2015 – Rostock (DE)

Report of the 23rd EAS Conference / ISME European Regional Conference 2015

by Oliver Krämer

Conference theme: “Open Ears – Open Minds, Listening and Understanding Music”

Rostock University of Music and Drama, 25-28 March 2015

Looking back

When we started to make plans about two years ago, we came up with a very rough idea for a conference theme. We knew that the conference should focus on listening and understanding music. But, discussing it with others, we felt that we had to open up the theme and make it broader. That was the moment when the title came into play: Open Ears – Open Minds. And isn’t it that what we aim for in music education: A high sensitivity for all kinds of usual and unusual sounds and a highly open-minded attitude towards all kinds of music and cultural expressions?

But coming up with a conference theme is one thing. To find the presenters who really respond to it and come up with their own ideas is quite another thing. Therefore we were very happy when the first submissions came in. When we read all the abstracts, we realized that the idea of the conference filled more and more with life. From this moment on, we knew that the conference theme had really caught the interest of a lot of colleagues, not only in Europe but also beyond. 

Facts and Figures

In the end, we received 116 abstracts for the double-blind peer review. From these submissions, the internationally composed Scientific Committee finally accepted 67 lectures, 6 posters, and 11 workshops to be presented at the conference.

The 23rd EAS Conference was at the same time the 5th bi-annual ISME European Regional Conference and therefore attracted 177 delegates not only from 28 European countries but also from all parts of the world coming to the Hanseatic city of Rostock from as far as the USA and Canada, India, and Australia.

The main conference started on Wednesday, March 25. It was officially opened at 6 p.m. with a formal ceremony in the Barocksaal right in the city center. Welcome addresses were given by Susanne Winnacker (Rectress of the Rostock University of Music and Drama as the hosting institution, DE), by Lee Higgins (ISME president-elect, UK), Adri de Vugt (EAS president, NL), and Oliver Krämer (conference host, DE). As the conference organizer he gave a short introduction to the theme of the conference. The music during the opening ceremony was performed by the chamber choir “Vocalisti Rostochienses” and the vocal quartet “SonCéleste”. The following opening reception gave the opportunity for a first “getting to know each other” and laid the basis for the friendly and appreciative atmosphere of the following conference days.

Conference Exhibition

Prior to the conference, music teacher training students of the Rostock University of Music and Drama had designed an interactive exhibition that was closely related to the conference theme and was displayed in the cloister of the university building during the conference period.

During the previous academic term, as part of a preparatory seminar, they had dealt with fundamental issues such as acoustical, psychological, neurological and emotional aspects of listening, and special phenomena as synaesthesia, perfect pitch and tinnitus. They presented information on current issues such as music as torture, acoustic overstimulation of society and the longing for silence. They created posters and audio stations and there were also opportunities to join in, such as completing a questionnaire on your own listening habits, or special listening and perception tasks to carry out on the spot. During lunch breaks, students organized guided tours and led visitors through the exhibition.

The EAS Student Forum and EAS Doctoral Student Forum

Alongside the main conference, the 13th International EAS Student Forum was held from March 24-27 under the direction of Marina Gall (Bristol, UK) and Branka Rotar-Pance (Ljubljana, SI). The student forum brought together music education students from 12 European countries working on the conference theme, sharing ideas and inspiring each other with new ways of teaching music. Included in the student forum was a workshop prepared by the host students from Rostock: Various experiments with vocal and breathing sounds. as well as musical instruments, gave students many useful ideas of different musical activities that do not need particular technical skills and yet still provide opportunities to engage in collective music making.

Another new goal of the work of the student forum was to create a workshop for the delegates of the main EAS conference. On Friday, March 27, the last day of the student forum, the students led a rich, funny, inspiring and motivating conference workshop which included a wide range of musical activities from many different countries. The students and the conference delegates alike danced, acted, sang, and played rhythms, listened, improvised and enjoyed the beautiful moment where music, creativity and friendship connected.

The 5th EAS Doctoral Student Forum took place from March 24-26 and was led by Mary Stakelum (Reading, UK) and Thade Buchborn (Berlin, DE). The DSF attracted doctoral students from universities in Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the UK. They presented themselves to the main conference audience with a new format: a science slam right after the first keynote on Thursday morning. Later in the day a public poster presentation was held where the doctoral students showed their research findings in more detail and received valuable feedback on their work from the conference delegates.

School Visits

On Wednesday morning, prior to the main conference, delegates were offered the opportunity for school visits. Twenty participants took advantage of the chance to get an inside impression of German school life in three different schools. They participated in music lessons in a primary school for children with speech impediments, in a secondary school music class, and in an integrated comprehensive school where they learned about the concept of „Reformpädagogik“ (progressive education). The introduction by the teachers, the lessons themselves and the discussions which followed gave insight into current German music education, the schools’ atmosphere and the attitude of today’s students.

Keynotes

The idea was that the keynotes should address the conference theme from a slightly different perspective than that of school music. The three invited keynote speakers took on the task and gave insights from the related fields of musicology, music sociology and concert pedagogy.

Christian Thorau (Potsdam, DE) presented the first keynote lecture on Thursday morning. Based on paintings, drawings and photographs, he developed a lively historical overview of the art of music listening demonstrating its dependence on cultural and social context.

The second keynote by Renate Müller (Ludwigsburg, DE) was focused on young people’s musical commitment today. Based on a music video by Taylor Swift (Shake it off), Müller showed how young people deal with new media in a creative way (by reinterpreting the music or the visuals) to express themselves and to construct cultural meaning.

On the final day of the conference, Constanze Wimmer (Linz, AT) held her keynote and gave a fruitful insight into the will and work of concert pedagogy by presenting various practical examples from different countries and showing new ways in which listening to music in a concert context can be successfully initiated.

Concerts

During the conference days, the majority of Rostock’s music teacher training students were musically active in one of the various ensembles whose concerts and performances contributed to the overall success of the conference.

The university’s chamber choir concert on Thursday night and the Percussion Community lunchtime concert at Friday noon were both prominent musical events in the conference programme showing the stylistic range of music study in Rostock.

The experimental music group performed brief and surprising musical interventions after the keynotes using bottles, voice and water to create a variety of unusual sounds to listen to. The female vocal quartet “SonCéleste” as well as the male shanty choir “The Blowboys” had been especially founded for the conference and contributed their specific local sound colour to the wide musical horizon. The Rostock Brass Quintet and the dance music band “Why So Serious?” ensured a good party atmosphere at the conference dinner and the following hanseatic night.

Work of the EAS National Coordinators

24 from the total of currently 28 national coordinators, more than ever before, were present at the conference. They gathered prior to the main conference in a cooperative meeting, and later presented national characteristics of “Listening and Understanding Music” in a symposium within the main conference programme.

25th Anniversary of the EAS

During the conference dinner on Friday night a special event took place: EAS celebrated its 25th anniversary. A slideshow gathering impressions from 25 years of international cooperation, meetings and common activities was shown. Franz Niermann (former EAS president) painted a lively picture of the years since the foundation of the EAS in 1990 in Lübeck (Germany). A big birthday cake, extensive dancing and a fire show in the courtyard of the picturesque university building made a magnificent frame.

Board elections

A new board was elected during the general meeting on Thursday night. This time there were some major changes. Six members left the board: Sarah Hennessy, Ene Kangron, Nesrin Kalyoncu, Isolde Malmberg, Branka Rotar Pance and co-opted board member Jarka Jaroslava. After four years of presidency, Adri de Vugt stepped down.

The new board consists of Gerhard Sammer (president, DE), Thomas De Baets (vice-president, BE), Adri de Vugt (past-president, NL), Anna Houman (SE), Natassa Economidou Stavrou (CY), Mary Stakelum (UK) and Marina Gall (UK). Co-opted board members are: Lina van Dooren (SE), Ruta Girdzijauskiene (LT), Jone Girdijauskaite (LT) and Monika Oebelsberger (AT).

Note of Thanks

Thank you to our keynote speakers and all the presenters for sharing their ideas. There is so much to take back home and to think about, and that is what a conference should be about: a chance to step back from our professional routines, to get some distance, and to get new ideas and energy for the important work on music education that we are all part of.