The Fulbright German-American Seminar was an extraordinary event that included more than 500 Fulbrighters who shared various experiences and interests. At the seminar we received a valuable opportunity to network with other professionals in a broad spectrum of fields in the culturally stimulating, richly historic and forward thinking city of Berlin. The topic this year was “The Fulbright Network, Sixty Years of German-American Exchange and Dialogue.” In addition to the different lectures offered by distinguished guests and former Fulbright grantees, the seminar also included a selection of tours of the city, a Music Gala, and different musical programs interspersed with various events. The above clearly demonstrates the prominent place given to music by the German people who highly regard art, and especially music, in their cultural society.
I would like to especially thank the German-American Commission for giving me the privilege and honor to be part of the Seminar as an active participant in three special events: as a performer for the welcoming event at the Auditorium of the “Haus der Kulturen der Welt” (House of World Cultures), as a singer as well in the “Music Gala” event and in the first panel during the “Project Presentations.”
The annual Musical Gala, held at the “Universität der Kunste, Konzertsaal Bundesallee” (Concert Hall of the University of the Arts) is an event highly regarded by the German-American Commission. The director of this event is Fulbright alumnus and exceptional pianist, Mr. Joseph Nykiel, who has been organizing Fulbright gala music concerts in Germany for over twenty years. It was striking for me to learn that the acclaimed American soprano Renee Fleming, a Fulbright alumna, was a participant in the Musical Gala years ago and she was also accompanied by Mr. Nykiel.
It was through Mr. Nykiel, whom I had the privilege to have as a pianist for the Music Gala, that I learned that the Music Gala participants went through a competitive selection process. Beginning last October, the numerous applicants were required to submit a complete dossier and audition recordings to the German Commission for this very prominent event.
Being so honored to represent the Fulbright Spanish Commission as a music performer for this event, I selected pieces for the Music Gala that were directly related to my research project. Some of these pieces were also performed during the Mid-Year Fulbright Seminar organized by the Spanish Commission in Valladolid, Spain. The main selection of the pieces was a varied and representative selection of Spanish Art Songs of composers from the first half of the twentieth century. These composers were pioneers of the fusion between the Spanish musical language rooted in its folk traditions and musical avant-garde movements applied to the genre of the Art Song. Further, I performed a work by the Spanish composer Antón García Abril whose prolific art song production will be the subject of my doctoral dissertation.
The second venue took place in the wonderful Auditorium at the “Haus der Kulturen der Welt,” which is Germany’s national centre for contemporary non-European art and was also a gift from the United States in the late 1950’ (John F. Kennedy spoke here during his visit to West Berlin in the early1960’s). The musical program consisted of repertoire from each decade since the Fulbright program was founded in the 1950’s. During this event, I had the opportunity to offer a rendition of pieces from the 1950’s and the 1990’s. Several speeches were included in the program and two that made a deep impression on me were by former distinguished Fulbrighters Dr. Juliane Knonen, Executive Director of Amerika Haus, and Melissa Eddy, correspondent from the International Herald Tribune Berlin. They especially emphasized the importance of taking full advantage of the privilege of being part of the Fulbright network. They also exhorted us not to take our Fulbright connections for granted as they can have a significant impact on our futures.
Equally meaningful for me was my participation in the panel of “Project Presentations” where I submitted part of my research project: “The Art Song of The Spanish Composer Antón García Abril; A Systematic Analysis and Practical Guidance for the Performer.” The chief of the American Programs in Germany, Mr. Rheiner Rohr, who was the moderator of the event, opened the session by offering special congratulations to us for being the ten participants selected to present their projects. It was really exciting and very informative to learn about the very interesting projects of the other participants.
My experiences during the Fulbright seminar in Berlin have greatly enhanced and broadened my views about the Fulbright organization. Since becoming a Fulbrighter, my own future plans have changed and I view this experience as a wonderful opportunity to redirect my personal and professional goals and dreams. Quoting Senator Fulbright: “Our future is not in the stars but in our minds and hearts. Creative leadership and liberal education are the first requirement for a hopeful future for humankind.”
This seminar also provided me access to people involved in the Fulbright performers network from all over Europe and gave me the opportunity to meet people of all ages, backgrounds and lines of research, which expanded my views and allowed me to make new and wonderful friends. I had the opportunity to meet very charming and interesting people such as Mr. Johannes Hensel who experienced the hard times of the World War II era in Germany and became one of the first Fulbright grantees in the U.S. I also met two wonderful ladies, Mrs. Mary Ellen H. Schmider, executive director of the Fulbright Association and, who made a special impression on me and graciously shared extremely valuable insights about the Fulbright network. The Spanish Fulbright Commission was also represented by Ms. Shelley Buckwalter, Deputy Director, who offered kind words of encouragement during the seminar.
In closing, I would like to extend thanks to the German-American Fulbright team for the fantastic job they performed during the Seminar and the special care and thoughtful details they had with me and the rest of the performers. My special and warm gratitude to Mr. Rheiner Rohr, who has been organizing the seminar with great success for over three decades, to Mr. Joe Nykiel an excellent professional and a wonderful person, and Program Officer Thomas Mutske, whose special assistance proved invaluable. Being able to be part of the German-American Fulbright Seminar 2012 will certainly always remain as a very special and unforgettable experience in both my professional and personal life.