Jürgen Budday during a concert
Jürgen Budday during a performance

„Never give up and never lose hope“ – Interview with German conductor Jürgen Budday

Benjamin Stromberg Insights, Interview Leave a Comment

For Jürgen Budday, his artistic path began primarily through his own love for music. Above all, he wanted to do something that could also satisfy him personally. His becoming process was characterized by a dialectical development process: good mentoring on the one hand and persistence and his own discipline on the other.: „During my studies I got a very solid basis for making music and I am very grateful to all my teachers who brought me to a higher level. But the most I learned in conducting was to do it in practice and to complement my skills in specific private studies.“

The conductor who worked over 40 years in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Abbey does not see music as a pure demonstration of skills, but rather as something deeply emotional. Only a combination of skills and dedication for the moment create the magic.For me music is emotion and that’s a very sensitive situation. You turn your innermost outside. And if the audience realizes this, it gets touched. You are transporting your feelings by the music. And that’s the moment where you are authentic. This brings the audience to deal with the message you are singing.“ In this process he is deeply connected to his musicians. “I try to show the essential, not more. I trust in my choir.” This trust arises from a community concept that is practiced on and behind the stage. “For me it is also important to have a good community in the choir.”

Today he draws from his wealth of experience and as he learned to appreciate his teachers, today he continually passes on his own learnings. He makes it clear that he is constantly learning from his current position instead of having reached an end. „The biggest lesson I had to learn was being a teacher: When you get new students every year and you have to teach them essentials, not to resign, to be patient and to be confident in their possibilities. And after some years you often get splendid results. That‘s the identical pattern for a teaching musician: Never give up and never lose hope…“

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Interview conducted by Ona Jarmalavičiūtė (discover more of of her work here)

Blogpost by Benjamin Stromberg

Pictures by Jürgen Budday

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Read the full interview with Jürgen Budday here:

Jürgen Budday

German conductor, teacher, director of church music – Jürgen Budday molds into different professional shapes as a creative mind and a lover of music. His main accomplishment is concert series at the Maulbronn Abbey (an UNESCO World Heritage Site), where he leads such choirs as ‘Maulbronner Kantorei’ and Maulbronn Chamber Choir. His creative work was noted by various awards – including Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande (German Cross of Merit) and the Bruno Frey Prize from the Baden-Württemberg State Academy of Music. In this interview the musician shares his views on inspiration from the Abbey of Maulbronn, his biggest lesson as a teacher, and simplicity of his conducting style.

How did you imagine your profession at the beginning of your career?

At the beginning of my musical studies I had no special expectations. My first intention was to improve my skills in order to make music which satisfies me. Seen like this I was humble. In the meantime, I can say that everything went beyond my expectance.

You studied musicology and church music at the State University of Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart. What do you take away from your studying period?

Since my youngest years I loved music very much. So, for me it was a dream to improve my musical skills. During my studies I got a very solid basis for making music and I am very grateful to all my teachers who brought me to a higher level. But the most I learned in conducting was to do it in practice and to complement my skills in specific private studies.

Define inspiration – does it exist?

Of course, it exists. My greatest inspiration is the building in which I had the privilege to work for 40 years, the Abbey of Maulbronn. If you enter this 870 years old church, the Refectorium, the cloister, you are directly touched by the spirit of this speaking and sounding stones. You immerse yourself in a spiritual world and out from this silence inspiration is directly tangible. And if you make music in this surrounding there are moments where you are hovering between earth and heaven.

What does being artistic director of concert series at UNESCO World Heritage Site Maulbronn Abbey means to you? What are usually the creative thoughts behind directing the concert series?

The precondition for the concert series has been the monastery itself. The atmosphere of the different rooms is unique and you have the possibility for open-air concerts as well. I felt the responsibility to the public, to open these rooms and to fill them with art and music. So I built up a concert series up to 35 concerts over the summer with artists from all over the world.

Do you choose or audition singers with whom you are working?

Both. In the meantime as the choir was well known, many singers applied for singing in this choir. For me the sound of a choir is most important. That means to have a homogeneous, balanced cast from very deep and sonorous basses to very high and light Sopranos. And for me also important is, to have a good community in the choir.

You are a conductor, director of church music and music teacher. How do you balance and combine all the practices in your everyday life?

The position I had (in the meantime I have retired), was an ideal combination between making church music, teaching music, conducting several ensembles and running a concert series as an artistic director. During the week my main job was teaching young students, rehearsing and organizing.  On weekends I was conducting and running my festival. As everything took place in the UNESCO world-heritage Maulbronn Abbey, there was no loss of travelling-time. Of course I had no free weekends and only 3 weeks holidays in the year.

What kind of impact do you want to have to the listener? What musical message would you want to convey to others?

I have no special message as for example in politics. For me music is emotion and that’s a very sensitive situation. You turn your innermost outside. And if the audience realizes this, it gets touched. You are transporting your feelings by the music. And that’s the moment where you are authentic. This brings the audience to deal with the message you are singing.

How would you describe your conducting style?

I try to show the essential, not more. I trust in my choir.

How could you describe your lifestyle as a musician? What elements of it challenge you the most?

I am very interested in new things and I am looking for it. Especially, to design stringent programs. To have a headline for my program, to find pieces which follow this idea.

What did you learn from your teachers? Maybe they have shared some wisdom which is guiding you even today?

I learned a lot from my teachers. But one essential thing I learned is always to be focused on what you are doing in this moment.

What do you think that your career gave you the most? What do you value the most in the journey?

Wonderful music, wonderful people to work with, fascinating concert-tours around the world.

What is the biggest lesson on creativity you had to learn?

The biggest lesson I had to learn was being a teacher: When you get new students every year and you have to teach them essentials, not to resign, to be patient and to be confident in their possibilities. And after some years you often get splendid results. That‘s the identic pattern for a teaching musician: Never give up and never lose hope…

Are there any future projects that excite you the most?

A very actual and fascinating project is building up the new National Youth Choir of Germany. This means to invest in the future. And I love to work with young people.

Thank you for the conversation!

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