On June 1st, the State Secretary for Culture, Dr. Torsten Wöhlert, presented Hungarian guitarist Ferenc Snétberger with the Cross of Merit on the ribbon of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, which was awarded to him last November. The State Secretary praised the famous musician as follows: “Berlin has been your home for around 30 years now, and from here you have achieved international recognition as a remarkable artist with a strong awareness of your origins and musical roots, and at the same time, you have successfully supported the musical development of future generations from your culture.”
Born into a Romani family of musicians in the northern part of Hungary, Snétberger from a young age looked up to his father, a guitar player and teacher himself, and later went on to study classical music and jazz guitar. The uniqueness of his music and performances stem from the art of improvisation and the crossing of stylistic borders. In his music one can discover hints of the Roma tradition, Brazilian music, flamenco and classical guitar, as well as jazz. He is a recipient of the Liszt and Kossuth Prizes, and has collaborated with several Hungarian and international musicians, performing in Europe and the US, as well as in Japan, Korea, and India. In 1995, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, he composed his Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra, “In Memory of My People,” which he has performed with chamber orchestras around the world.
In an interview, Snétberger said that his heritage brings passion to his music, and likened his solo performances to a kind of meditation:
If the sound and the atmosphere are right, one can really nail it. Then I am fully with the music and with my guitar, and I often don’t even realize that there’s an audience.”
Snétberger, however, is not only known for his career as a performer, but also for his efforts to encourage and foster social mobility through music education, both in Berlin and in his home country. Since 2011, the Snétberger Foundation has played a crucial role in the music education of talented disadvantaged young people. The Snétberger Music Talent Center, based in Felsőörs, Hungary, provides 60-65 young people each year with the opportunity to cultivate and improve their skills in a 12-week long personalized music training program, accompanied by a mentoring program which lasts a whole school year.
In the framework of this project, students have the chance to learn from Ferenc Snétberger himself and other internationally recognized teachers and musicians, including pianists János Balázs and Béla Szakcsi Lakatos Jr. As a result of this program, more than 90 percent of their students pursue music after the training, and a quarter of them study music at universities and colleges.
The sound and the spirit of The Snetberger Music Talent Center move everybody, everybody who meets the kids and the youngsters of this center, I think.”
(Jens-Jørgen Pedersen, Head of Programme of Villum Fonden)
The young talents perform at internationally acclaimed music events, such as the Valley of Arts in Kapolcs, Sziget Festival, and the Jazz Showcase, and they have also performed in places like Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Israel, and Washington.
This year marks a new chapter in the life of the Snétberger Foundation with the establishment of their new headquarters, which includes a professional studio and rehearsal room, located in Béla Bacsó Street, Budapest. From fall 2021, students who have successfully finished their basic music training via the Snétberger Foundation will have the opportunity to participate in the Snétberger Masterclass Education Program, which offers advanced, specialized courses, workshops, and recording sessions in the sound studio.
Those who have participated in the music education program of the Snétberger Foundation have described it as a source of inspiration, and an opportunity to fulfill their dreams with the help of excellent teachers who support them both professionally and personally. This unique initiative has changed many talented young people’s lives, and has provided them with hope and perspective for their future.
Featured photo by Zsolt Szigetváry/MTI