The European band project

For over a quarter of a century, the Duisburg music project 'Euro Rock' has stood for international cultural exchange with a perspective.

The exchange project for young people, founded by Peter Bursch, the guitar teacher of the nation, offers the unique opportunity, unlike any other, to make young people known across borders in a networking Europe and to confront possible prejudices with merciless openness and self-experience.

During an intensive working phase of 7 to 10 days, musicians from all over Europe come together and not only create new music in freshly mixed bands but also establish long-term contacts, thus having a lasting influence on "encounters" in Europe.

In more than a week dedicated entirely to creativity, exchange, and music-making, participants gain invaluable experiences, not only for their own but for a common future.
What is special is that the bands are mixed! The invited bands are thus transformed into new European bands; the singer plays with the drummer from England, the bassist from Lithuania, the guitarist from Lithuania, and the keyboardist from Germany. In these new formations, compositions are not only composed and rehearsed in private or loud chambers, but they also perform almost every evening. Small bars, large halls, and open-air festivals are played, giving the new compositions space, as well as the participants playing space to experiment and develop. Different levels can meet and benefit from each other. Perhaps someone can play virtuously, from which a less experienced person can learn something; and maybe a younger, less experienced person can shine with an unpolished, open stage presence, which in turn infects the virtuoso.
Such processes distinguish the project.

Euro Rock is accompanied by renowned artists of the scene. The exchange remains on an equal footing, with the focus always on the participants themselves. The instructors are not only there to convey their knowledge in fixed workshops, but rather
an open exchange is encouraged, where important recording tips may be shared over a shared dinner, or a trick to good band booking may be formulated over an afternoon coffee.
The structure is always open to questioning and reconfiguration, so that the musicians have a significant influence on the course of the project. Depending on the needs, spontaneous workshops may be organized, or themed evenings may be called for. If the bands simply need more uninterrupted time with a producer in the rehearsal space, time is made for it.

Europe opens up, an idea is born...

As Europe began to open up in the 1990s, guitarist Peter Bursch had an idea. He wanted to make the different, converging cultures experienceable. The idea of starting a music project with the various countries of Europe became more concrete and arose as an immediate reaction to the changing conditions in the EU.
he first talks with potential partners were almost euphoric - the idea of creating something European together resonated strongly in the partner cities where Peter, through his many tours in the 70s and 80s, often had direct contacts with musician colleagues who, in turn, had many contacts on site.
The opportunity to bring people together across national borders with a new focus seemed to promise a lot of excitement. The direct precursor of Euro Rock was "Das deutsche Rockseminar" in Remscheid, which had taken place in a large academy with 15 rooms, overnight accommodations, in the middle of the woods away from any distractions, with a 20-year history.
Beside Jasper van’t Hof there were already Micki Meuser and Manni von Bohr as lectures.
The rock seminar was a response to the fact that in the 1960s, there was only one jazz seminar of its kind. A prevalent opinion at that time was that rock couldn't be taught. Peter, however, held a different view and, as an ambassador of rock music, aimed to create more opportunities
Efforts were made in the State Working Group for Rock Music to discuss concepts and design something 'rocking' for young people.
The magazines 'Musikexpress' and the 'Specialized Journal for Musicians' were quickly enlisted as supporters. The initiative began with events attracting around 30-50 participants, and the program was initially geared towards more advanced band musicians.
Word spread, and soon there were registrations from the surrounding areas, as well as from Belgium and the Netherlands, indicating a slight shift towards something more European.
In the second half of the 80s, continuations of such ideas were observed in private, regional music schools, which also turned more towards rock and pop music and, in part, prepared seminar content in a noticeably similar manner.
Against the backdrop of the opening up of the East and all of Europe, Peter looked around and found exciting ideas from neighboring regions. In Rotterdam, the modern youth center 'Waterfront' was inspiring, bringing access, studio, and center together under one roof. Even Paul McCartney visited the 'Waterfront' and installed a similar facility in his homeland.
In the generally prevailing spirit of enthusiasm and change, all contacts quickly caught the excitement, leading to the launch of Euro Rock.

Each country has a different attitude towards rock music, which explains the various styles and approaches of the bands and serves as a key driving force behind the project.
What used to be much more in focus and has somewhat given way to the close interaction among participants is discussing the backgrounds in the countries.
How is it as a musician in Lithuania?" "What are the clubs like in England?" etc. For these topics, there were dedicated lecturers from well-known bands or journalists. The exchange among participants has become more of a natural occurrence, and the internet allows for some information to be previewed in advance.

What should never take precedence is instrumental instruction.
Instead, since the early years, the focus has always been on band workshops and songwriting, which the young musicians should largely fill and shape themselves. The goal was not to create world champions but to conduct experiential workshops.
At some point, other countries also began to invite Euro Rock. For example, Euro Rock bands performed at events like the D-Day in Portsmouth.
Here, it becomes very clear by way of example what the project can achieve and how a crucial impact of the work becomes tangible:

Young people from formerly divided countries make music together, build friendships across borders, and learn from each other.
As a result of the invitations, the first Euro Rock tours also emerge, starting in Duisburg, continuing through Rotterdam and Calais, all the way to Portsmouth.
"Over the years, the music genres undergo some changes; usually, the blends are very diverse and prove fruitful when the bands are newly formed. While there was a case where five Heavy Metal bands from five countries participated, that is an absolute rarity."

The original bands...

All participants are selected for the project by their respective delegations. An essential point is: Euro Rock is by no means a contest! The goal is not to crown a winner; the competition is not the focus (which is indeed a part of other workshop formats), but rather the coming together. An important criterion that all delegations from their respective countries consider in their areas of influence before the start of the project is not only which band fits musically into the framework of such a workshop idea, but above all, which band members stand out with their social skills to engage in dialogue with musicians from around the world for a week, or even longer.
It is interesting that, after answering this question, various distinct aspects of different nations have come to the forefront. For example, one country might send a particularly young band that can benefit greatly at the beginning of their career, while another country sends very professionally skilled musicians. Yet, other partner cities may provide particularly eccentric instrumentalists, bringing a very unique style.
Thus, the mixture is always fresh and provides a fantastic backdrop to unfold the course of the project upon.

Start in a small circle – Mixing the bands...

The project kicks off with the arrival of the bands. Due to the varying distances traveled, travel times also vary significantly, and are significantly dependent on weather conditions and road or air traffic. By the evening of the arrival day, all bands are on-site. While the first arrivals have already acquainted themselves on the inviting premises of Parkhaus Meiderich, and some spontaneous football tournaments have taken place, it is now time for the official
Introduction round. After each of the instructors and participants has introduced themselves, the exciting part begins—a mini-concert in a small circle. Each of the original bands performs a short set of about three to four pieces, allowing everyone not only to get an impression of the respective musical style but also to connect faces and people with the instruments.
This is important because after the concert of all bands, the new Euro Rock
Bands are formed. This process always happens in a reciprocal manner, considering basic prerequisites and group interaction. Initially, drummers are assigned to specific rehearsal spaces. The distribution of musicians continues, much like recording tracks one after the other in the studio.
Bassists join the drummers, followed by guitarists and keyboardists, before the vocalists are distributed.
The formation of the new bands now takes place in collaboration between project leader Peter Bursch and all participants. Two principles guide the direction: the bands should include as many nationalities as possible, and all essential instruments should be filled. In addition, the preferences of the musicians are taken into account; some participants may have already identified other musicians at the small concert whose style inspires them, and with whom they would like to make music together.
After the interactive process, the bands for the project are crystallized. It becomes particularly creative when bands participate not in a traditional rock/pop lineup, but, for example, as a hip-hop ensemble with samplers and loopers, or when folkloric instruments are included. In such cases, instruments may be assigned new roles, or fewer bands than the original lineups may be formed with more instrumentalists, so that the entire frequency spectrum of a band is covered personnel-wise.
After the bands are formed, they move into their rehearsal rooms, which will be their workplaces during the working phase at Parkhaus Meiderich. Often, the new bands cannot resist jamming and playing together for the first time, even though the journeys may have been exhausting and the heavy amplifiers and drum kits had to be initially distributed to the rehearsal rooms.
Before heading to the accommodation where the bands are housed together in group rooms, many musicians have often played music together for the first time, setting the stage for the real start the next day.
The adventure of the enormous music flatshare begins, and the next few days are dedicated to music, collaboration, and exchange.

The premises...

The aforementioned parking garage in Duisburg Meiderich has repeatedly proven to be the perfect venue for all social and musical activities of Euro Rock in recent years. The space is large enough to provide a big concert hall with a lively atmosphere, sufficient rehearsal rooms, and a relaxing outdoor area, offering optimal conditions for the project's execution. The existing infrastructure makes daily life in the large group very pleasant. Lunch and dinner are taken together, and an official press reception, as well as a concert on-site, also take place. An engaged team from the parking garage ensures the smooth running of operations during the working phase. At night, participants stay at the Schwelgern Stadium in the north of Duisburg. Against a backdrop of classic industrial scenery, musicians are accommodated in various group rooms, where they can initiate acoustic jam sessions in the evenings and wind down together. Breakfast is served in the directly adjacent Schwelgern Café before heading to the parking garage for the workshop days with concert evenings. Also in the nearby vicinity is the G and G Musicshop, which has been supporting the project for years. Essential items such as amplifiers, vocal systems, and instruments for the working phase come from here. Participants can also purchase consumable items like drumheads or guitar strings at affordable prices. At this point, we would also like to mention other supporters and sponsors who have consistently supported the Euro Rock project for many years, enabling cultural exchange. While Sinalco, Rheinfels, and Duisburg Kontor contribute to refreshments, the traditional manufacturer Peavey supports us with musical equipment, the business enterprises contribute a vehicle for transportation and shuttle services, and the Faselstiftung, Haniel, and Connect Chemicals provide financial support.

The performance venues...

A diverse range of performance venues is chosen to offer participating bands a comprehensive range of experiences. Between small bar gigs, classic concerts in a 300-person venue, and large festival stages, all playing fields are covered. Festivals have been performed in Oberhausen and Nijmegen, and in the Netherlands, the quaint mustard mill and café 'De Ijsvogel' are another stop in the neighboring country. In Germany, the concerts are mainly held in the host city Duisburg. 'Zum Hübi' offers a special atmosphere both in the pub and in the open-air setting right on the banks of the Rhine in the Ruhrort district. 'Gleis 3' in Duisburg-Großenbaum has also accommodated us both in its own concert hall and outdoors. The parking garage itself, in addition to being a rehearsal center and workplace, is also a venue for live events. Musicians can present their song results directly at their creative accommodation, making it a very special event. Other venues include 'Steinbruch' and 'Bollwerk 107,' which is located nearby in Moers.

Equal footing process...

In the execution of the project, it is particularly noteworthy that hierarchies are kept flat. This is about genuine exchange on an equal footing. It is not only intended to happen among the participating bands, where musicians of very different levels and experiences encounter each other, but also with the instructors and all involved. Often, it's not just technical proficiency and the number of years that distinguish a musician. While these skills are important cornerstones and can be a possible direction for exchange; a young, inexperienced musician may learn something from the approach of an instrumentalist a few years older and pick up tips and tricks. However, the reverse is also possible. The experienced guitarist from Germany might notice how effortless and natural her less technically skilled colleague from the UK performs on stage and be inspired in turn. Through an ongoing dialogue, the entire heterogeneous group of participants is invited to connect. This is made possible, not least, by the fact that the team of instructors is very open and does not engage in ego battles or self-promotion. Naturally, the experiences of the 'old hands' should and can be sources of ideas, actively encouraging participants not only to ask questions directly but to get direct answers that often elude the living spaces of young musicians. What is it really like to make a living from music? How do you keep your bass strings lasting long during extensive touring? How do I keep my voice as a singer in shape when going on an open-air tour? How do you actually record your song ideas? And how do you find inspiration?

Intensive working phase...

At the end of a working phase, participants often use various words to summarize the just-passed days, and it's not uncommon for many tears to be shed during the big farewell. Some would like to just keep going, while others are looking forward to a break in their familiar surroundings. However, what is almost universal is the sense that it was intense! Even if many of the musicians were already deeply passionate about their craft and had invested a lot of heart into their instrument or band before Euro Rock, for almost all of them, it is an exceptional experience to devote several days entirely to making music, composing, and jamming together.

Flexible structure – balancing good organization and participatory flexibility...

How is such a large undertaking actually organized? Well, first of all, there is a significant organizational lead-up to make the actual flow of the workshop phase particularly 'smooth.' On one hand, there is the major responsibility of the host city, Duisburg. Accommodations for the arriving groups must be reserved. The guests, in turn, must have organized the transport of their musical equipment and, in some cases, visa applications. Furthermore, the locations and concert venues need to be secured, both within and around Duisburg, as well as any venues in England or France, where the 'grand finale' takes place. The performance dates structure the week, or up to 10 days, and guide the planning and actions. The mini-tour is carefully put together by the organizational team, creating a real 'we're on tour' feeling for the musicians. Open-air festivals are followed by small pub gigs and interspersed with small performances in trendy clubs, sometimes in neighboring cities or even the Netherlands. While the program remains flexible throughout the entire time, meal times serve as anchor points that allow everyone to come together in the daily routine. They also provide free time to take a break from the new compositions, and work often resumes with fresh energy immediately after the meal.

The Workshops ...

The timetables of the working phase mostly feature the label 'Workshop.' This term has two meanings. On one hand, the bands in their new formations are meant to devote themselves to composing and developing new ideas in their assigned rehearsal rooms, which is essentially the majority of the workshops. However, there are also workshops by the instructors on specific topics, some of which are fixed components every year but can also vary based on specific themes. Sometimes, workshops are even spontaneously organized within the week based on the participants' interests. Examples of fixed points include a workshop on the theme of 'Rhythm,' often vividly conducted as a 'Drum & Bass Workshop,' and vocal coaching. While the rhythm workshop is enriching for all musicians as it focuses on playing together in the band, the vocal workshop is open to all musicians and especially helps singers keep their voices in shape during the demanding period of composing and live gigs. Depending on interests, additional workshops may be spontaneously added, or the participating instructors may offer additional workshop sessions. For instance, if the participating musicians express a need for a separate electric guitar workshop, it can be incorporated. Or, if the bands are interested in good band photos, the presence of a professional photographer on the French team allows her to make workshop content available almost anytime. The instructor team is always capable of expanding the workshops based on direct reflection. Even if the music business interests the participants, corresponding workshops can be spontaneously organized by the instructors or through the Duisburg music network. The special aspect here is that each year, group dynamics shape these directions individually. The advantage is that the workflow remains flexible, with no rigid framework fixing the structures. Instead, the design stays open at all times for feedback from the bands and musicians.

Sustainable networking...

What is important in the working phase, where participants actively contribute and become doers, continues beyond that phase. Nowadays, with the advent of social media, it is even easier to stay in touch with others over long distances. Fortunately, as it has shown over the years, the digital realm is often used to prepare and shape actual encounters. The work becomes particularly fruitful when bands invite each other to their home cities and countries, keeping the exchange alive. Musicians also get to know a lot of 'personnel' from the music-related environment. With the bands, there are also supervisors who are musicians and creatives, some of whom are even more extensively connected in their scenes, benefiting all participating bands. Among the accompanying individuals from each country are bookers, studio owners, festival organizers, photographers, media designers, and concert planners. Not only can the young bands learn special tricks for their own structuring, but they are often directly booked for a festival in Russia, plan their next photoshoot with the French photographer, or can be directly engaged for a small concert series in the Netherlands. The adventure thus continues and has a lasting impact for many years. The resulting Euro Rock songs are professionally recorded at the end, so each band member can take home a tangible memory to cherish.

The team – The instructors, nationally and internationally...

Peter Bursch is not only a successful rock musician, guitar book author, and Germany's 'Guitar Teacher of the Nation,' but also the developer and inventor of various projects. Euro Rock also springs from his bubbling pool of creative ideas. Peter is a hands-on individual with a certain drive that easily inspires others. He has not only significantly shaped the Krautrock landscape with his band 'Bröselmaschine' but has also taught generations and many stars how to play the guitar in a simple way through his guitar books. Over the years, he has shared the stage with countless musicians and passionately leads the entire project. Peter is also the one who carefully takes care of assembling the team of instructors each year. The main organizer and networker for many years. Daniel Jungresponsible for coordinating the independent art and cultural scene at the Cultural Office Duisburg. Daniel is not only well-connected through this position but is also very active in the scene. As a rock DJ, he provides music for city events, hosts his own disco series called 'Melodic Rock Night,' which now has international regular guests, runs his own radio show featuring his favorite music, and enjoys singing in his own band in the rehearsal room. The versatile individual is currently working on his first novel and discusses films in his other radio format 'Das cineastische Quartett.' With years of experience as an editor for the Rock-It! Magazine and 'Duisburg intern' publications, he sees writing as an expression as much as music. Andreas Klees has been part of the team since 2012. He first encountered the project as a participant with two of his bands (The Bonny Situation, Thalamus) in 2004 and 2009. Peter and Daniel enlisted him directly for the project to leverage his firsthand experiences as a participant and share them. The multi-instrumentalist has played various music styles with different formations in recent years (from singer-songwriter to full-on metal), conducts songwriting workshops with young people, and has expanded his network positively through Euro Rock, allowing him to travel to Russia for small tours several times. In the rhythm workshop, he plays bass and serves as a contact person for all instrument groups and during the composition of new songs throughout the project.

The international team ...

The additional team of instructors consists of responsible members from the participating bands and selected individuals from the music scene. While the team may undergo slight changes over the years, there are also consistent contributors and many returning participants. Euro Rock has garnered significant support even from professional musicians, making it a project that resonates strongly. For several years, the renowned producer and film composer Micki Meuser has been responsible for recording the Euro Rock songs. Micki, who has accompanied artists like Ina Deta and Die Ärzte in their early days, has earned a prominent name and now composes music for various TV productions. Over the years, Euro Rock has welcomed esteemed vocal instructors, including David Readman (Pink Cream 69), Sylkie Monoff (from the Nashville scene), and Jaqueline Stürmer (Voice of Germany). Notable guitarists Victor Smolski and Elene Seagalova have conducted guitar workshops, while drum workshops were led by Jan Rohlfing (founder of Drummer’s Institute and Band-House) and Manni von Bohr (known as the German "Drumpapst"). In Portsmouth, the twinned city of Duisburg in England, the project has collaborated extensively with Vicky Halliday, who has a deep understanding of the local scene and contributes administrative knowledge about European funding opportunities. In France, Euro Rock partners with Relief Asso, an organization dedicated to promoting and organizing art and cultural projects. Angélique Lyleire, a member of Asso, manages social media and is a professional photographer who documents the entire project, particularly the concerts. Loic, a club owner in the Nord-pas-de-Calais region, brings technical expertise in sound. Representing Vilnius in Lithuania, Egle Gedminaite, a booker, provides valuable tips on self-promotion and applying to concert venues. In Russia, Euro Rock has a longstanding collaboration with Elena Novoselova, who organizes the Rock-Line rock festival in Perm, Duisburg's partner city, often inviting Euro Rock bands to perform

A Special Project with History and Future...

The over 25-year history of Euro Rock provides a spirited and positive outlook for the future. It is always a special joy when the exchange yields long-term results, allowing bands or individual musicians to establish themselves in the music business and maintain connections across borders, a feat that is often achieved. Especially in politically charged times, where there is currently a fearful tendency to look backward, it becomes increasingly important to sow reconciliatory thoughts and look toward the future with understanding. Euro Rock stands as a significant and relevant opportunity to defuse prejudices, bring people together, and empower personalities. For more information, please refer to the project's homepage, and on Facebook the latest updates can be found.