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Changing role of higher music education institutions analysed in new research project

A working group has set out the parameters of a major research project into the role of music and higher music education as a vital and contributory part of society.

A working group has set out the parameters of a major research project into the role of music and higher music education as a vital and contributory part of society.

Musicians as ‘Makers in Society’: A Conceptual Foundation for Contemporary Professional Higher Music Education was published in the journal, Frontiers in Psychology, and was initiated by The Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen (AEC). Seven music academics from across Europe co-authored the report, which calls for a ‘paradigm shift’ in the way higher music education institutions view their role in nurturing music professionals.

The report suggests that the traditional focus of instilling virtuosity in their students, conservatoires and music schools needs to be adapted to a world in which professional musicianship plays a more powerful social role in life.

‘We propose a conceptual foundation: the ‘musician as a maker in society’, in which developing vision as a musician in society, underpinned on the one hand by immersion in musical artistry and on the other hand sustained practical experience of connecting and engaging with communities, offers invaluable preparation for and transition into professional life,’ the report says.

‘For HME [Higher Music Education] to look toward sustaining and strengthening professional music practices in societies, attention must be paid to this paradigm shift, and to the interdependent relationships it highlights between a musician’s vision, craft and artistry, and engagement in and for society. Maintaining a dynamic flow between artistic craft and imagination on the one hand, and societal relevance and engagement on the other hand, is a central and growing challenge.’

Such change requires a substantial change to the way in which higher music education is taught, including curriculum design, modes of study, and pedagogies, to prepare students for a rapidly evolving environment, including portfolio careers, creative entrepreneurialism and diversification.

Many of these changes have already been recognised by different Higher Music Education institutions, broadening musical scope and recognising the importance of instilling good working practices and professionalism to enhance career prospects and the perceived societal value of music. But the report adds weight to these changes and may encourage progress among some of Europe’s most traditional conservatoires.

The findings feed into the overall mission of the AEC, which was established as a way of sharing ideas and data across Higher Music Education establishments right across Europe.

About AEC

AEC is a voluntary coalition, which works for the advancement of Higher Education in the performing arts, primarily focusing on music, and based on three pillars:

  • Pillar 1: Fostering the value of music and music education in society
  • Pillar 2: Enhancing quality in Higher Music Education
  • Pillar 3: Promoting participation, inclusiveness and diversity.

Based in Brussels, AEC has a council of 12 representatives from member institutions in 12 European countries and a General Assembly of all members. It works with numerous partner organisations around the world, some of which participated in the report.


The full research paper can be found here.

Header photo: Royal College of Music, London (Creative Commons)