Archive for the ‘ISME conference’ Tag

Banner count = 5

The ISME Community Music Activity Commission Seminar in Hangzhou was adorned with banners. We were greeted with banners at the hotel entrance:


Above the Registration Table in the foyer:


As a backdrop to the presentation space, which resembled a press conference on the first morning, as dignity after dignity gave a concise, celebratory speech about the Seminar and its significance and importance (I am still to source a photo of that particular event – I was too gob-smacked to think to photograph it myself. the one below is from Day Three of the Commission Seminar):


At the Welcome Banquet that was put on for us at the end of the first day of proceedings. This banner was particularly mind boggling as it was absolutely enormous. Containing the seminar logo and the words ‘Welcome Banquet’, it was clearly a single use banner. It served as a backdrop to the array of performing ensembles that graced the stage throughout the banquet evening. Again, I was too overwhelmed to remember to take photos – I will add this one when I get an image from someone else.

 We paid a visit to the local Community College, an excursion that lasted all of 20 minutes, but there was a large banner welcoming us to this place too. That one was up very high:


Five banners! All for us – a group of about 40 delegates from around the world. It was extraordinary – but also a demonstration of respect and honour, I guess, and for that I think we were all quite humbled.

 Indeed, we were hosted with such great consideration and care by our hosts the Open University of China and the local community college. The hotel where we stayed and where the conference was held was five-star and grand. In the conference room, we were provided with endless bottles of mineral water, and “bottomless green tea” which the staff would pour for us at regular intervals. Even better, each seating place included a rolled-up, cool damp flannel. Morning and afternoon tea included fruit, cakes, juice, tea and coffee, and the Hotel Buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner included some freshly-cooked, on-request items.

 We were each met at the airport or railway station by a volunteer, and as mine explained to me, their role was to help us in whatever way we need. In my mind I began to push this idea along – were they like a personal assistant? Could I send young David (as he called himself in English) out to get a coffee for me? Probably not, but on the day of our excursion to the famed West Lake of Hangzhou, david came along and took me and some other companions on a different walking route around the lake, to the protestations of the main tour guide. And he helped me buy a silk scarf, bargaining the price down to half the original quoted price. I really appreciated his help and company – he was friendly and helpful, and very smart. Thank you David, if you are reading this.

 I’m sure we would all have been equally happy with less support if that had been what was offered (and as community musicians, that is probably what most of us are accustomed too!). But I loved that every trouble was taken to create a smoothly-flowing conference in which all our energy and attention could be turned to the papers and ideas themselves, because every other concern had been taken care of.

 Hangzhou is the main centre for silk production and garments in China, and each of us received a gift in our seminar showbags of a beautiful silk scarf. It was of very high quality – the fabric was soft and supple, the colours vibrant, and the edges hand-finished. This is how I wore it on the day of my presentation:

Creativity in education

‘Creativity’ is a buzz word – in a rapidly-changing world, those equipped with the creative, imaginative, and inventive skills are best placed to keep pace, adapt and thrive. That aside, my own work is focused on composition, and invention of new music by groups, so the question of creativity, and its place in education, is always of interest.

A Symposium I attended on the Wednesday of the ISME Bologna conference focused on current research into creativity in education, and presented viewpoints from four different countries.

The first speaker (from the US) started by looking at how the descriptor ‘creative’ can be interpreted in education contexts. We can have:

  • creative process – suggesting imaginative, unusual or surprising approaches to a task
  • creative product – suggesting an outcome that is particularly innovative; and
  • creative experience (for the audience/participant) – suggesting an experience that is particularly expressive, for example.

In music education (in many cultures, not only Western music education practices) ‘creativity’ offers challenges. Performance-based practice is typically focused on the existing repertoire, and long-held traditions. Outside expectations also tend to evaluate and judge according to this criteria. Other artforms are not as restricted as this.

The speaker went on to consider the kinds of ‘spaces’ we inhabit in music education, and contrasted a photo of a drab classroom filled with desks (taken in the 1950s by the looks of things – even in my primary school days classrooms were more welcoming than this) with an image of a vibrant concert hall, glossy, glamourous, shiny and luxurious.

(At this point I found myself taken aback, realising that to me, the classroom looked by far the more potentially ‘creative’ space of the two. Is this my experience of orchestras revealing itself? At the end of the presentations, others in the audience went on to make this point, highlighting that resources do not necessarily indicate greater creativity. The contrary can be, and is, often true).

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Inviting and listening to pupil voice

My Masters research project (on which I am about to embark) involves drawing from three students their perceptions of the music program I run at the Language School, so I had a particular interest at this conference in hearing from people whose research involved encouraging forth, and creating forums for, pupil voice.

I heard one person speak about her project which focused on getting children in a ‘gifted’ program to write and talk about their responses to music. There were some lovely, heartfelt comments that she shared, and it seemed like an interesting site for research. However…. I couldn’t quite see the point of the research, or what her research question was. Maybe it was simply, “What do the children think about music?” But I found the research, as she presented it, to be a bit limited in the way she described. Most of the audience, when it came time for questions, seemed far more interested in the research context of the gifted children’s class, than they were in the content of her research.

Later comment – I’d revise this assessment now. Just to know what students are thinking is valuable. Her students offered such reflective, personal, honest responses to her questions. They articulated their feelings about something as complex, ephemeral and personal as music. The research is valuable, I realise now, simply because it asks questions that we adults often forget to ask. We assume we know what children are thinking. Or we assume they are thinking the same as us. Or we are not concerned with what they are thinking! But the truth is that, unless we ask them, the inner worlds of children will be unknown to us, and we will be much the poorer for this. [Added 9 December 08]

I went to a very inspiring presentation by a Dr Finney, from the University of Cambridge. He presented a very compelling argument for the importance of including student voice in school decision-making, including the fact that the qualities we want to develop in young people, and see them equipped with for the future, can be developed through consultation and discussion with them. He described one particular project where this had been done.

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My own research project

As part of the ISME Policy Commission Seminar the week before the main conference began, I had the chance to present my own research – just a short description of what I am looking at, and I how I intend to do this.

This proved to be such a valuable opportunity. It led to later conversations with far more experienced researchers who had worked in, or had interest in, similar areas, and to invitations to write and present, once I have finished my Masters. I also got steered towards some useful literature – such as a book “Image-based Research” by Prosser.

As part of my preliminary studies last year I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my own teaching methodolology. You can read more about it here. I concluded that mine is a project-based approach, with all the learning embedded within the framework of a larger project. However, hearing presentations on the development of pedagogies for music of other cultures also showed me the way I have borrowed and learned from music pedagogies developed from other music styles.

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