Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional: Martin T:son Engstroem

December 6, 2022 | By Wynne Delacoma

Founder and Director
Verbier Festival

As a concert organizer, artist manager, A&R executive at Deutsche Grammophon, and consultant, Martin T:son Engstroem has worked with some of the world’s most famous classical musicians.

He has always kept an eye out, however, for young artists ready to launch professional careers. In 1994 he founded the Verbier Festival and Academy in Switzerland, which brings artists ages 13 to 30 together every year for two weeks of public concerts, master classes, and other events. When the Covid pandemic hit, the festival raised more than one million Swiss francs (approximately the same in U.S. dollars) to help more than 300 young artists survive the concert-hall shutdowns.

“I established the Verbier Festival as a networking platform for young musicians,” said Engstroem. “From the beginning, I’ve always thought every profession needs a network, like a young budding lawyer or doctor. We have 300 students every year, and I try to follow them at different stages in their careers. I try to keep in touch. Wherever I can help, I try to help.”

Help was crucial in March 2020. It was apparent the whole profession of traveling musicians had a problem,” he said. “Especially those between 18 and 25, those who had moved away from home, who had signed leases for an apartment, who had bought an instrument and needed to make monthly payments. We managed to help 300 musicians. Some we paid up to $10,000, others $1,000 – $1,500. That $1,500 went pretty far in Venezuela and some other countries. But elsewhere—in America, Switzerland—you needed more.

The Verbier Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary next summer. Despite worries about inflation, Covid, and the war in Ukraine, Engstroem is planning a full, vibrant season and a return to capacity audiences.

“We are probably spending more than we should,” he said with a rueful laugh. “We are pretending it will be a beautiful summer and people will show up.”

Photo: Fred Hatt




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