Renowned Czech opera singer backs ‘professional’ arts education for schoolchildren

Magdalena Kožená, photo: ČT

The internationally renowned Czech opera singer Magdalena Kožená has established an endowment fund to support the Czech Republic’s unique system of art schools, focused on music, ballet, drama and visual arts. The fund was officially presented at a donor evening at Prague’s Rudolfinum on Friday. I asked David Mareček, the Managing Director of the Czech Philharmonic, which is a co-patron of the fund, to explain what makes these schools so special:

Magdalena Kožená,  photo: ČT
“The system is quite unique because they are professionally led schools. That means that the children learn not only how to play musical instruments but they also learn musical theory. So these schools can prepare them for later professional studies but they can also remain on the amateur level and do it just for pleasure.”

Is it true that the Czech arts education system is unique in the world?

“I don’t know if it’s unique within the whole world but it is definitely unique within Europe, because it is professional and because it is a real school. That’s where I see the uniqueness of the system.”

I guess one of its advantages is its price because the courses are really quite cheap.

“Absolutely, the price is really low thanks to support from the state, regional and municipal level. I think that what you get for this money is really incredible almost anybody can afford it.”

Magdalena Kožená herself started her career in one of these schools. How important would you say it is for future artists, especially musicians?

David Mareček,  photo: Jan Sklenář
“I think it is essential. Every artist in the Czech Republic, or almost every artist, went to a music school. Even in the Czech Philharmonic, all our members went there and some of them even skipped high school, and the Conservatory, but they all went to music school, which can be attended until 18 years. So I would say it is essential for every musician.”

Why have you decided, together with Magdalena Kožená, to establish the fund? Is the system threatened in any way?

Art School,  photo: Archive of ČRo
“It is not, but the thing is that the system is not visible enough, because we take it for granted. It has been here for many years and it needs much more visibility. We want to explain to people how important and how good it is. So I was very happy when Magdalena Kožená decided to establish this fund so that we can do something that is continuous and we can do it across the whole country.”

Finally, what steps are you planning to take in the near future?

“Well the first step to establish a circle of people who want to support the fund was very successful. The next step should be a series of events: the first one will be the Day of Music Schools, and in the autumn and later there will be a number of projects supported by the fund. The fund is also here to find and support talents, so that’s what we want to do during the first year.”