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by Karles Torra

Everything started in the Raval district, in a rather small ground-floor warehouse that had formerly served to store books. According to Lluís Cabrera, "the idea was to set up a workshop in the old style, one of those workshops where you registered as an apprentice and were trained to become a skilled worker". It was in the year 1979 and very few people had faith in the future of such an atypical music school which gathered into a small, rather uncomfortable space no less than three classrooms, one secretary and a bunch of students aged between twenty-five and thirty. "Now, only two decades later, - Cabrera, the master mind behind that almost miraculous success story, proudly points out - the submarine is finally afloat. Today, the "Taller de Músics" (Musicians' workshop) has grown into a thriving institution that occupies seven different locations; it now boasts a live music club and the average age of its six hundred students is about eighteen". What is the key factor to that success ? "Well, among other things, - Lluís Cabrera says - the fact that we started in that peculiar enclave in the Raval district which has allowed us to extend by renovating several ramshackle buildings situated on three confluent streets. Besides, the fact that the yard of the "Taller" is actually a public place, like calle Requesens, marks our relationship with the neighbourhood". It is indeed an "agora" in the old style, a meeting place within an area in which, not long ago, many people were still living on the margin of society.
At the time of the creation of the "Taller de Músics", nobody would have imagine that its peculiar Modern Music syllabus would one day appear as a valid alternative to any other course of study. "At that time - Lluís Cabrera recalls - the sole point of reference to create a music school curriculum was jazz. And, even though the prestigious Berklee School of Massachussets had proposed to us that we might like to copy its syllabus, we were quite aware that our general levels of knowledge and training were rather different. So, with the contribution of other music experts, principally the Chilean pianist Mario Lecaros and the Portuguese contrabassist Zé Eduardo, we worked out a method of our own, adapted to our more anarchic, Latin idiosyncrasies". At the present time, the "Taller" boasts a complete teaching body directed by Xavi Fort and formed by experts in pedagogic and musical subjects who devote themselves to the creation and constant renovation of study programmes and books. (...)
It you check the entertainments pages in the newspaper, you will notice that at least half of the musicians who are currently performing in jazz clubs in Barcelona have had some kind of contact with the "Taller de Músics". Feeding on its suburban roots, the school has grown into an inexhaustible nursery for musicians, and its sphere of influence keeps extending through an uninterrupted flow of breathtaking activities : music festivals, meetings and seminars, series of concerts, special events, disc production, assignments, publications, promotion work, etc... And the oddest thing is that, as Cabrera likes to point out, "Everything we organize is done at no cost to the Treasury, because the school is absolutely self-sufficient financially speaking". Uttering a sardonic chuckle, he adds : "We have a close relationship with the public institutions, but we don't sleep together". (...)
In 1992, the inauguration of the "Jazzsï" - a day club where people can have a drink or a bite, but that also serves as an open stage for live performances - was another milestone in the history of the "Taller de Músics". (...) According to Lluís Cabrera : "The "Jazzsí" club has marked a turning point in our development insofar as we now have a showcase for our school activities. It works as a permanent musical exhibition which embraces all genres and styles and where concerts are given every day : on Mondays, jam sessions and all kinds of musical improvisations; on Wednesdays, jazz; on Thursdays, cuban music; on Fridays, flamenco; and we also welcome rock music groups whose full blast performamces often make the audience raise the roof at weekends...". (...)