It has been a shocking surprise to hear that Ms. Lentjes’ experience of Ostrava Days was such a negative one. My surprise is amplified by the fact, that I myself, or any of my colleagues, did not hear from Ms. Lentjes while she was in Ostrava, the smallest negative comment. The comments she made to me, here in Ostrava a few times when I met her in passing, had always been only complimentary. (I’m at loss - who is here the hypocrite, as Ms. Lentjes write in her subtitle?). We respect her or everyone else’s opinion. But her article combines opinions with episodes presented as facts that sharply contradict our experiences. It leaves me no choice, but to answer Rebecca Lentjes’ article (something I never do), and address and correct wrong information, which her article contains:
1- The Ostrava Center for New Music (OCNM – the organization that produces Ostrava Days) – from the management, to the extremely demanding logistics of the festival – is in the hands of an office staff that consists only of women (Renáta Spisarová, Kristyna Konczyna, Barbara Skálová, Lucie Fojtíková, Valerie Hendrychová, Anežka Hrušková, Veronika Dombrovská, Dominika Čubanová, and our Spanish assistant Carmen de los Reyes). Actually, since its inception in 2001, the Ostrava Days office has had only women employees. It’s hard to imagine that we could work as efficiently as we do in an environment of “overbearing toxic masculinity.”
2- “…composition residents at the festival introduced themselves as “assholes.” “Oh, hi, I’m just another asshole,” they liked to say. (“Nice to meet you.”): Ever since the start of Ostrava Days, I have never heard or was informed that people have been using such vulgar and offensive language here. Ms. Lentjes goes on and dwells on description of sexual misconducts as Ostrava Days. I have never heard at Ostrava (not to say encountered), any suggestion of sexual misconducts. We, women who manage the affairs of the project would have a zero tolerance to such matters. It has never an issue. If there were sexual (or any other) misconduct, or disrespectful language used, especially towards women, why didn’t anyone (including Ms. Lentjes) come to us, even once, and informed us, make a complaint, etc? The office, operated by women, was open 24/7 from 8am to past midnight. We would have immediately acted upon it. As a reaction to Ms. Lentjes, I am sending an inquiry to all women resident-composers who participated at the last three Ostrava Days (2013, 2015, 2017), asking them to send me their comments on the article. I am doing it in a personal manner, as a woman to woman and will respect, of course, anyone’s wish for confidentiality.
3- Resident-Students of the Ostrava Days Institute are accepted according to the merit of their application, not according to gender or ethnicity. The selected group and its great diversity speak for itself. In 2017, there were 37 resident composers – 2 from Australia, 3 from Canada, 3 from China, 6 from Czech Republic, 1 from Germany, 1 from Italy, 1 from Hungary, 1 from Iran, 1 from Estonia, 5 from Poland, 2 from Slovakia. The largest number of residents, 11, came, form the U.S. We receive, traditionally, the most applications from America and the most rejections are going to USA. The screening this year was especially difficult as most of the applicants were highly qualified.
4. About our audiences, Ms. Lentjes’ writes: “concerts were packed not with locals or out-of-town tourists but rather the resident composers, performers, and fellows who attended the full range of festival offerings.” Most of our audiences are local residents, and the number is growing each year, especially the very young one are coming in big numbers. There are some, who travel to Ostrava from other parts of the country, especially Prague, as well as visitors from abroad. Our 37 resident composers could hardly fill up our venues, the capacity of which range from 250 to 500. The Ostrava Days participating musicians are from morning to night engaged in performances and rehearsals (The festival has 22 concerts in 10 days, sometimes 3 concerts a day), and can only occasionally attend performances that they are not preforming in themselves. (I am enclosing a few audience photos).
5. Ms. Lentjes quotes a Brooklyn-based musician telling her: “[Ostrava Days] is like family. Every other summer it’s like a reunion.” And goes on with a question “why fly to the Czech Republic for a “reunion” when you could see many of these people in Brooklyn any night of the year?” Since Ms. Lentjes’s travel expenses were covered by a grant from the City of Ostrava (Ostrava Days does not have a budget for such matters), it would have been more professional if she had done her homework on the history and constituency of the festival and not passed her judgments on a few casual encounters. Out of this year’s 11 US resident composers, only 5 were from New York City. The other residents were from eleven other nationalities and 3 continents. Is Ms. Lentjes serious to suggest that one can see such a diverse group of young composers on any single night in Brooklyn? Also, the festival has never been affiliated with any university and always operated on the margin of the mainstream music world. To suggest that Ostrava Days consist of academically minded participants is a gross distortion. We are anything than academic!
While I was writing my response, I came across a remark Ms. Lentjes posted as the follow-up discussion to her article: “Unfortunately, I was not granted the opportunity to interview any of the composers (male or female) at the festival. The journalists were kept on a totally separate schedule.” I am offended by this outright lie!
Journalists at Ostrava Days were not kept on any schedule!! The only scheduled events the journalists had were three sightseeing trips around the City and surrounding region (for instance a visit to the Janáček’s house in Hukvaldy). These three events, arranged by Ostrava City administration were as the condition under which the City funded the travel expenses for some journalists. The remaining time during the entire 10 days stay, Ms. Lentjes was entirely free to do anything, to go anywhere, any time she wanted. At any moments, she could have asked the office to schedule for here an interview/talk with any of our guest composers, resident-students, or participating musicians. I have no idea, nor did any one of my colleagues, made it our business to inquire how Ms. Lentjes spent her time in Ostrava. None of us ever saw her coming to the office for a single minute. All of us (and I have now asked all my colleagues) saw Ms. Lentjes only on rare occasions and exchanged with her just a few words in passing (Barbara Skálová cannot even recall how Ms. Lentjes look). Additionally, Ms. Lentjes stayed in the same hotel that all the guest composers and musicians, critics, etc. She saw all the time, met, were running into, had breakfast, etc, with any of the participants. To tell the uninformed public that she had “no opportunity to interview” anyone is an outrage.
Ostrava Center for New Music produces two yearly alternating projects. One year it is the Institute and Festival Ostrava Days, the next year it is NODO (New Opera Days Ostrava) festival. Needles to say, the same office staff manages both projects. Also, obviously, our audiences are the same for OD and NODO. Ms. Lentjes came last year to Ostrava to write about NODO festival. Let me quote what she wrote in 2016,
: “…the biennial [NODO] manages not only to shine, but to attract diverse crowds of open-minded listeners... NODO should be considered a triumph not only because of its financial thriftiness but because of its programming. … NODO sets its eyes (and ears) on the present and future, commissioning new compositions and new productions, giving music-makers and audiences the imperative room to grow. “ (Rebecca Lentjes in Bachtrack, July 2, 2016)
…I made it to the venue on time – a multi-story semi-industrial space … that were in fact rather new- looking – because the space was quickly overflowing. Audience members, some of whom sipped wine or ate popsicles, stood along the back walls or, alternatively, sat in the front on the numerous pillows on offer. (Rebecca Lentjes in Bachtrack, June 29, 2016)
Ostrava Center for New Music
Original article: https://van-us.atavist.com/ostrava-days