About isa

What began in 1991 as a masterclass for string players attended by 13 students has since grown into an event that is unique worldwide: a summertime campus in the Semmering/Rax region of the Vienna Alps that offers up to 250 highly gifted young musicians from more than 40 countries a diverse programme of master classes, workshops, lectures, events, and broad-based interdisciplinary projects each year.

Now in its 33rd year of existence, isa – the International Summer Academy of the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna encompasses around 50 different course offerings geared toward world-class young instrumentalists, singers, chamber musicians, and composers as well as the music mediation programme isaCommunity and the interdisciplinary international academic conference isaScience.

About the mdw

The mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna numbers among the world’s largest and most renowned universities specialised in music, theatre, and film. Over 3,000 students from more than 70 countries are currently being trained in 115 degree programmes encompassing music and other performing arts, science and research, and education. The mdw’s altogether 25 departments include the Max Reinhardt Seminar and Film Academy Vienna.

More on the mdw


isa, the International Summer Academy of the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna was founded in 1991 as an mdw initiative headed by Univ.-Prof. DDr. h.c. Michael Frischenschlager. It arose from the euphoria sparked by the fall of the Iron Curtain and aimed to facilitate musical encounters and build international relationships between exceptionally gifted young students hailing above all from Central and Eastern European countries.

Since its 15th edition (2005), isa’s current artistic director Univ.-Prof. Dr h.c. Johannes Meissl has been working consistently to develop isa into an undertaking that draws its identity from its mix of courses, highly diverse workshops, festival performances, academic reflection, and innovative interdisciplinary artistic projects as well as from the networks of friends that invariably form and grow. The mdw places particular importance on combining superlative artistic and organisational quality with social and intercultural community.

In collaboration with numerous international partner universities, isa’s diverse offerings featuring internationally renowned tutors provide its select group of participants with pivotal artistic impulses, comprehensive developmental opportunities, and a both unique and holistic creative experience


Since 1991 Master classes for solo strings (without double bass)

Since 1993 Master classes for string quartet

Since 1994 Master classes for solo winds and wind chamber music

Since 1995 Master classes in composition

Since 1998 Master classes for singers

Since 1999 Master classes for piano & chamber music with piano

2003–2010 Master classes in conducting

Since 2005 A diverse and constantly expanding range of supplementary workshops and lectures

Since 2006 Master classes for double bass

Since 2013 Development of the concert series isaFestival

Since 2013 isaScience – a forum for the scientific and scholarly community

2019 isaOperetta

2020 isaDigital


em. o. Univ.-Prof. DDr. h.c. Michael Frischenschlager

Since 2005:
Univ.-Prof. Dr. h.c. Johannes Meissl


It proved possible early on to involve the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (HAMU) and the Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music in Budapest as the main cooperating partners. Moreover, each annual edition of the International Summer Academy since then has also featured collaboration with a number of other leading universities of music from the CEE countries—namely those in Bratislava, Brno, Zagreb, Sofia, Bucharest, Ljubljana, Belgrade, Novi Sad, Sarajevo, Vilnius, and Kraków—as well as participation by renowned university-level institutions situated in London, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and elsewhere.


The International Summer Academy’s list of prominent present and past tutors includes the leading pedagogues of its partner universities and the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna—many of whom have been and continue to be active worldwide as artists, including in famous ensembles and orchestras such as the Alban Berg Quartet, the Amadeus Quartet, the Bartók Quartet, the Janáček Quartet, the Czech Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic, etc.

High-powered encounters with famous personalities such as Alfred Brendel, Carl Djerassi, Ivry Gitlis, Thomas Hampson, Daniel Harding, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Sharon Kam, Leonidas Kavakos, Gidon Kremer, György Kurtág, Heinrich Schiff, Krysztof Penderecki, Dora Schwarzberg, and Tabea Zimmermann underline the International Summer Academy’s superlative artistic standards.


In the past, isa participants have taken part successfully in major international competitions such as the ARD Competition (Munich), the Fritz Kreisler Competition (Vienna), the Menuhin Competition (Folkstone), the Osaka Chamber Music Competition, the Paganini Competition (Genoa), the Prague Spring Competition, and many more. Many artists who attended isa as students now pursue careers on the world’s concert stages or perform at opera houses and in major orchestras including the Budapest State Opera, the Sofia State Opera, the Czech National Theatre, the Vienna State Opera, the Zagreb State Opera, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Munich Philharmonic, the Wiener Symphoniker, the Czech Philharmonic, and others.