truth?  This is disgraceful.

Also, forget about “conflict of interest”.  The “executive director” of the Magnificat, that eminent composer and great organist (at least he says so) Armando Pierucci, was the head of the jury out of 5 members who had to come all the way from Italy to judge little kids (doesn’t anyone have ANY shame here?) and a few older ones.  So it doesn’t seem peculiar that the daughter of the other administrator of the school and participant in other Note di Pace projects, scored in the Junior Premio di Roma almost free from any other competitors (even though it is against their own rules to get the first prize in two succeeding years) and got second prize in her age category in the Tavasani . This lopsided state of affairs should warm the heart of any ambitious mother.

The query remains: IF the Magnificat has over 200 students and they are turning out musical miracles WHY are the same names recycled OVER and OVER again for money prizes, scholarships and trips—children of staff being very visible here?

Getting back to the unfortunate young competitors from the National Conservatory who worked hard to prepare but in the end couldn’t make it,  WHY was there NO effort to include them, either by closed circuit TV as was done in the Khalife Competition for those who could not get to Jerusalem or either by sending the judges to the West Bank to hear them? Creative solutions could have been sought and found. This would have been a good PR coup for glory hungry Italians.

If one is really making peace through music, it is not about throwing around self-promotional slogans, but actually DOING something, that MAY not shower fame on oneself or one’s institution, in other words, MAYBE other kids would get the glory and MONEY.  Oh dear!!

Under the circumstances, with not enough competitors able to come, most of them already registered, this high sounding Premio di Roma (wow, hello Caeasar!) should have been withdrawn. There would have been some honor in not having it this year, especially given the political situation.  Donate the money instead to the victims in Gaza. That would have been nice and MORE peace promoting than lining the pockets of those who already have more than what to eat, not to mention late model cars in the parking lot of the Custody Compound.

Instead there were only TWO candidates for the first Senior Rome Prize and the “G” category for the oldest students, 22-30 years of age. Of course they shared the boon between them by switching places.

Oh yes, and don’t forget (say it with pathos!) “we keep them from straying on the streets“–ha ha,  after they come back from vacations in Italy and France, to and from their private schools.  “Nice PR try” as they say but “no cigar“.

But still I do believe my father had a point when he used to say, “you can fool SOME of the people SOME of the time, but you can’t fool ALL of the people ALL of the time”.

Hopefully, now with the current global crisis,  the ridiculous premise of peace through music will be seen as a blatant self-promotional  money-making farce.

* Please note that Arab Jerusalemites, or those living outside the West Bank, as in Nazareth, are privileged characters. They have freedom of movement inside and outside the country.  Some sensitivity to their brothers and sisters on the other side of the Wall should have been in order.

** This quote is directly from their site:  “The pupils of the ‘Magnificat’ took the lion’s share with 50% of the prizes. And none of the jury knew they were from the ‘Magnificat’.”

No, not even the Executive President, Pierucci, who just happens to be the head of the jury of his own competition every year.


*** The bad pedagogic practice of subjecting small children to the rigors of public competition deserves an article in itself but for now will remain a footnote here.  DonnaOlimpiaSPM, alleged experts in music education, put up the promotional video for the religious Franciscan school of music on its own youtube channel (oh how they LOVE little kiddies sitting on the floor!). They also allegedly put up the money this year for the “Premio di Roma” (a  bit weird as the Premio is advertised as the Vth edition, in other words as though it is still a Comune di Roma (Municipality of Rome) project but was not clear the sponsor has changed).

What they don’t say is the little first prize winner in the Tavasani was CRYING on stage in front of those BIG ADULTS sitting behind a table JUDGING him.  But no matter, little boy— your school, parents and teachers, the priests of the Custody, the sponsoring Italians attached like leeches  to suck out whatever benefits they can derive from the Church, ALL OF THEM are depending on YOU to make peace in the Middle East through music. This is HOW they raise money to improve Vatican property. You are giving them a sense of self-importance.  SO WHAT if you will be a paraded around like a trained monkey in Italy to satisfy all their above conceits and ambitions? WE ARE MAKING PEACE THROUGH YOU!!! So just shut up and do what the teacher says!!!


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