Some of the most vivid passages in “Playing for Their Lives” are the portraits of the formidably energetic and dedicated citizen artists we met during our travels, who are leading and shaping Sistema-inspired programs across the world. From time to time, this blog will feature one or another of these artists. So please meet Maria Majno…
who began as a musician, steeped in the traditions of Western classical art music and the culture of the European artistic intelligentsia. Her family home in Milan had a private theater where her uncle Guido founded an amateur orchestra; as a child, she completed her piano studies at the Milan Conservatoire along with a French classical education, and within “the Majno socially-oriented family musical texture,” as she puts it, she befriended a host of classical music figures. She married an American pianist, David Golub, and pursued graduate studies in musicological philosophy and the history of ideas. Her professional life has ranged widely, including both a sustained involvement in a foundation for child neurology and a long stint as artistic director of the “Società del Quartetto,” the oldest chamber music society in Italy.
On Christmas morning in 2008, Maria received a phone call from Claudio Abbado, with whom she had developed a trusted cooperation over many years. He was calling to ask her to help him start El Sistema in Italy. “After having received so much from music and musicians,” she told us, “it felt like high time to start giving back.” Indeed, her strength is in building organizations and recruiting teams; she heads Sistema Lombardia, a major player of Sistema in Italy, and is Vice President/Treasurer of Sistema Europe.
She has also led the way for others from her high-art world to support El Sistema in Italy. It was Maria who, thanks to the Hilti Foundation, cultivated the vital connections that brought the Sistema Europe Youth Orchestra to La Scala when the great orchestras of El Sistema Venezuela were in residence there in 2015. And it was Maria who reached out to Signora Giuseppina (“Pina”) Antognini when that Milanese lady lost her husband Francesco Pasquinelli, a prominent businessman and collector of modern art. Maria contacted Pina – just as Abbado had telephoned Maria – and said that Sistema Lombardia wished her to be on board.
“I have never made a big decision without my husband,” Pina told us, recalling that conversation, “and so I asked Francesco” – she pointed upward – “What about this El Sistema? Maria Majno wants us to support it. Should we? And I got a very clear message back. He said yes.”
— Tricia and Eric