Report of the 21st EAS Conference – ISME European Regional Conference 2013
by Thomas De Baets & Lina Van Dooren
Conference theme: “The Reflective Music Teacher”
LUCA School of Arts, Campus Lemmens, 13-16 February 2013
The annual conference of the EAS aims to provide a stimulating venue for all those interested in music education. This year’s conference theme was ‘The Reflective Music Teacher’. The aim of the conference was to shed light upon the constantly changing role of the music teacher in music teaching and learning processes. The focus was mainly on general music education – on the reflective skills of music teachers and how to achieve high quality music education in classrooms and communities. Special attention was given to practitioners’ research and to the question of whether and when everyday reflection can be considered a form of research. This central focus has been discussed in the context of European diversity. The conference addressed music educators across a range of experiences, from classroom and community practitioners to student music teachers and researchers. The conference was at the same time the bi-annual ISME European Regional Conference. The conference was hosted by LUCA School of Arts, Campus Lemmensinstituut (Leuven, Belgium) in close cooperation with the Research Centre for Experiential Education at the KU Leuven – University of Leuven.
The programme of the main conference comprised practical workshops offering professional development and sharing of practice, symposia, research papers, reports of projects, events and initiatives, poster presentations, and forums for specific groups: e.g. EAS national coordinators, student teachers, doctoral students and national associations. Additionally, there was the EAS general meeting, resource exhibitions and numerous concerts.
The call for papers was launched at the beginning of May 2012. A flyer with information was distributed to various national and international conventions, and was digitally spread through a database of emails and through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. The closing date for the call for papers was October 15, 2012. Each submission was then peer reviewed by two members of the internationally composed scientific committee. In total, 131 papers were submitted of which 80 were accepted and scheduled in the programme. In total, 274 delegates and presenters from 36 different countries throughout Asia, Europe, and America attended the conference.
Prior to the main conference, a Student Forum and Doctoral Student Forum were organised. The theme of the 11th Student Forum in Leuven was ‘Reflective Practice in Music Education’. The Student Forum was led by Branka Rotar Pance (Ljubljana, SI) and Marina Gall (Bristol, UK). This years’ Doctoral Student Forum was led by Thade Buchborn (Berlin, DE) and Mary Stakelum (Reading, UK).
The conference was officially opened with a formal ceremony at the university’s Promotion Hall. The honorary patron of the conference, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, was requested to give a speech. However, due to a busy schedule he was unable to attend the opening ceremony. The music during the ceremony was performed by both the youth choir ‘Clari Cantus’ and the LUCA Brass Ensemble. Speeches were given by Adri de Vugt (The Hague, NL), president of EAS, Sarah Hennessy (Exeter, UK) representative for ISME, and Marc Erkens, head of the host institution. A short introduction to the theme of the conference was given by Prof Ferre Laevers, head of the Centre of Expertise for Experiential Education at KU Leuven. The ceremony ended with an official opening by the chair of the organising committee, Thomas De Baets (Leuven, BE). Afterwards, the participants were invited to a prestigious reception at the Town Hall in Leuven.
This year’s conference scheduled four keynote speakers in the programme: Tim Cain (Lancashire, UK), Geert Kelchtermans (Leuven, BE), Mark Reybrouck (Leuven, BE), and Anne Niessen (Köln, DE).
Dr Tim Cain addressed the necessity of practitioner research in music education and the knowledge it generates. With reference to practical examples, Cain discussed that it is possible for practitioners to undertake ethically-informed research into their own practice, in order to change and improve it.
Dr Geert Kelchtermans started his keynote with an interactive exercise with the audience in order to gather exemplary and concrete materials from the participants’ thoughts and practices in their own music education. Using these outcomes as illustrations, he articulated the key ideas of the narrative-biographical perspective on the professional learning processes of teachers throughout their career. The lecture thus aimed at providing a personal experience with autobiographical reflection and storytelling, as well as a theoretical and conceptual introduction in the field of narrative and biographical research on teacher development.
Dr Mark Reybrouck defines music as a temporal and sounding art, and points out the mental and physical interactions of the music learner with the sounds. He therefore refers to dealing with music as an active process of sense-making that stresses the importance of music as an experience in a real-time listening situation. Music education can raise the level of musical sense-making to higher levels of coping with the sounds. This contribution presented a framework that conceives of music learners as ‘adaptive devices’, who are able to adapt themselves at the level of perception, action and mental processing. In addition to this conceptual framework, this presentation provided some theoretical and empirical grounding concerning the ways music learners cope with music as a sounding environment.
Dr Anne Niessen opened with a short impression of how qualitative research can offer fascinating insights into peoples’ relationships to music. She illustrated this impression with a qualitative research project that is concerned with music teachers’ cogitation about their music lessons. She described these reflections as a learning process and this idea led her to the second topic of this keynote: the concept of research-based learning.