Musical Lunch Breaks: changing the Petri dish for a microphone

Between covers of well-known bands, their own songs and diverse musical styles, the residents of the PRBB showcase their musical skills in the second edition of the Musical Lunch Breaks.

There is a musician presenting a session of the Musical Lunch Breaks and the PRBB residents are sitting attending the event.

The second edition of Musical Lunch Breaks runs from 16 May with singer-songwriter PAVI to 30 June with the PRBB choir. Credits PRBB

It’s only 45 minutes a day and once a week, but time seems to stand still at the live music session, while sharing lunchtime in the inner square of the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (PRBB). Under the sun that heralds summer and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the Musical Lunch Breaks sessions take place on Thursdays from 13:30 to 14:15h between May and June, providing an opportunity for the PRBB community, especially researchers from the six institutes hosted by the Park, to showcase their musical talents in the language of their choice.

The person behind the idea

“I fell in love with this square and said: something has to be done here”. This is how the Musical Lunch Breaks project started in 2022, led by Gemma Antoja, who has been part of the PRBB team for three years as a receptionist on the main floor, And who, from July this year, will be working on the fourth floor for the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG).

Gemma Antoja, creator of the Musical Lunch Breaks project. Photo Stefany Hernández

“I proposed this around January last year, and we wanted to do it from June to July, but due to various issues it was delayed so much that we did the first cycle much later”, she says. Supported by the PRBB institutional relations head, Mònica Rodriguez, Gemma wanted to create a space where the researchers could have some leisure time outside the labs – as has already been done with other social activities in the park. Her main fear was to receive a negative response from the residents, as they tend to be very busy, the break times for everyone don’t always coincide, as well as other variables such as noise or low participation. However, the fear turned out to be unfounded.

“We want to offer an activity to make lunchtime a bit more fun and relaxed, and estimulate the community feelinkg. Although everything here is very flexible and the research never stops, so defining ‘lunchtime’ is not straightforward”

With the fililling of a form to be approved and the only requirement that at least one of the group members is a current PRBB resident, the first cycle, which took place between September and October 2022, was a great success. So much so that a second cycle is taking place between May and June this year. “I think the project is quite well received and my idea is that it will continue. I wouldn’t mind participating on a voluntary basis, whether it’s helping with contacts or whatever”, says Gemma, as she will soon be leaving her duties at the PRBB Consortium.

Music, more than a hobby

“Everything has been quite intuitive”, says the organiser, who has music very close to her heart. Indeed, through courses, masters and self-learning, Gemma changed her initial profession of interior designer to the world of psychology and business administration – and added dance and music as important pillars in her working life. In fact, Gemma is currently involved in five bands (RapportGem & the Taopaipais, Serendipity, Swingaling Family Band and Garlics), focusing on the rhythms of black music heritage: jazz, soul, blues, swing, among others.

As it could not be otherwise, Gemma will be present, together with her band Garlics, next 15th June in the second cycle of Musical Lunch Breaks. A cycle that will end with concerts by the orchestra and the PRBB choir, on 23 and 30 June, respectively.

A seed that is just germinating

“I am happy that as a result of this proposal new initiatives will emerge”, says Gemma, for whom the proposal of this musical space represents a newly sown seed. Only time will see its growth and its fruits if it is constantly nourished.

An example of Gemma’s dream is the band Quindileone, led by CRG researcher Iván Milenkovic. According to Gemma, the group was formed specifically to participate in the first cycle of Musical Lunch Breaks. To this day they are still going strong, performing covers and music in Italian, Serbian and English. Quindileone performed again on 8 June at the second cycle of Music Lunch Breaks.

The participation of the PRBB residents (both musicians and public) has been so positive that during the first cycle a pre-selection had to be made, and in this second cycle several bands wanted to repeat. With rhythms from Brazil or Italian folk, among other musical proposals such as singer-songwriters, marching bands and an endless number of languages and sounds, Gemma believes that this second Musical Lunch Breaks will not be the last, but just the beginning of an artistic showcase with a touch of science.

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