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Music Education is for Everyone: An Interview with Rusmir Piknjač, co-founder of Mali Mozart

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Rusmir "Russo" Piknjač is an Bloom ex-parent and the co-founder of Mali Mozart, a music school that has been in partnership with Bloom for nearly 15 years. We sat down with Mr. Piknjač to talk about his experiences in music education, reflecting on the longtime collaboration between our schools and the impact that it has had on our students, including two of his daughters.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Russo and I am a musician, an educator, a music-lover and a pedagogue. I would like to share and transfer the knowledge I’ve gained throughout my life to younger generations just as a few of my dear teachers did for me. I see the values in being in the field with the younger generation; helping them to discover themselves and to enjoy and reap the benefits of music in general. As a family, we are all musicians. For us music is an integral part of our living and also a business. We’ve been doing this for all our life, basically. We have a music school in both Sydney and in Sarajevo. Apart from being a teacher, a parent, and a musician; I have also been focused on paying back in dividend to my country ever since I returned to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

You were in Australia for a long time and you started a music school there. And then you came back and you started a music school here. What inspired you to start a music school in both places? Is that what you always wanted to do?

I think starting the music school in Australia was a natural thing. In Australia, there aren’t any public music schools. It’s always entrepreneurs and individuals who teach at the beginner levels until you get to professional levels which include music high schools and university. That’s how their music education is organised, so that’s how we started. The students would come to our place. It was similar here. When we returned, we felt that we wanted and could contribute to the country with cultural projects and our experience. We felt there was a step missing before before public music schools and education. There was a gap. There was no school there to teach kids from scratch at a very young age. And that’s where we saw an opportunity.

Your collaboration with Bloom began at the very beginning of both Mali Mozart and Bloom. How did the collaboration happen?

Bloom was at the centre of our decision to return to Bosnia from Australia. My wife and I were thinking for some time that we were homesick or Europe-sick. We missed the cultural aspect of Europe: the closeness between countries and cultures that is felt in every instance.

When we saw that Bloom was opening in Sarajevo and that the director Maëlys was moving from France with her children, we thought that we could do the same thing, and have the right school for our children.

We were always worried that our kids would miss out on opportunities if we went back to Bosnia. But with Bloom we saw a seemingly better opportunity than anything Australia could offer. So our kids joined Bloom as students, first Alana, and then later on Ella; and then Bloom founder and CEO Maëlys saw an opportunity in our experience and asked us kindly if we could teach all of the kids at Bloom.

That’s how we started the whole Performing Arts program. We have had a really fruitful cooperation and relationship with Bloom because we share them same philosophy.

Mali Mozart’s philosophy is that we always put the child at the centre and we adjust our teaching and program specifically to every child in coordination with their parents. We allow the children to fully develop and we always try to find a docking point with each child through which we can exchange ideas, advise and inspire them to embark on their own life journey of discovering the joy of music.

Why is teaching important for you? What have you learned from your students?

I learn something during every single lesson I have with my students. For me it is very important to try to bring out the best of every child and also to be in the presence of really pure persons like young children. It refreshes me and keeps me in touch with my profession. And helps me not to get old and stay with the times.

It’s also really beautiful to see them grow. I see the impact music has had on my daughters, and also on many others for whom music played an integral part in their education. Even if they don’t end up becoming professional musicians, it continues to enrich their world and supports them in doing other professions.

What are the benefits of children learning music regardless of what they end up doing in life?

That’s a good question. First of all, I always put a lot of stress on the fact music is not a privilege meant for a tiny group of professionals. Unfortunately, our system here in Bosnia and Herzegovina is designed as a pyramidal system which focuses on the very talented and very stubborn individuals who can sustain the high pressure of becoming professional musicians. It doesn’t take care of the rest who are not able to succeed on this road.

But music is a universal language, it is vibrations and energy. And it’s available freely to everybody. It is the easiest way to communicate and initially engage in any thoughtful or fruitful cooperation and conversation. I think it should be essential for everyone to be exposed to music and art in general at an early age. Even more so now that AI is becoming widespread.

All experts are saying that the only difference between humans and machines is that we are able to assess things and think in a new and different way through exposure to art and music, and through intuiting, imagining and creating things. Music does that, it changes us completely, and helps us create a little inner space that is separate from the current outside world. Playing musical instruments, or singing, or being in the situation of a band and making music together; it trains us to discover ourselves and to be able see the world and think differently in all aspects of life.

You mentioned that two of your daughters attended Bloom as well as Mali Mozart. Being a father you saw them grow up and you saw go through this. How do you feel being in both these environments has impacted them?

I'll compare it to music. I think we are all blessed by Bloom because we are in an educational environment that is hard-wired with a very homophone style of teaching where we have a teacher or a main melody and students as accompaniment. There is not much counterpoint or polyphonic style of teaching happening.

At Bloom, melodies interact with each other and overlap, and doing so produce equally important music or equally important individual paths.

Bloom has shaped our children to be free world citizens: open minded individuals with a strong sense of identity, and the ability to make right decisions and be themselves in all kind of situations. I’ve seen them really blossom.

Blending Bloom’s education and music together has enabled them to have an inner space that they can freely develop and empowered them to take responsibility for their actions at an early age, taking confident steps towards their adult life and looking happily to the future.

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