Since 2005, the Australian Catherine Milliken has been the creative head of the education programme. Her first experience of the Berliner Philharmoniker’s education concept was while she was working on the Ways of remembering project, on the occasion of the premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s piece A Relic of Memory in October 2004. She was so inspired by it that she decided to apply for the vacant position as its director.
For six years the orchestra’s education programme has been shaped by her ideas and enthusiasm – not only in Berlin but also wherever the orchestra was making guest appearances, including Salzburg, New York, Paris, Amsterdam, Sydney, to name but a few. Catherine Milliken gave new momentum to the projects, developing the format of the family concerts, and initiating cross-cultural concerts and workshops. She started the creative school orchestra and incorporated all forms of artistic expression in the education projects, including dance and painting, as well as the digital and performing arts.
“It was very important to me to convey to young people that they can be part of the music of the orchestra thanks to their own personalities and creativity and that music is something very much alive,” she says. Among her personal highlights of the past years have been the project SONGS – Ritual Rhythms to Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps in New York, the projects based on Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen in Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg as well as the Mahler projects in Berlin, Amsterdam and Sydney. “I have particularly enjoyed the contact with Berlin music teachers. They all are fantastic! And of course working with the musicians of the orchestra – which was also quite wonderful,” she said gratefully.
While involved in the education programme, Catherine Milliken has put her own plans as a composer and oboist on hold. She now intends to pursue these again and has given up her position as director of the Education Department. With a short speech and a friendly kiss, Sir Simon Rattle bid her farewell, thanking her for her inspiring work.