The history of the EAS began in 1990 with the European Forum “Perspectives of Music Education in a new Europe”. This forum was held at the 18th Conference (“Bundesschulmusikwoche”) of the German Association of School Musicians (“Verband Deutscher Schulmusiker, VdS”) in Lübeck, Germany. The overall theme of the conference was “Within borders – Beyond Borders” (“In Grenzen – über Grenzen hinaus”). One main impulse for this conference, as well as for the creation of EAS, was the changed situation in Europe after the “turn”, i.e. after the end of the East-West divide in Europe.
Resolution of the European Association for Music in Schools (EAS)
The chair of the EAS Forum 1990 was Dieter Zimmerschied, who also became the first EAS president. Keynotes were presented by Karl Heinrich Ehrenforth (DE), Lech Kolago (PL) and Jonathan Stephens (UK). The “Resolution of the European Association for Music in Schools (EAS)”, approved in Lübeck, can be seen as the decisive document of the foundation of the EAS. This resolution, later taken as the “EAS Charta”, built the basis of the EAS policy for almost 20 years. In 2009 it was replaced by the current “Mission Statement” of the EAS, that was rewritten and approved in 2021.
In the first years the EAS existed as an informal forum, active mostly at conferences in different countries of Europe. The EAS gained formal status on 31st October 1996, by registering as a non-profit organisation in the official Belgian document “Belgisch Staatsblad/Le Moniteur Belge” under the number 023969 and with the name „EAS, ASSOCIATION EUROPEENNE POUR LA MUSIQUE A L’ECOLE – EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION FOR MUSIC IN SCHOOLS – EUROPÄISCHE ARBEITSGEMEINSCHAFT SCHULMUSIK“; the acronym “EAS” refers to the German name of the association. Since 1996, the EAS has had a formal statute, consisting of registered members, an annual general meeting with a president and an elected board.
Important impulses for increasing the impact of the EAS came from regularly published newsletters, firstly as a flyer of four pages, then as an 84 page printed booklet, presented in the three languages of the EAS: German, English and French.
First EAS website
In 1998 the first EAS website went online, and in 2005 it was relaunched with a new, professional design and structure which has since developed strongly and dynamically. The website is the crucial EAS medium for information and communication.
During the first years of the development of the EAS, the EAS board collaborated with a somewhat informal network of “contact people” in different European countries. From 2005 a stronger, more formalised mandatory system of “EAS National Coordinators” was established – a system that has become more and more important in relation to the activities and the effectiveness of the EAS.
EAS Conferences and Student Fora
At the centre of the EAS development were, and are, the annual EAS conferences, suspended only in 1999, 2002 and 2020, in those years the conferences, planned in Turkey, the Netherlands and Italy, had to be cancelled due to unfortunate circumstances. Usually the EAS conferences have around 300 participants; exceptionally, some editions involved almost 500 participants. From 2007 onwards, biannually, the EAS has organised its annual conference in cooperation with ISME as the “ISME European Regional Conference”.
The first EAS Students’ Forum with participants from the German speaking countries in 2001 took place in Toblach (South Tyrol, IT); since 2003, the EAS has organised an annual EAS Students’ Forum to coincide with the EAS conference. These Forums normally include about 30 participants from about 12-15 countries. In 2011, in Gdansk, a Doctoral Students’ Forum was organised for the first time.
Since 2004, with the help of the EU Network “meNet” (“Music Education Network, The European Network for Communication and Knowledge Management of Music Education”; programme SOKRATES/COMENIUS, formal project duration 2006-2009) the EAS has developed significantly as an important network for music educators, in terms of both content work and communicative activity. The EAS has taken the responsibility for the distribution and continued development of the meNet outcomes.
25 Year-old EAS, and Beyond
In 2015, the association celebrated its 25th anniversary at its annual conference, this time in Rostock (DE). Since the EAS had launched its own book series in 2012 (with publishing house Helbling), the association also compiled a book on the occasion of that 25th anniversary with the central theme of “International Cooperation” in music education.
In membership there appeared to be a need to bring members together around thematic clusters. Thus, the idea of Special Focus Groups (SFGs) was born. SFGs are working groups of EAS members with defined aims which have been agreed with the EAS board. There are, currently, already working groups active around the fields of practitioner research, digital technologies and singing (in music education).
In recent years there has been a strong increase in collaborations with other organisations. The cooperation with ISME has been strengthened, the cooperation with AEC and EMU has been intensified (a.o. through the start-up of the partnership “Steering Committee for the Harmonisation of European Music Education, SCHEME”) and there is joint work on the “Education and Access to Music” core objective of the “European Agenda for Music” (EMC). In addition, the EAS became a formal partner organisation of MusiQuE, an external evaluation body dedicated to the improvement of the quality of higher music education across Europe.
Unfortunately, the global COVID-19 pandemic also affected the EAS’s international work. The 2020 conference in Padova (IT) was forced to be cancelled. In 2021, for the first time, the EAS organised a 100% online conference from Freiburg im Breisgau (DE). In the same period, the EAS introduced the concept of “Regional Events” to support local meetings and also make the EAS locally visible to music education professionals.
On March 15th 2022, the EAS launches a new initiative, the first version of the “European Day of Music in Schools” (EuDaMus) created not only to promote music education in schools but also to connect the EAS’ international work with local music teachers and students in schools.