Composer’s review – Vladimir Botev

To all the people whom this might sound important, or at least meaningful,


I’ve read somewhere (I believe), that “it is in the dust of war, where heroes are born”.

But, what is war? I certainly don’t doubt the definition given by a WW2 veteran (I’ll paraphrase), stating: “The noise. The horror. The dirt. The stench. That’s war.”.
But, could it be that wars are waged on different fronts as well? Could it be that people feel the horror, the noise and the like in peaceful times too? Some do, it is obvious that they do. Yet, if things are not (physically) obvious, can we deem them not real automatically? If we can, what does it mean then, when we read of the rampant and galloping suicide rates as well as the prevalence of mental illnesses among the young (which is, by the way, contemporary, most recent phenomena)? Are these young people not in the middle of the most terrifying war? Surely, we can not experience the horror and noise, stench and dirt which they are experiencing… but for them, the war is real. The most real. The most horrific.

So, do we really care about it, and if we do: what can we do to improve the lot of the young? Mind you: healthy young people need help too, be it with their craft, be it with their prospects, be it with their social lives and relationships.

I’ll try to lead you through a thought experiment.

To illustrate, we’ll assume that a certain little country exists in a not-too-popular part of the world. The prospects of the young in this ‘part of the world’ are not so bright (at least not necessarily, due to the economic and political situation there). To make it even more challenging, let’s say that the entire region has a history of civil wars, the effects of which are strongly felt even nowadays. Well: why not add a raging world-wide pandemic to spice it up a little bit further? Finally, we’ll assume that a few dedicated and enthusiastic people who are ready to make sacrifices for the greater good reside in the region. They are masters of their crafts and they would be more than happy to help the young. Of course, they would have many financial and logistical challenges, so we’ll assume that a few dedicated local and international organizations would help them with financial and/or other aid.

Now, let’s ask ourselves: Is it actually possible (practically speaking) for this team of people/institutions to even start the process against all odds? Is it not more practical or even more “sane” to “leave it for the next year” as it was done many times before? Would it work if they tried? What good would it bring anyway? What would it mean after all; how can at least a minute of the youth’s lives be improved at all?

Well, guess what: we need not to “imagine” any more (we’ll leave that to John Lennon, as we should). This has already happened or rather: the process (process being the key word here) was successfully initiated in a brilliant fashion and was finished with lovely results, despite all the difficulties! The Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra was created, rehearsals held, original repertoire performed on two separate concerts in Montenegro! And if you wonder how did these composers and musicians who reside in 7 different countries from the region get along, I’ll try to describe it bellow (as someone who was there):

The smiles. The Joy. The emotions. The friendship. The respect. The solidarity. The hospitality. The hope. The trust. The love. That’s The Balkan Youth Jazz Orchestra!

I believe that all of the above is just the beginning, as the success and the continuation of this wonderful story will bring all these qualities to the lives of many young (both jazz and classical!) musicians to come.

In this sense, and in closure, let me emphasize the effort invested by the mentors and organizers of this project, without whose prowess and devotion none of the above would even be imaginable.

And when we return to this spring (both factually and metaphorically) many years later, seeing the musicians whose lives were positively influenced (if not transformed) by The Orchestra, which itself was organized thanks to a special few, we’ll gladly borrow another line from WW2 source, well aware that these people are (again) best described “by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human *culture* was so much owed by so many to so few.”
With utmost respect,

Vladimir Botev, composer


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