Report of the 20th EAS Conference 2012
by Adri de Vugt
Conference theme: “Craftsmanship and Artistry”
Royal Conservatoire, 13-16 February 2012
The Royal Conservatoire and the European Association for Music in Schools did organize in cooperation with some national associations the EAS2012 conference. The Dutch Association for Music Teachers (VLS), Network for generalists in Music Teacher Training (NMP), Network for Music Trainers at Conservatoires (NMP), Gehrels Music Education and the Fund for Cultural Participation did contribute to this conference.
The conference was held from 19 – 22 April at the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague. Approximately 275 delegates participate in the conference, amongst them 36 international students. Countries that were represented: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, United Kingdom, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Letland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Slowakia, Turkey, Sweden and Switserland.
Prior to the conference two studentsfora and a National Coordinators meeting took place.
The title of the conference was Craftsmanship and Artistry. The conference did focus on issues like artistry, musicality, craftsmanship, skills and knowledge and de question how nigh quality music education can be realized. The subthemes of the conference were the
The pupils’ musicianship, The teacher as musician and The musician as teacher. Some Dutch associations were involved in the program. There were symposia about the role of artistry and craftsmanship in Dutch school books for music, the role of both aspects in music teacher training and the qualifications of musicians who are involved in music education. Keynotes were given by Leo Samama, Sarah Hennessy and Folkert Haanstra.
The Dutch composer and musicologist Samama did state that we might ask ourselves what is most important for pupils: creation of the unknown or copying the known? He raised as well the question whether music education should be part of music history or any cultural heritage. And should a youngster be aware of the phenomenon culture? Answers to these elementary questions are closely related to our awareness that we are part of something larger than ourselves, of developments that have begun in times long gone. The history of music and the theory of music are linked to the ever changing views on the role and position of music in society. However, that all is the result of the past, of any past, but should not hinder fresh views on the future or even on today’s dealing with music and the arts in general. According Samama music education should be freed from historical concepts of education and/or of music itself. At the end of the day, all that counts is music as a means of expression. To teach laymen old and young to express themselves in sound (any sound and all sounds) is our goal and our mission.
In her keynote Closing the gap. The generalist teachers’ role in music education, Sarah Hennessy did explain that in many school systems in Europe and elsewhere, generalist teachers are employed to teach the whole curriculum to children in elementary schools. One might assume therefore that Music is included in their initial training and practice. However, we know that in practice the picture is far from clear and children’s music education in school can be alarmingly varied in quality, scope and quantity. In her keynote she examined some of the issues around this persistent problem, including questions about what we are trying to do in school based music education and perceptions of musical competence amongst generalists and those that train them.
The third keynote was given Folker Haanstra, a Dutch fine artist and professor in Arts Education. He did argue that school arts function within the institution of the school, but often are disconnected both from developments taking place in the professional arts and from the artistic activities that students themselves experience and engage in. The gap between school and ‘real life’ is an old problem and there is a tradition of educational reform movements that try to close the gap. Part of these movements are based on the learning principles of social constructivism. They consider learning as a situated and social activity, they propagate self-regulation of learning and learning in real-life environments. So-called authentic education is part of this social constructivist approach. The dual application of the word ‘authenticity’ both to the student’s own life (personally meaningful) and to the professional world (culturally meaningful) form the first two key components of authentic education. The two other key components of authentic learning are ‘complete and complex ’ assignment situations and cooperative communication. In his paper Haanstra did apply these four key components to arts education and artistic learning processes and he discussed their theoretical and empirical groundings. He also did address problems of authentic education and critiques that consider it as inefficient and neglectful of knowledge.
During the conference there were many concerts varying from Early Music to Jazz and performed by a variety of musicians of any kind. The conference did start with a performance by the Early Music Department. Next to music by a.o. Purcell, Fux and Corette, the main piece was The Adventures of Don Quixote de la Mancha by Telemann, performed as a puppetshow. On Friday afternoon there was a modern performance by T.I.M.E.-ensemble. T.I.M.E. means This Is Music-theatre Education, which is the Master’s course in music theatre at the Royal Conservatorium. These future theatre performers, actors and instrumentalists are creating an interdisciplinary performance with the Veenfabriek. The students have done research with a number of large corporations. And they have used the myth of King Midas – the man who turned everything he touched into gold – as a starting point to create their performance. Before the coffee break we enjoyed Grab-it! by Jacob ter Veldhuis, performed by percussionist Niek KleinJan. This music was appealing because it is modern in its own way: Ter Veldhuis mixes influences of minimal and pop music. He uses sound- and videobites to produce his so-called boomboxpieces. He uses not only footage of tv-preachers, famous politicians, inmates and soldiers but also of commercials. In this way he treats urgent subjects like corruption, war and the perfect body. During lunch an amazing performance was given by five and years olds playing on big drums and Bach on marimba. On Saturday evening the delegates were offered performances by the Young Talent department and a selection from the Case, a music-theatre performance of the Department Music Education of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague. The concept of The Case has been all these years more or less the same. Students are selecting, arranging and composing music. They practice and organize all rehearsals independently. They learn in consultation with professionals in producing, directing, sound and light engineering how to create a performance. This year the performance was based on Op Hoop Van Zegen(1900) a play by Herman Heijermans that tells the story about a typical Dutch fishing village. On Sunday morning a Youth Bigband gave a powerful concert at the closing ceremony. All these concerts did present artistry and craftsmanship in relation to education: varying from the storytelling with puppets to the messages concerned with modern society and performed by a variety of musicians, including children, youngsters and students.