Interview with: Founder & CEO at BFM Valentino Barrioseta

Time to read: 9 minutes

Today we introduce you to Valentino Barrioseta, the Founder & CEO of Bridges For Music (BFM) a non-profit organization that works on building creative schools and creative education programmes in underserved communities in South Africa.

What is unique about BFM is that it combines three key beliefs; The learning journey always starts with the space that the students are in. To be work-ready you need concrete entrepreneurial skills. The community and mentorship elements are crucial to support students that lack role models.

So BFM builds advanced and inspiring schools of incredible infrastructure, both technologically and artistically. They combine personal development with practical skills within the music and creative industries in order to help students get access to a job space. Lastly, they have built a global community of people to serve as role models for the school’s students.

BFM is working hard towards scaling its very special and unique impact model to reach new places around the world.

Two classes graduating from the BFM Academy in South Africa

How do you describe what you do? What is unique about it / What makes you stand out?

We, at Bridges For Music, run innovative education programmes in South Africa in schools that we built ourselves. It’s the way we combine human development with creativity and tangible skills like entrepreneurial skills, that make our programmes unique. Our first school is up and running in Langa, a small township outside of Cape Town and it’s a fascinating space equipped with the latest technology and a lot of art. At BFM we approach education in a very playful and human-centered way and our impact approach is quite unique. The community around the project and the mentorship available to our students can truly support and accelerate their learning journey. The lack of access to these role models and mentors is one of the biggest issues for our students and the communities we work in.

What inspired you to go and do it?

I felt privileged. Having had a good life working in the music industry for most of my career, I was looking at how to give back. Travelling to South Africa and Brazil and visiting different communities, I realized that there’s always someone passionate about changing and uplifting the community through music. Unfortunately, a lot of times they do not have adequate resources or the know-how. So I thought of connecting these two worlds and together with other peers in the industry who were going through the same transformational journey, we created BFM to help these leaders realize their dreams. So building schools and deploying music and creativity-driven education programmes came about, paired with mindfulness and personal development opportunities.

Dizou Platjees uses the power of music and play, to heal and spark creativity and build a sense of belonging.
Music performance and Production at the BF Academy in Langa, SA

Describe a moment of huge inspiring breakthrough in your personal-professional evolution?

I think there’s been a few breakthroughs in my personal evolution. I first realised that my Ibiza lifestyle, working in a very big club, wasn’t how I wanted to live for the rest of my life. And then I believed music has the power to change the world but it can be drowned in shallowness too. Obviously, taking the leap of leaving a very secure, well-paid work to jump into the unknown was not easy. But realizing what are the important things in life for me and pushing to impact others positively was a breakthrough. I had to do something deeper and humane that is truly aligned with my values.

What is your current Mount Everest? What would you love to create in the world?

The ten years since starting Bridges For Music have felt a little like Mount Everest, to be honest. But my very current summit, let’s say, is scalability, sustainability, stability of the project, and depth of the project. Finding how to scale our impact model, to replicate that South African education model in new territories. We truly believe that our model of work is relevant in any cultural context. Also how to provide fair working conditions for everyone in the organization. How to make everyone feel they’re growing. Then there’s still an incredible amount of things that we can improve in terms of the impact we can have, and how deep we go with our students. So, there’s a lot of open fronts and there’s a lot of little Everests that I guess we’re climbing.

BFM Academy is up and running in Langa, a small township outside of Cape Town, South Africa

What is the most inspiring thing that happened to you as a result of iDiscover?

There was a moment when I was quite doubtful about the journey I was in with this non-profit. We were a bit stuck with the construction of our first school and a lot of fears kicked in. I doubted myself. The result of iDiscover was understanding that I was doing what I was actually meant to be doing. And that this was really aligned with my values. So I just had to push through. This gave me a lot of positivity, affirmation, and confidence, it was definitely really powerful for me.

BFM Academy in Langa, teaching Entrepreneurial Skills

What do iDiscover and its community mean to you?

I entered the iDiscover community after attending a Core programme. I find there’s a very natural and organic crossover with the BFM music community, with an overlap of people being part of both communities. So I naturally have a sense of being one big family with everyone. What makes the iDiscover community inspiring though, is that everyone has gone through the process of self-discovery. They are curious to grow and question one’s path in life to improve it. I’ve made a lot of friends through iDiscover. I’m very proud to be part of the community and see what it has achieved so far.

What is your most sacred daily ritual or performance hack that really works for you?

I have a few morning rituals that I try to follow as best as I can. Getting out on my bike, really clears my head and puts me in a super positive state of mind. Or I do some yoga stretches and then a little breathwork followed by meditation. I occasionally try to squeeze in some gratitude journaling. Trying to start the day with a positive mindset, I shift my focus from what is missing to what I actually have and what is working. Also, time in nature lifts my head when I’m a little bit stuck. Whether on the bike or hiking or whatever, I find it really helpful. Oh yeah, also, almond butter and toast! That does help me when I’m in a tricky space.

Your best adventure ever was?

Well, I’m going to pitch to the community to join our Africa Burn adventure. If you have been to a Burn, you know what it is all about, the culture and the ethos. But for the ones that don’t, Africa Burn is an incredible and super inspiring week in the Karu Desert in South Africa. In nature disconnected from technology, it’s really an amazing reset for everyone there. I feel extremely proud to invite the iDiscover community to experience the same one-in-a-lifetime experience..or many lifetime experiences. Who knows?!

Bridges for Music first workshop outside of South Africa with Diplo and Skrillex, working with kids from under-served backgrounds in Canada 

What is your favourite quote or a question you want to leave us with?

There is a common African saying that resonates a lot with me and says,

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

And that’s been kind of the foundation for everything we do. We truly believe in co-creation and in the power of community. We built BFM as a place to unite music lovers, artists, companies, and music stakeholders to create an impact.

But I would also like to leave you with some questions.

Where do you want to put most of your time, work and brain power into?

What is the thing that you feel is worth investing your energy and time in?

What is that thing that will fire you out of bed in the morning?

I hope the questions trigger some interesting thoughts and conversations.

You can check out Valentino’s inspiring work on the Bridges For Music website.