The company is actively engaged with two major musical projects at its Ingolstadt site – the Audi Philharmonic Wind Orchestra, which has existed for more than half a century, and the Youth Choir Academy that was founded in 2007.
Now and then – Franz Happernagl can still well remember – the director came by, patted his musicians appreciatively on the shoulder and bought everyone a beer. They sat together in the dining hall after work, played marching music and waltzes, and were proud to be a part of it all. “I was a celebrity in the neighborhood because I played in the orchestra,” the musician recalls.
The discussion is about the 1960s, when having a factory band was considered good etiquette. This was also true at Auto Union, where the workers – with the encouragement of company executives – founded a wind orchestra in 1962. For Happernagl, an enthusiastic musician, it was a lucky turn of events. He has now been retired for many years, but he continues to play in the orchestra. His eyes gleam as he tells of the first public concert: “We were the only orchestra in Ingolstadt. The hall was so full that people were standing. Everyone was thrilled.” Impressions like these are never forgotten.
That was more than fifty years ago and since then, quite a lot has changed. Auto Union is now AUDI AG; where directors once reigned, the Board of Management now makes the decisions in international competition. So is there no longer a place for a factory band? On the contrary; nowadays there is a special rehearsal room, a professional conductor stands at the podium, and tuxedos are worn on stage. The plant orchestra even has a new name – Audi Philharmonic Wind Orchestra.
For Christian Lombardi it is a clear sign that Audi is expecting its employees to continue making music in the future. The native of Munich has been conductor in Ingolstadt since 2006 and has a lot of plans: “There is currently enormous change underway in symphonic wind orchestras. There are meanwhile many wonderful original compositions – challenging and modern while also being very entertaining music. We want to be a part of this development.”
But despite all this ambition, having fun is still a priority. After all, for everyone in the orchestra, music is a leisure activity. And for most of them, each rehearsal is preceded by a long day of work. But when the first notes are played, the daily constraints and hierarchies of the working world are pushed to the background, and the boss unceremoniously takes his spot in third position while his employee plays the solo part. That’s good for the overall harmony – both on the stage and behind the scenes. Whether young or old, experienced manager or young, new employee, development engineer or apprentice – good harmony is produced when everyone listens to each other; each individual is important for that.
This is also true for Happernagl, who can’t help feeling a bit wistful when he thinks back on the early years of marches and polkas. But the musician long ago became comfortable with the new pieces as well. “At the start it was a bit more difficult, but then it became really quite fun.” And despite all of the nostalgic memories, in the end they are outweighed by inquisitiveness and the joy of making music Happernagl has no intention of quitting.
Talent, love for music and willingness to work on the smallest musical detail with utmost dedication and perseverance – those are the factors that have made the Audi Youth Choir Academy so successful. The choir was founded by AUDI AG in 2007 in order to give enthusiastic young singers an opportunity to sing in a choir with a high artistic standard and to allow them to participate in the Audi Summer Concerts.
The choir celebrated its premiere in July 2008 with Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation.” Since then it has performed annually as part of the music festival in Ingolstadt. Under the artistic direction of Martin Steidler, Professor of Choir Directing at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich, the Audi Youth Choir Academy has quickly made a name for itself in the field of youth choirs. Today it cooperates with well-known artists at an international level.
Each concert represents the triumphant conclusion of an intensive phase of rehearsal. An experienced team of voice coaches and singing instructors set high pedagogical standards for interacting with the young singers. The focus is not on being able to offer fully trained singers a stage to show their abilities. The program is intentionally oriented toward “diamonds in the rough” and talent that is cultivated here comprehensively. The team functions as artistic advisers to the young singers, shows them vocal tricks and provides them with extensive professional training – for both their individual voices and in choir rehearsals.
Unlike the nationwide castings for short-lived pop starlets, continuity and circumspection in the development of musical skills is a top priority. This is already demonstrated during the auditions. Candidates who are not selected are not laughed at or humiliated as they are in the entertainment industry; they are given advice and suggestions to help them continue on with their musical ambitions. And those who just barely miss the mark are encouraged to continue their vocal training and come again next year. The selection of featured works is targeted to the participant’s level of vocal and musical development. The object is never to “burn” someone on the stage.
Even when small solos are possible – making music together, listening to each other and working together is the focus; this also teaches cooperation off the stage. The concept revolves around choir singing, not the training of soloists. Even so, the Youth Choir Academy helps the young singers find their own career path, as was the case for Virgil Mischok, who was one “diamond in the rough” who was a part of the choir from the start. The choir helped him discover how fulfilling singing could be, and today he is studying it in Munich. During the Youth Choir Academy’s trip to Asia in autumn 2012, he was invited to take on the solo part in Brahms’ “A German Requiem.”
This fulfills the public side of the mission: Audi initiated the project to add to cultural programs to public audiences, not to compete with what already exists. In this way, the Youth Choir Academy contributes to society’s musical future.