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Alexandru Tomescu speaking at TEDxBucuresti

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Good evening, everyone! I have on myself the latest technology but I'm rather used to Stradivarius' 300 years old technology. When I'm on stage I need to have something in my hands usually it's a violin, tonight it's a remote control for the slide-show. I'm a violin player and I'm 32 years old. Until a couple of years ago I did some very predictable things for a violin player in Romania. For quite sometime, I got into some unusual projects "The idea worth spreading" that I want to share with you tonight is a simple idea, based on friendship and dreaming. This is because it all started from a dream. Nowadays, we are all in a hurry and have fixed targets That we have to measure. So we forget to dream, to let our imagination fly. This is why the biggest dreamers are kids. At their age, 5-6 years old, everything still seems possible. While we age, the possibilities remain, but we forget about them. Enough with this romantic side! What were me and my friends dreaming about? I have two colleagues which whom I founded a group that plays chamber music. There is one piano player, Horia Mihail and a cello player, Razvan Suma. We were friends and we knew each other since our Music studies. We thought we should do something together. So we got to it. In 2003-2004 we founded the group and started to play in concerts and festivals, here and there. One day we were in the city of Brasov, at Horia's place and started to wonder what that year had in hold for us. Things weren't looking too great. We all had studied abroad, in America. Horia and Razvan studied in Texas, I studied in Boston and than in Switzerland. Things in Romania as you know are somehow different to how are things in America. When we decided to come to Romania - I don't want to use the expression to come "back" to Romania - Many people say coming back, like it's coming back in time. We didn't come here like at an asylum, Like coming back tired from that experience abroad and lie all day in a hammock. No, we came back filled with ideals and that funny energy that you find abroad, where things are going differently. After 2-3 years, we saw that things were exactly the same as before the '89 Revolution. We had a lot of crazy plans, like founding a philarmonic in Buzau, a small town in Romania. We went very far with this plans, but it all stopped because of the money. That philarmonic exists even now on paper. The project presentation, the programme for the next 5 years, something that could be perfectly done, At a quarter of the budget for a football team. Immediately after Romania was admitted in the European Union we wanted to do a tour. We thought music would be Romania's best ambassador. Beyond some "skills" that are practised by some Romanians in Italy for example, We can play music very well. We went very far with the planning but it remained in the planning phase. The tours that we organized during the last 3-4 years were at the beginning just a fantasy. As well as this TED project in the beginning. But we thought we should dare: we have a crazy idea, let's see what we can do with it! This was in November, December, just before the holidays. In January, we got to work and started from scratch. The first step was to learn from the mistakes that had been done in Romania. In 2006, 15 years from the Revolution, things were pretty clear. There were a lot of private companies and also sponsorships. But let me tell you how they were done. The event organizer, the artistic secretary went to companies, and they were saying things like "we are organizing a chamber music festival and have a 35 years old tradition, 100 artists from all over the world, Please help us!". And the owner helped them, from case to case: if it was a dairy company, they gave them a truck full of cheese. The result of the barter was distributed to the philarmonic members. Another well-known Bucharest philarmonic touring in Moldova weren't payed in lei, dollars or euro, each one of them received a turkey. Sure, in this way we could earn our daily bread. But we wanted to prove something else: that we can do it without taking money from the state. All the cultural events had a logo of the Ministry of Culture or the local council. We wanted to prove that in Romania, as well as in the rest of the world, you can organize a large cultural event without receiving help from the state. This reflex of waiting for everything from the state is very deeply integrated in our country. So we thought we should abandon this idea from the start. And we did live admirably without the help of the state. How did it start? First, we did the activity plan for the tour. The idea was to present the same playlist in 12 cities in Romania. This is done all over the world, we didn't invent the wheel, or the idea of a tour, but it was new in Romania, nobody had done it before. But this part was easy. I handled the scheduling issues. I got on the phone and talked to the philarmonics in the country. The first reactions were of surprise "why are you calling us in January for a concert taking place in October or November? There is still time. Let's talk again in September!" And I insisted to set up the dates. I called in March, I called in April, I called in May, and there were still places were the planning changed. I can tell you that we set up a trend and most of the philarmonics in Romania plan their programme one year ahead The schedule was ready, we knew where we were to play, everything was ok. But then came the money issue, like at any cultural event The budget of a philarmonic is done like this: they have to pay the director, the solist and the guests. We were 3. For them, it was a catastrophe to multiply the limited budget by 3. Most of them said: "we like you, we like this idea, we wanted to have you in town, But we don't have any money to give you". So we said, "let's keep the planning and we'll handle the financial matters." So, we, the artists took up the role that a philarmonic or an event organizer should have taken. We skipped the idea of going to a dairy factory, considering the previous experience. And went to talk to the press, because always, an event is included In a magical triangle. Up is the event itself and down are those who sustain it, the media partners and the sponsors. This is the only secret. Many people who came at the event asked us whispering for the secret. and we said "why are you whispering?, there is no secret! You ought to have the event, the media partners and the sponsors." Us, as artists, thought that the first issue on a sponsor's mind is what music we will play. What did Schumann write, his profile,... A 20 pages slide-show presentation. At the end of it we had some sections that we weren't very good at: above the line (ATL), below the line (BTL). We were surprised to see the sponsor's reaction. They rapidly went through the first quarter of the presentation and stopped for 15 minutes at the magical triangle section! How many ads and spots we had in the media, the coverage the sponsor had in it. We learnt a whole new language and redesigned our presentation.We slashed a lot of it, Schumann got into a secondary plan. And we won. Well, the story is quite long. The media partnership were really easy to obtain, Probably because it was a very new thing. We even got advertising space in two daily newspapers that had different editorial policies. During the organizing of the event, we met a PR agency. We were quite advanced: we had the schedule and the media partnerships. All we needed were the sponsors. We should have been very attentive. The managing director of the PR agency told us "I wish my employees were as professional as you". We were amazed by this wonderful compliment. She said "now, kids, go on study, we're going to handle things from here, As we know a lot of companies, it will be a piece of cake. It's such a nice project that there won't be any problem." This happened in March. March, April, May, even June, we spoke weekly and she said "I spoke to someone, the reaction was positive Almost certainly we are going to sign an agreement." All this almost certainties were blown away. At the end of June, I received a bad phone-call. She said "we went out of leads, it's over". This is how I found out that "no lead" means zero. "Are you still going on tour?" she asked. And we said "hello?!". So, for a month, we left aside the piano, the violin and the cello, We dressed as people from Mars: we bought a tie, a suitcase and a suit And we started to go door-to-door to various marketing directors, company owners and so on. And first they were shocked to find out that we were the artists themselves. But I think we were the only ones who could present the idea, because we believed very much in it. The breakthrough came somewhere in July and it was sensational. Among other things, I can also speak Korean. Through a friend's wife, who knew a Korean company president's wife we obtained a meeting with the company's president. Let's call him mister Han! For the Koreans is very important to speak their language Because they are very much nationalists. They love all those displays of respect. In the meeting, me, my colleague Horia and a Korean friend. I made the same presentation as tonight in Korean. I was discussing in Korean with the president, And Horia kept on bugging me "did you tell him about that? or that?" I assured Horia that I did. And at some point, the president started to sign on the pages of the presentation. Their marketing director said "it's ok, it means he made up his mind." He admitted he made up his mind so quickly because it was exactly the type of cultural and educational project that they were looking for for quite a while. At that moment, our mission was accomplished. We showed that you can obtain private financing for a cultural event. Everybody had previously said "you are crazy, who is going to give money for Schumann?" I'd like to use the last minutes to show you some images taken on tour. In 2006 a Schumann tour, in 2007 Sibelius - Elgar - Grieg, in 2008 a Beethoven tour and probably this year, 2009, a Mendelsohn tour. Those are Stone Age pictures for us, from the beginnings. This is shot by night. And for the first time, we had a partnership with a outdoor ads display company. And it was the first time that we did another type of poster for a classical music event. The three shadows are us, the three musicians. Here you can see what organizing a tour means. You can see Razvan Suma, who got up on a table. He was straightening up the banner. Again, you can see Razvan...Each week, we had our concert on Thursday or Friday. During the week-end, we were back in Bucharest, preparing the posters for the next event. We made around 300 posters for each town. And our hands became black because of the stickers we put on. The tubes you see were two packs of posters for two towns. In every town we set up a goal to reach a young audience. As you know, the classical music has an audience of a certain age, that is continously rising. So we thought in 20 years' time we'll still have the will and energy to play, but we will lack the audience! We thought we should be the ones who take the first step out of the ivory tower. During the "Music On" tour we dressed in an unconventional way from the usual white shirt, black tie, suit...which is kind of rigid and intimidates people. We generated a controversy because we were dressed in black shirts and under them We had colored t-shirts branded with Schumann's face.Clearly, we were Schumann's fans. This loosened up the atmosphere a bit. It happened in 2006. Last year, for example, we played in white canvas basketball shoes without socks on the Romanian Atheneum stage!!! White doctorlike pants and white shirts plus black t-shirts. We did a lot of "stupid" things but they each had a purpose We didn't do it just to show off. We just wanted to loosen up the atmosphere in the concert hall. We stepped on a lot of rules. We talked to the audience, not about who was Mozart or how did Beethoven become deaf, no. We speak freely. Sometimes we tell them what happend during that day, that the train was late. People react differently when they interact with the artist and see that he is human too. That the artist feels, expresses himself and can think freely. Here you can see Schumann's face on my red t-shirt. This t-shirts resemble to football players' t-shirts. After "the match", our girlfriends wear them. I love to see my girlfriend around the house, wearing the Schumann t-shirt. Here you can see again the posters. For a classical music concert, they do between 5 and 10 posters. Big musical institutions from Bucharest print a number of posters that equal at maximum the sum of the fingers and the toes. We printed thousands of posters because we considered that our message should not only reach the classical music fans in front of Bucharest's concert hall. We wanted to reach everybody. Classical music is for everyone and we wanted to liberate it. You can see in one of Bucharest's main squares our poster competing with other posters of that moment. Here in front of the Atheneum, a classical music poster near a different type of classical music poster. This image is from the Schumann t-shirts craze. There was this TV show and they had this idea to produce T-shirts with Schumann's face for all the guests at the show. The audience fought to get one. Here, a concert at the Sibiu Philarmonic, you can see Horia dressed in red. An unconventional appearance. Concerts that took place in schools... I was telling you why we took the first step. We spoke with the kids and didn't play a lot We didn't visit music schools, we went in the regular schools, because music isn't only for the musicians music is for everybody. You can't imagine the success! The kids didn't want to let us go anymore. The only way to get out of there was to say "We'll see each other in 2 hours at the concert hall." The audience was so large, that some people had to sit on the floor and some on the edge of the stage. Here you can see a 2007 white t-shirt from the Music On Tour. Here is Horia before the concert. He is under the piano, trying to fix it. Another nice story is from "the culture house" in the small town of Hatzeg. We played at the first classical music concert taking place in Hatzeg. As you can see the venue was closed by rail in the evening we had a concert, You can see we found a pickax over there. We had a talk with the manager of the "culture house" who told us that the previous concert was one of "manele" (Balkan Folk mixed with Pop music sty And he asked the performers to do an audition just for him to see if he would allow them to play in the venue. Here is our audition before performing to the public... The manager was matching the rhythm with his keys, zang, zang! Here is one of the rooms in Hatzeg that had no chairs. The violin was sitting on a box, near a shoe and a dust pan. Here is our tour car, branded with the poster of the tour. Here you can see Horia before the concert. We didn't always find someone to help us with the concert programmes, so we did it ourselves. Here, dressed in white, in the Beethoven tour in the city of Brasov. The destiny of an artist, always on the road. I think we slept for a months in trains if you put that time in a row. Here you can see our last tour's poster: Beethoven Unplugged. Perfectly correct and true. Making the picture selection for this event I saw again in my mind all the beautiful moments, That we have lived for the last years. And I can say as a conclusion, Dare to dream! And what's best, dare to dream with your eyes open, Because like this you can see your dreams come true! We dared and you can see, it can be done! Thank you! [Applause]

Video Details

Duration: 23 minutes and 44 seconds
Country: Romania
Language: English
Genre: None
Producer: TEDxBucuresti, Hydra Society
Views: 955
Posted by: tedxvideo on Jun 17, 2009

Alexandru Tomescu is a famous Romanian musician that plays on a Stradivarius violin made in 1703. He spoke about how he and his musician fellows – he is playing in a trio – had to take the role of event managers for their shows in order to make some tours that has the role of bringing simple people closer to classical music.

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