Nestlé hosts Salzburg Festival roundtable on role of culture in creating social identity

Aug 13, 2011
Participants in the Nestlé roundtable at the Salzburg Festival 2011 ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS: L-r: Franz B. Humer, Ann Veneman, Catherine David, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and Markus Hinterhäuser.

Nestlé yesterday hosted its second roundtable event at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, discussing this year the role of culture and art in fostering social identity and peace.

Attended by leading figures from business, culture and the arts, as well as international media representatives, the roundtable took place during the world renowned annual music and drama event.

With a focus on the political and economic instability currently being seen in many countries around the world, the roundtable questioned whether cultural development can offer as strong a basis for social cohesion as economic progress.

Moderated by Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival, the roundtable's participants included Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestlé Chairman; Franz B. Humer, Chairman of Roche; and Markus Hinterhäuser, Artistic Director of the Salzburg Festival.

They were joined by Ann Veneman, Former Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Former United States Secretary of Agriculture; and Catherine David, arts curator and Former Artistic Director of the five yearly Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Nestlé Chairman DISCUSSING THE ISSUES: Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe makes a point during the second roundtable event hosted by the Company at the Salzburg Festival.

The panel began by discussing the impact of music projects such as the West-Eastern Divan youth orchestra, which consists of young musicians from countries across the Middle East.

The orchestra - founded in 1999 by Daniel Barenboim, an Argentine-Israeli conductor, and Edward Said, the late Palestinian-American academic - aims to promote understanding between young people from conflicting cultures on in the region.

Also discussed was El Sistema (The System), a project established by musician José Abreu in 1975 to encourage young Venezuelan people from disadvantaged backgrounds take part in classical music.

El Sistema is now a nationwide organisation involving around 300,000 young musicians and more than 100 youth orchestras, one of which - The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela - has played at the Salzburg Festival.

Markus Hinterhäuser said that society needed more of these projects and initiatives, which often were victims of governments' financial constraints.

He explained: "Giving more young people from different backgrounds access to classical music has a great influence on their social behaviour and is certainly a great stimulation for their lives."

Ms Veneman, who during her time at UNICEF was involved in many social projects in third-world countries, said: "I realised that arts such as music, dance or singing, are very important instruments to create awareness amongst local communities about issues that have an adverse effect on their lives, such as malnutriution, access to water or poor sanitation.

Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival MODERATOR: Helga Rabl-Stadler, President of the Salzburg Festival, put questions to the five panelists.

"If arts are used in a locally-adapted, sensitive and playful way, they can contribute to social wellbeing and potentially peace."

Examining what the idea of culture means for companies, Franz Humer pointed out that it was vital for organisations to preserve their company culture as an important source if identification for employees.

He said: "A company culture is born out of the roots, history and people of a company and needs to be linked to a common vision and ambition for the company as a whole."

Peter Brabeck noted that the respect of cultural differences within an organisation was an important element of corporate identity and said: "A company has to serve the needs of the population, not the needs of a government.

"As a company, we have to adapt to local requirements and values which can be very different if you compare countries such as Switzerland, China and the United States."

The roundtable followed the earlier announcement of the winner of the second annual Nestlé and the Salzburg Festival Young Conductor's Award.

Presented to 33-year-old Ainars Rubikis from Latvia, the Award marked Nestlé's 20 year support of the Salzburg Festival and its focus on encouraging young conducting talent to become part of the event's unique programme and tradition.

Related information
Salzburg Festival website

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