Cristina Pato, Galician bagpiper, performs in the "Tales From the Edges of Spain" Thursday program at the Musical Bridges Around the World's International Music Festival. Credit: Courtesy of Musical Bridges Around the World

The theme for the Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW) 7th annual International Music Festival on Wednesday is “Reflect. Reset. Revive.”

Suhail Arastu, advancement director for the nonprofit organization, said that the pandemic has presented particular challenges to musicians who would normally make their careers by traveling and interacting with other musicians and audiences the world over.

“The concept … is to look back on what we’ve learned, and then what we’ve done to survive, and now how we’re steeling ourselves and gearing up for the future, and what that’s going to look like in ‘Life 2.0,’” Arastu said.

Musical performances from past MBAW seasons will be interspersed with panel discussions among prominent arts leaders and musicians. The titles of the panels speak to the festival theme: “Arts in a Pandemic Era and Resilience and Vision for the Future,” and the emphatic “Survival and Revival!”

The “Resilience” panel at noon will include speakers Afa Dworkin, president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization, a noted promoter of diversity in classical music, and Sunil Iyengar, director of research and analysis for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The 1:30 p.m. panel will survey how artists have survived while essentially losing their livelihoods and how they plan to revive their careers. Sebastian Lang-Lessing, music director emeritus for the San Antonio Symphony, will address his experiences starting a website for teaching musicians, and Cristina Pato, identified as a Galician bagpiper and educator, will speak about a possible career change resulting from the pandemic.

“Very frankly, not all of the artists are in great places,” Arastu said. Of Pato, he said, “She’s having to reimagine her life.”

The afternoon panel “Stories with Superwomen” will explore motherhood during the pandemic, touching upon the “epic fails and successes of homeschooling, maintaining our careers and some semblance of sanity while sheltering in place,” according to the website description.

The festival will also address the kids those moms care for and help educate, with a brief talk on the MBAW “Musical Sprouts” education program, and a “Journey to Japan” performance that is part of the Kids to Concerts program. Thanks to online access, the performance will be shared with more than 200 participating schools, more students than MBAW has traditionally been able to reach, Arastu said.

Such hybrid programming has expanded the organization’s audience reach, Arastu said, and MBAW plans to continue combining virtual and live programs beyond the pandemic.

The musical segments will demonstrate the reach of the globally focused organization, with performers from Russia, Spain, China, Argentina, Belgium, India, Armenia, and Syria.

Videoconferencing technology will allow audiences a glimpse into the homes and studios of the artists for brief conversations, which Arastu said will humanize them in a way live performance generally does not.

“The audiences are now in the homes and studios of the artists themselves with the same situations that we have, whether it’s a dog barking in the background, or the dishwasher running with kids crying,” he said. “There’s a recognition that no matter how famous these artists are, they’re people just like we are and have struggled with the same challenges.”

Tickets for the one-day festival are free with registration. Programs begin at noon and run through 5 p.m.

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...