Culture is a complex term. If we say that a person is cultured, we’re referring to the knowledge or ideas they have acquired, which enable them to understand complex phenomenon. If we talk about a specific culture, we mean the set of skills, ideas, traditions and customs that characterise a people, social class or age. And if we add physical as an adjective, then culture turns into sport. If we opt for popular, we’re making reference to local traditions, village fetes and alike. So what does it mean when we say that a company works in cultural management?
“Cultural managers, through the greatest exponent of a society’s culture — the arts — have in their hands the responsibility and the privilege of handling the materialisation of an absolute idiosyncrasy,” is the mystical response from Kike Labían, founder of #YouMusic, a firm dedicated to cultural management no less, and winner of the Universidad Europea Young Social Entrepreneur Award in 2016. “Although this sounds very overblown, it makes perfect sense when you put yourself in the shoes of a person managing a theatre, orchestra or museum.”
According to his description, a professional cultural manager performs a juggling act with a society that does not value the arts, with the incestuous nature of the arts scene itself, with new works difficult to deliver to wider audiences, and with classics only slightly easier to promote; all of this in a circus ring of budgetary cuts following the lengthy economic crisis. “Setting up any kind of company is a challenge but the instability the cultural sector is experiencing makes it that bit tougher, and this is only offset when you recall the real value of what you’re managing.”
Labían’s project, #YouMusic, is an association aimed at promoting the socialising power of music among young people. They have two basic lines of work: one is to educate through musical training and the other is to support young people who are looking to set up new projects in this field. They organise summer camps, musical volunteer programmes, assist in the initiatives developed by young people they’ve worked with in the past…
“At first we were just a group of musicians and friends who set out to help other young people enjoy music. We believed that the musical training offered in the general education syllabus was too outdated,” he recalls. “So we decided to create this association.”
It was conceived only as a summer school at the outset, where they taught students to play a song in just seven days. And everything grew from there. New projects. More organisations working in collaboration with them. Important musicians taking an interest in what they were doing. The Universidad Europea award. Now they’re about to open new branches in different cities to replicate their model. And they have a section on Classic FM radio about innovative projects in education through music.
Their objective? To turn this movement viral and so make their contribution to the world. “Hundreds of studies have shown the value of music in overall personal development,” explains Labían. “Psychomotor and cognitive development when you play an instrument, critical thinking, which kicks into action when we decide how to perform a Bach suite, or the empathy required to play in a group are just some among hundreds of examples that illustrate how music is a unique tool for learning.”
Yet there’s one essential requirement for all these benefits to take effect. You need to learn music by making music. “Understanding the arts is the first step to understanding a society. But we can’t limit musical training to memorising biographies and playing the recorder,” he concludes. “That’s why, at #YouMusic, we work to enhance the benefits of music, with a focus on providing educative resources to the teachers of the future.”
It’s a great social investment. Some 90% of music students who complete their full, almost fifteen-year training at music school end up becoming teachers.