Monday, 6 December 2010

Keynote address by Bruno Nettl (Beijing, 2010)


 Bruno Nettl


I am very honored to have been invited to speak to you, members of this distinguished and powerful society of educators. As you know, music education in the most specific sense is not my field, but I have been involved with ISME for some twenty years. I was invited at that time chair a committee whose task it was to "do something" about world music --  a concept perhaps newly discovered by this organization.  I learned much from lengthy deliberations with the members of this committee, and we didn't accomplish very much but we did craft a statement of a policy which the ISME board subsequently adopted. I included the recommendation that each system of music education ought to include three components -- the study of Western classical music, the study of local music traditions, and something of the music of the rest of the world.  This was accepted, although I think a number of Board members would have wished to privilege the Western art music tradition, which had always been the cornerstone of music education in the modern world. Just fifteen years later, I was approached by your then president Professor Gary McPherson, who said, "why did you include the requirement that Western art music be taught everywhere?" Clearly it as no longer the concept of world music that needed defending, but the old Western tradition. I told Gary, "we didn't think your board would every accept he inclusion of world music if we didn't  make clear our loyalty to the old canon." Today, that canon has become simply an option.-- I think.


So perhaps we can claim that ethnomusicology has finally "arrived," as a source of musical materials and of ideas about music and of ways of looking at the world's music.  But actually,  ideas that characterize ethnomusicology  have played important roles in music education for a long time. It's a history with an interesting narrative, but that's not my job here. Still, let me remind us -- restricting myself to the European and North American perspective from which I come, with the full realization that you, coming from all of the world's continents, could provide many parallels.


I would like to trace, and maybe to meditate upon, relationships between music education in the broad sense, and ethnomusicology.  In my abstract, I promised to look at several questions, and I ask your indulgence for revising them, but only slightly. I'd like to say a few words about questions of aesthetics as an impulse to both of our fields; the nature of the musical world; the importance of authenticity; the importance of music for understanding culture; what kind of people are we, and are we doing anyone any good?




I am not sure what music educators of the world have in common, but I would guess that one thing is this. They wish to impart to their students their belief that music is in some sense of the word beautiful. I won't get into the definition of beauty, but in some ways, musicking is -- along with everything else -- an aesthetic experience. Music is, in American terminology, fun, enjoyable, something to like, to love.  When I began studying ethnomusicology, my first experience was hearing music like this:




And the last thing I would have said about this is that I considered this music beautiful. That might have come later, and surely in various ways the people whose music this is consider it an aesthetic experience.  I'm not talking about intrinsic beauty. The point is that to ethnomusicologists, surely at that time, what was important about this music was that it represented a Native American culture, was important to its people, accomplished certain things for them, told us things about their world.   If my fellow-students, involved in Bach and Stravinsky, asked me whether I "liked" this music, I told them that this was the wrong question.  So if I undertook to play some of these recordings for school children, say, it was not to be able to say to them, "see how pretty this song is."  Ethnomusicologists had the task of showing that music was a serious business, that to most peoples in the world it went much farther than being simply something to enjoy.  Many music educators, at least in North America, tried to help their students enjoy the music of other cultures by making it more like their own -- adding harmony or piano accompaniment, simplifying rhythm, and so on.


I'm not sure what date to give you for the beginnings of ethnomusicology in Europe, to say nothing of how you would describe the ancestry of the world's various ethnomusicologies. But one of our culture heroes, Erich M. von Hornbostel, undertook to introduce the field in a published lecture in 1905, and said that its principal problems were the understanding of the origins and evolution of music,  and the understanding of the nature of musical beauty. I have often wondered how it was that most ethnomusicologists didn't seem to follow up on the "beauty" component. I think because they came to see aesthetic issues as culture-specific.




They would say, if you -- American or European -- don't like this piece of Australian aboriginal music, that's irrelevant. You don't understand their musical language. And if you do like it, that's also irrelevant -- you probably like it for the wrong reasons.


So it would seem that music educators and ethnomusicologists approached music from opposite perspectives. Well, my job here is to bring up when I can see the harmonious relationship of music education and ethnomusicology. Here's a point. In the last few decades, many ethnomusicologists have come to look at their music more as something they love than as something that informs them intellectually.  One of my colleagues, a man very involved with the anthropology of music, told me this when I asked him what it was that determined his area of interest. "It's always the music first; you have to be turned on by the music, then the other interests begin to accrue."  And indeed, the fact that increasingly, ethnomusicologists have turned to participation, to the study of performance, in their fieldwork leads them to feel about this music as their conservatory colleagues would feel about Chopin and Mozart.


But at the same time, I think that educators have come to realize that music can teach you a lot beyond nice sounds and how to appreciate them and how to make them.  Increasingly, they find that they learn about people through their music, that many of the world's peoples express the important things about their lives and their culture through music.  And so while ethnomusicologists have perhaps increasingly become humanists in their hearts, music educators have at least part of the time become anthropologists of music.




We -- music educators in the broad sense -- have come a long way. We no longer think that the ideal world would do away with all of the world's folk and popular musics, and live entirely on the great European classics. If I understand it correctly, ISME doesn't want EVERYBODY to know Bach and Beethoven.  I have a feeling that this is a fairly recent development. Let me tell you about my first experience with ISME.  In 1991 I had the honor of giving an address in Seoul, at a meeting at which Korean music -- indeed, a festival of Korean traditional, mostly classical music would be featured. My talk was titled "Ethnomusicology and the teaching of world music," an my point -- and much of the conversation at the meeting -- concerned the preservation and presentation of Authentic non-Western music to music students everywhere. The nature of the musical world at that meeting was a world consisting of a large number of discrete musics. The emphasis: Music may be universal to humankind, but contrary to the poet Longfellow, music is not THE universal LANGUAGE of mankind, but rather, a group of discrete languages, or perhaps better stated, systems of communication, each integrated and unified, and each of them must be learned.  And also, the general attitude was: There are these non-Western musics, but Western classical music is distinct and different.  I remember playing a tape cassette with 20 15-second examples to illustrate the world's musical diversity, and I was surprised to find some controversy, and finding a number of colleagues uncomfortable, when I put Bulgarian folk music, a Chinese work for San-shien, singing by the South African choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Persian music on the santour next to a Chopin etude. Let me recall some of these sounds for you.




That - the world of music as a distinct set of discrete musics --was a progressive view of world music at the time. I still think that in some ways it's helpful. But it actually isn't realistic, because the nature of the musical world now, certainly -- and maybe twenty years ago too -- is different.  I'm not sure just how one would quantify this kind of a statement, but it's my firm belief that the boundaries between musics are far more indistinct and fluid, and the integrity of each of the world's musics much less firm, than we believed.  I suspect it has always been so, but it's certainly a lot more that way now. I don't know if I can persuade you.  But: Is this music truly Native American, or Western, or a bit African-influenced?




Or, is this concerto, by Mozart, nicknamed the Turkish, simply Western music, or could it conceivably be considered, from a Turkish perspective, a work showing the reach of Turkish culture before 1800?




There's lots to be argued here; you may not agree with my implied interpretations. But the point I'm trying to make is that maybe today -- and actually probably for some time -- the world's NORMAL music is a cultural mix of some kind. All music bears influences from other cultures.


If you agree, what might this suggest to us as teachers of music at all levels? I shouldn't tell you what to do, but I have the feeling that much of the energy of music teaching (and I realize that this is an incredible generalization) has been devoted to the presentation of music as a major factor in ethnic, cultural, and national identity. In the United States, certainly, we have lately spent a lot of energy proving to ourselves that there is a distinct American music, a distinct American voice in music. My experience is limited, but I have a feeling that this has been the attitude of much music teaching elsewhere. Maybe we should emphasize the opposite perspective, that music is one of the domains of culture that established and expresses cultural relationships -- not because music is "the universal language" which everyone can understand, but because music expresses and interprets relationships among cultures and societies.   Am I talking here about HARMONY, the principal theme of this conference?


Curiously it is relatively recently that ethnomusicologists began to study, in the field, the ways different peoples teach and learn their musics. Today, it seems to me, that understanding the way a culture transmits itself, if I can put it that way, is really central to an understanding of the music. What is transmitted -- tunes, rhythms, the need to be consistent, or the need to always vary, the way pieces are broken up for teaching if they are, special exercises -- these are part of the essence of a music it seems to me.  Until the 1970s, most ethnomusicologists were satisfied with saying that people learned their music simply by rote.  Well, here's an area in which music educators, music education researchers. in their detailed study of how people in their own culture learn and teach, were, it seems to me, thoroughly ahead. Here's a bit of an exercise called Alankara, used by South Indian classical musicians for learning the discipline of music.




Well, in speaking like this, you may think that I have given up on concepts such as tradition and authenticity.  But I must tell you that what has turned me on to the study of ethnomusicology, which I began sixty years ago, has always been NOT the unity of world music and its universals, but rather the enormous diversity of musics of the world, their diverse sounds, and the diversity of ideas about the world. And so I have always toggled between a sense of science and objectivity, and a feeling that each society interprets the world in its own way. In American anthropology this used to be called the etic and emic interpretations. 


And so I see the nature of the musical world as dominated by the combination of cultures, as I've just said, but I also accept that each society may have its own conception of the musical world. Let me return to my first area of study, the music of Native American peoples.  To some peoples, such as the Havasupai of the Grand Canyon, the musical universe is vast. Music existed before there were humans; pre-human spirits san to each other but didn't speak. But it was also limited. All songs already existed in the cosmos, waiting to be discovered by human composers. The Blackfoot people, with whom I worked, saw music as something coming from supernatural sources, but without limit. Men ha visions in which spirits, usually animals, taught them new songs. Theoretically, a man might have unlimited numbers of visions, learn an unlimited number of songs. New songs could always be created; it's a view somewhat similar to the Western view of composition. But the Blackfoot people today see music as bifurcated -- Indian music and white music, the first mainly spiritual, and the second, mainly technical or even technological, difficult.


In modern American culture, as a further example, the musical universe is infinite. Any sound -- animal sounds, industrial noises, may be considered music if it appears in a musical social context such as a concert or on a recording labeled as music. On the other hand, in my time living in Iran, 35 years ago, I found that the question was complicated, as certain kinds of expression that sounded musical to me were not accepted as belonging to the term music but considered instead to belong to a concept, khandan, that means reading, reciting, and explicitly singing.


The point I'm trying to make is that each culture has its own conception of the musical universe. I've always found this wonderful, supporting my notion of the musical world as infinitely variable.  I am not sure whether music teachers in schools believe that this is a point worth making. I think it is not only significant that the world's musics sound different, but also that the world's societies have sometimes radically different ideas about music.  But of course we come upon a conflict of ideas here. Should we as educators emphasize the differences between musics, should we say that while we wish the world's peoples to live in harmony, in music, harmoniousness should mean the understanding of differences?  Or should we stick to the old notion of music, the universal language of humankind, and emphasize what they have in common? I mean educators in the conventional sense, and ethnomusicologists as educators. You can see that our two fields face similar issues.



                But there's also the issue of authenticity and tradition. When I was a student -- excuse me for referring always to those old times -- my teacher, George Herzog, a Hungarian very much influenced by Béla Bartók and Zoltón Kodály,  he wanted to be sure that his students of non-Western and folk musics understood the importance of authenticity. In studying African music, for example, he didn't want us to take much interest in popular music because it combined older African traditions with Western instruments; and because African rhythms were being simplified to be more compatible with Western rhythmic practices. He told us that Bartók was interested making sure that people -- in Hungary and elsewhere -- didn't think that the music of Hungarian Roma was the "true" Hungarian folk music, and that the music in the categories he called "old" and "new" style were the truly authentic. Here's an example of the "Old" style




Partly, this notion of authenticity takes us back to the consideration of the world of music as a group of discrete musics. But it wasn't only ethnomusicologists who cared so much about authenticity, about collecting and preserving music that was truly THE music of a particular society.  For example others interested in folk music -- organizers of festivals, urban folk musicians - felt they had a major stake in this process. Indeed, when I was a student I had the opportunity of taking courses in the discipline of folklore, then only getting started in USA, and one of the issues being constantly debated was this authenticity. Is a particular piece of folklore truly authentic? How can one tell? Must it be in oral tradition? How old does it have to be at a minimum? Can people in modern society create authentic folklore?


By now we consider it an insoluble question, a moot issue. Folklore and folk music are not intrinsically different from other literature or music. The fact that it usually exists in oral tradition makes it simply like the vast majority of the world's music. And that brings me to another area related to this issue of authenticity: the intrinsic difference between notated music and music in oral tradition.  Maybe this is an issue in which ethnomusicologists and music educators are not quite so comfortable with each other. (You'll have to tell me.)


Here's my point: I hope I have my facts right. Music educators in Europe, in the Western hemisphere, and I think everywhere else, consider it quite important for their students to learn European musical notation. I think they pay far less attention to the ability to learn music by hearing it, by oral tradition.  But if, as I've just said, an important finding of ethnomusicology is that the normal way to learn music in the world is by hearing it, then shouldn't we who are trying to teach music as a universal value be most concerned with this?  Ah, but you will say, very correctly: Western notation works very well, so why shouldn't everyone have access to this marvelous technology? (That's what it is, after all.) But an intrinsic quality of European and American folk music is its fluidity, its variability, derive from its aural existence, that's something important that may go away when we depend entirely on written scores. And another example: If Native Americans of the Plains believe that one learns a song in one hearing, shouldn't we try to get our students to do this, or at least to appreciate it, if this music enters a classroom? I'm sure you all can think of parallel examples in any of the world's cultures.


What I come to is that in expanding the musical horizon of students -- and I don't mean only young children -- we ought to go beyond finding efficient ways of imparting and internalizing the sound of the music, the notes, if you will, and include an understanding of concepts intrinsic to it -- concepts such as oral transmission, or of the existence of a song in many variants.  The most obvious thing that comes to mind is variants of European folk songs. So instead, let me give you the beginning of variants of a South Indian song by the great composer Tyagaraja, "Sarasasamadana," performed by my teacher S. Ramanathan on vina, by the singer M. S. Mani, an then by the vina player S Balachander.


13-15) SARASASAMADANA - S. Ramanathan, M. S. Mani, S. Balachander.


The fact that everyone has his own version is part of the authenticity of the song.  But of course, while in my student days, there was a lot of emphasis on authenticity, today ethnomusicologists pay far less attention to it, often seeing it as a useless obsolete idea. To a large extent, I have to agree. I've already pointed out that the world of music today consists to a large extent of music that has multicultural sources. The idea that there is a pure Czech folk music, a pure Navajo Indian music, a pure Carnatic music in Southern India, those notions are imaginary. So does the concept of authenticity still have relevance?


Let me suggest two ways both perhaps coming from the fourth question in my outline: the uses of music for understanding culture.



The first goes back to a prominent 29th-century definition of culture, by the English scholar Edward B. Tylor. Culture is "that complex whole, including knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other habits or capacities acquired by man as a member of society." Let me restate it in a slightly more modern way: Culture is the ways in which they learn the ways of interpreting the world, and the rules for behavior, from people in whose company they are raised and live. Note please, Tylor included art, and I see it as one way in which people interpret their world. Quite specifically, the concept of culture is tied to that of society. Each society has its own culture, its own arts, its own music.  People in a society have definite conceptions of what rules govern your behavior towards your relatives and what songs, and what musical styles, belong to them, and they can identify others that they also know but do not claim. Even in large, complex societies, these kinds of boundaries exist.  But in the modern world, you learn not only your own culture, but also others, and music is an important way of defining your own culture, and also of apprehending the culture of another society. An by society I don't mean only nations or groups of people defined by a language, but also groups of people defined by social class, occupation, religion, and quite importantly, age. If you wish to comprehend the culture of your teenage children, you may perhaps do it best by understanding the music in their lives.


That's rather obvious to music teachers, I think. Ethnomusicologists have only recently come to appreciate the importance of culture groups -- societies -- that live next to each other in urban societies: minorities of all sorts, the people of diasporas, artistic elites, youth, old age, you get my drift.


But who is entitled to define what actually belongs to the culture of a people? To the music of a people?  I've got to tell you an experience that I had had to remember for decades. I was in Iran, studying Persian classical music by taking lessons and getting also theoretical instruction from a great , master, Dr. Nour-Ai Boroumand.  Music like this next short example.




At one point he said to me, "You know, Dr. Nettl, you will never understand this music."  I thought he was hiding me for not practicing enough, but he said, I'll summarize, "You may be able to analyze it and tell us about motifs and developments and structures, but there are things that every workman washing the windows of this building understands that will always elude you."  He was outlining for me my limitations as an outsider.


Ethnomusicologists traditionally have been the students of music from the outsider's perspective.  I think they have usually been responsible people, intellectually and politically, but one did sometimes get into curious discussions, as when a Native singer sang -- perhaps recorded - a song in good faith to find himself or herself corrected by the fieldworker, "that's not a proper song of your people."  I have to confess, Western ethnomusicologists have sometimes acted out the political aspirations of their governments, considering that the investigation of non-Western and rural societies was their proper study.  Gradually, the musicians of their host societies began to say things like, why don't we undertake these studies ourselves, after all, this is the music that belongs to us; and we understand it better than you ever will.  Well, to be sure, the nations of the world have begun to produce ethnomusicologists who mainly study the local music. Actually, the idea of emphasizing one's own nation is a widespread established custom. A little over 20 years ago, at a conference of scholars from the USA and the former Soviet Union, we noted the contrast: All of the Americans had done fieldwork in Africa, Latin America, Asia. All of the Soviet scholars had worked in their own republics.  But probably as outsiders as I remember at another time, hearing Professor Oskar Elschek, a Slovak scholar who had spent his life collecting folk songs in Slovakia, telling us: "Yes, it's my own country, but in those villagers, I am always an outsider, a cultural outsider from the big city.


So is it best for us to stick to our own backyards? Well, we ought certainly to encourage the scholars in all nations, and no matter here we are from, we ought to share whatever knowledge and techniques we have. And speaking now as an educator, we ought to encourage the performance and development and understanding of the indigenous music of all nations.  But we had better not give up reaching across borders.


The discipline now called ethnomusicology was at one time named "comparative musicology." Not because we spent our time making comparisons to determine who had the best music, or for that matter comparison at all. "Comparative" was a code word for inter-cultural, or multi-cultural, or "from a universal perspective." The term was abandoned, partly for political reasons, and partly because gradually the study of music in culture, the ideas about music and the uses and functions of music in each society, began to predominate over the interest in transcription and analysis of the music.


But I think it would be a mistake to give up studying the music of the "other." As scholars, a balance of the insider's and outsider's perspectives gives us the most balanced picture of the world's musics. As citizens of the world, we know that musical experiences, musical exchanges, have often been n the vanguard of intercultural understanding.  Here in China I don't have to give you examples. At a level of smaller populations, many Native American tribes, originally quite disparate cultures, have been drawn into a united American Indian movement in part by the development of intertribal secular ceremonies known as powwows.



                My abstract promised that I would now comment on the issue of musical change, and the role of music as an expression of society and individual, but I've touched on these matters and to close, should say a word about us as ethnomusicologists, because I continue to think that part of my job here is to say something to you about how the minds of ethnomusicologists work. I have to ask, what kind of people are we? And are we doing anyone any good?  It's probably a question that music educators also ask themselves from time to time.


Conversations I've had with people in other walks of life often begin, "what are you trying to learn?" and end with "are you doing anyone any good?" I've touched on some of the things we're trying to learn. But what good are we -- ethnomusicologists -- doing?  I could make a list of activities and accomplishments. We now have something recognized as applied ethnomusicology, which tries to use the findings of our field to help issues of poverty, conflict, medical; issues, and much else. Ethnomusicologists have helped musicians in many cultures to improve their lot, creating concert, tours, teaching institutions. In all of this, to be sure, they have had to violate a basic tenet of field research: Do everything you can to avoid disturbing the life of your hosts; don't impose yourself on musical and social life. Of course, that's impossible in the end. My late colleague Alan Merriam, in revisiting the village in Rwanda in which he had studied fourteen years earlier, to learn about the recent history of those people's music. It turned out that to those villagers, the most important event in their music history had been Merriam's visit.


On the question, "are you doing anyone any good,?" Well, I guess the production of knowledge is itself a good thing, people can do with it what they wish. Hopefully, music educators have been able to use what ethnomusicologists have learned in developing their own field. In my opinion, ethnomusicologists have also developed a beneficial political attitude. It is well stated by Helen Myers in her compendium, "Ethnomusicology; an Introduction", who defines ethnomusicologists as the Great egalitarians of musicology. She says, "On the one hand, each scholar is eager to defend the music of his or her own people -- the people he or she has studied -- as special and unique; on the other hand, no ethnomusicologist will rank the music of his culture over that of his colleague's." And so while the music with which I identify myself most -- European classical music of the 18th and 19th centuries, especially Czech music -- and while I've come enormously to admire the songs of Native Americans, and the classical music of Iran and South India, I cannot claim that they intrinsically, or aesthetically, or morally superior to the art and folk musics of the many nations of Asia and Africa.


Some music educators -- I'm particularly acquainted with the work of Patricia Campbell , Barbara Lundquist, and Huib Schippers -- have looked at their own activities through an ethnomusicological lens.  I think that of the various disciplines in the musical academy, music education and ethnomusicology have had a special relationship. Joint committees, joint sessions, common approaches such as the "hands on" way of imparting musical knowledge, and lots more. We have learned a lot from each other; and we have a lot more to learn.

Friday, 3 December 2010

2012 World conference flyer

Dear all, I hope you are fine! Please find attached for your information the triptych flyer and the poster for the ISME 2012 conference.
You are kindly requested to forward those to whomever you think would be interested.
Best wishes to all of you and Happy Christmas vacation soon!
Dr Polyvios Androutsos
Music Education Specialist/Instructor
Faculty of Training Teachers for Nursery Schools,

Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki, Greece

Honorary President, GSME
Chair, ISME 2012 World Conference

Email: <>  

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Good news

All Individual Members will receive the IJME included as part of their membership!

In January 2011, renewals for ALL ISME Individual Memberships will be sent for the calendar years 2011 and 2012. In future all memberships will be calendar years for everyone. This enables us to be much more efficient and to serve you better.

If your existing membership overlaps, you will not overcharged. We will reduce your new membership fee according to the remaining duration of your current membership.

What changes do you get for the new two-year ISME Membership?

  • Eight copies of IJME (International Journal of Music Education) (four per annum) published by SAGE Publications. Separate IJME subscriptions will not be available from ISME.
  • Online access for all ISME Individual Members to IJME for the first time.
  • Four editions of the ISME Newsletter (two per year) plus the monthly electronic Postcards.
  • The latest information on events around the world, in particular the ISME World and Regional Conferences.
  • Online access to resources for members is also being developed.

Please note:
-Student Memberships are available to full time students, up to a maximum of four years. Fees for students are deliberately low to encourage participation in ISME and cover only the cost of receiving the IJME. Encourage your students to take advantage of this opportunity.
-Low HDI categories are not well represented in ISME. It is hoped that by subsidizing their fees more people from these countries will be able to join.

Be a part of this unique organization! You cannot afford not to be!

ISME 2012 world conference: Why attend?

Reasons for attending an ISME conference


  • You will meet music educators from nearly 90 countries

Energize yourself

  • World renowned speakers will stretch your thinking in new directions

Professional growth

  • A host of presentations are offered in various styles: roundtables, symposia, lectures, workshops, demonstrations, posters

Communication and sharing

  • You will meet international colleagues who are eager to communicate and share ideas between conferences


  • You will meet international colleagues who are always willing to offer assistance between conferences, but there will also be those eager to connect with you and seek your assistance


  • Explore the wide variety of opportunities that ISME offers for you to be a conference presenter, performer or leader of a performing group. Mentors are available who will assist you to polish your submissions, as required

Musical experiences

  • Enjoy concerts by performers from all over the world, and from the host country and region

Earn credits

  • Many institutions offer recognition and academic credit for ISME conference attendance. Some institutions may provide financial assistance. ISME will always supply you with any letters/documentation to assist in this regard

Exhibition/Trade Show

  • Browse through local, regional and international exhibits that are showcased for display and for sale


  • ISME conferences move around the world, thus offering an opportunity to combine your music educational and personal interests


  • An ISME Conference promises to renew both your professional knowledge and expertise and your contacts with former and new colleagues from around the world

ISME 2012 world conference: Patrons, Sponsors, Promoters

Support ISME

Every two years ISME mounts a major world conference in a different location, geographically positioned and rotated so as to best reflect the society's multi-cultural membership around the globe. These prestigious conferences offer excellent opportunities for philanthropists and caring corporate donors to gain international recognition for demonstrating the value they place on support for the arts and balanced education in the one art form that can help achieve world peace and bring benefit and pleasure to all, lifelong.

The major opportunities and categories, with their associated benefits can be requested by emailing the ISME International Office.

ISME further gladly considers and welcomes other forms and levels of support not listed here (such as receptions, conference bags, keynote speakers).


Sponsorships do not only have to be related to conference activities, but any ongoing support for music education across the globe will also be highly welcomed.

Proposals and sponsorship perks may also be individually negotiated. ISME welcomes ALL friends and supporters of music education!

Please contact Judy Thönell, the Secretary General, at the ISME International Office on, to negotiate sponsorship opportunities.

Current Sponsors

We are grateful to the following sponsors for their generous support to ISME:

  • National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM)
  • Society for Education and Music Psychology Research (SEMPRE)

ISME 2012 world conference, Thessaloniki, Greece


February, 2011

  • Call for General Session presentations.
  • Call for Performing Group applications.

30 August, 2011

  • Last day for Performing Group applications

1 October, 2011

  • Deadline of General Session applications

15 October, 2011

  • Performing Groups notified of acceptance

1 November, 2011

  • Deadline for applications to the ISME Commissions' Seminars
  • Main conference registrations to open


29 February, 2012

  • General Session applicants notified of acceptance

1 March, 2012

  • Last day for presenter registrations

15 March, 2012

  • Last day for first early bird registration

31 March, 2012

  • Full Paper authors notified about proceedings

15 May, 2012

  • Last day for second early bird registration

Welcome message from the Chair of the 2012 Conference Organizing Group (COG)

Dear friends and colleagues from all over the world!

It is a great pleasure, a privilege, an honour, as well as a huge challenge for me to greet you from the position of the Chair of the next ISME World Conference!

On behalf of the Conference Organizing Group (COG) and the host organizer the Greek Society for Music Education (G.S.M.E.), I would like to extend my warmest invitation to all of you to the 30th ISME World Conference that will take place in Thessaloniki, Greece, July 15-20, 2012. As our Chinese colleagues very well used the metaphor earlier, we will now transfer –through the paths of the silk road- the flame of the Music Education Olympics back to Greece!

Greece is an ancient civilization with thousands of years of music history. We have a long tradition of sharing and exchanging our music and culture with different nations. The city of Thessaloniki, in which the 30th ISME World Conference will be held, is the capital city of northern Greece. Archeological findings show that people lived in the area since the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. So, Thessaloniki was built on the remains of an older city. It was founded in 316 BC by Kassandros, who gave to the city the name of his wife Thessaloniki, the sister of Alexander the Great and has been a crossroads of cultures and civilizations since then. The city's atmosphere is a fusion of Greek, Balkan and Southeastern European influences that co-exist harmoniously, creating a multicultural and cosmopolitan environment, where visitors from all over the world feel comfortable and welcome.

Our Conference Theme: Music Pædeia: From Ancient Greek Philosophers Toward Global Music Communities, links today with Ancient Greece and will give a great opportunity to everyone to be expressed in their own, distinctive way, by also connecting the past with the present and the future. The host and local organizer of the 2012 ISME World Conference, the Greek Society for Music Education, was founded in March 1997. It is a non-profit, scientific organization, with the main purpose of promoting music education and of developing it further as a field of scientific enquiry. G.S.M.E. collaborates with other societies that work on the same purpose in Europe and in the other continents and has been closely working with ISME from the beginnings as an ISME National Affiliated Organization since 1998. Our Society organizes workshops, seminars, lectures and conferences and publishes books, journals, and newsletters.

The Thessaloniki Concert Hall where the conference will take place, with its two buildings, is the ideal venue for an ISME Conference. It is one of the most advanced concert venues in Europe and a Convention and Congress centre, with facilities that can host large international conventions, cultural and scientific events as well as exhibitions. GSME have had a fantastic collaboration with the Thessaloniki Concert Hall while organizing there the 5th G.S.M.E. Conference in 2007.

Most of the members of the 2012 Conference Organizing Group have participated in organizing many different G.S.M.E. events: seminars, concerts, workshops and conferences and constitute an experienced, hard-working team of organizers. I have been working with this team for years and I can promise that we will all give our best selves in organizing this huge event too!

Organizing the 30th ISME World Conference is one more of the ways that GSME is serving the vision of supporting quality music education for all. It is an honourable and glorious mission and we wish also to give to everyone the opportunity and any possible help to explore the Greek culture and music.

Furthermore, there are two more reasons to celebrate in 2012 together with the 30th ISME World Conference!

  • 2012 is the year that the city of Thessaloniki will celebrate the 100th Anniversary from its Liberation!
  • 2012 is also the year that G.S.M.E. will celebrate its 15th Anniversary!

Once more, we are honoured to host the 30th ISME World Conference and ready to welcome you with renowned Greek hospitality in a journey for all, and a conference to remember!

Welcome to the 2012 ISME Thessaloniki Conference
Welcome to Greece, the country that gave birth to great philosophers, to democracy and of course, to the Olympic Games!

Dr Polyvios Androutsos
Chair, ISME 2012 Conference Organizing Group

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

ISME 29th world conference Media Release

The 29th ISME World Conference was held from August 1 to August 6, 2010 in Beijing. The conference was hosted by ISME, the China Conservatory of Music and Music Education Branch of Chinese Society of Education. It was strongly supported by Nanchang University, the Chinese Musicians Association, the Beijing Government, Hailun Pianos, Dr Sun Music, Eurovista Arts Management, NAMM (International Music Merchants) and the Gibson Foundation.

The largest ISME Conference ever held, it attracted international delegates from around 65 countries and together with the Chinese music educators, was attended by 4,000 delegates. There were about 900 presentations given by 773 presenters from around the world. The presentations included papers, workshops/demonstrations, class lesson demonstrations, symposia, roundtables and poster sessions. A feast for any music educator, and choices were difficult to make.

Moving and thought-provoking keynote addresses were given by Chen Yi (Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Changjiang Scholar Visiting Professor at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music), Bruno Nettl (Professor Emeritus of Music and Anthropology, University of Illinois) and Liu Limin (Director-General of Beijing Municipal Education Commission). A special session Showcasing the ISME-Gibson Awards was presented by the ISME President, Håkan Lundström, highlighting the ISME-Gibson Community Award and the ISME-Gibson International Awards. The latter for 2010 were awarded to two Chinese projects, submitted by WU Bin and XIE Jiaxing. Further details on these awards can be found on the ISME website (

A large-scale multi-media Opening Concert Colourful Silk Road was an outstanding start to the Conference week, showcasing the best music and dance cultures from around China. The 2nd Beijing Traditional Music Festival was incorporated into the ISME Conference activities and held at the China Conservatory of Music. This was sponsored by the Chinese Government and besides performances throughout the week, on Wednesday evening for "China Night" the groups were featured in Night of China – Sound and Vision from the Tang Dynasty. This was followed by the outdoor Folk Music Carnival which was held under a clear sky in balmy weather.

An amazing number of performing groups (47) representing musics of many cultures from around 20 countries performed throughout the week. Exposure to some of this music was a unique experience for most of the delegates. In all, about 2800 performers took part during the week.

The ISME 2010 Beijing Music Show was supported by local and international exhibitors and attracted great interest from delegates and visitors from the wider community. Thanks to all who worked so hard for the success of this 29th ISME World Conference, and to all those who supported this magnificent event.

Welcome to the 30th ISME World Conference in Thessaloniki, Greece from 15-20 July 2012!

August 15th 2010

Wednesday, 11 August 2010



Professor Jiaxing Xie received one of the Awards for the project Teaching children to sing songs of the home area which is aimed at minority children in Guangxi in the western part of China where the loss of traditional music is very serious. The aim is to restore the local musical traditions by training and promoting local folk singing of music teacher in the area so that more children will be able to learn these musical heritage.

The second Award went to Mr Bin Wu, Vice chair of the Chinese Society for Music Education, for the project Music education in Chinese schools with special focus on the Western regions, which deals with the situation of music education in the Western part of China where there are certain minority groups. The aim is to provide the music teachers and children there with information, teacher training and teaching materials. Thousands of children are estimated to benefit from this project.

Monday, 9 August 2010

ISME has its own calendar

ISME has its own calendar. Within ISME we don't count years but "biennia", that is periods of two years. Now one biennium has ended and another one has begun. I thank the out-going Immediate Past President Liane Hentschke for work for ISME over several years and I welcome and wish good luck to the new ISME President Graham Welch and the President Elect Margaret Barrett.

I have experienced an intense and greatly rewarding biennium as ISME President. ISME is a continuously growing organization – not only in numbers, but also in perspectives and in activities. So when we now move into a new biennium we do this with our most urgent aims spelled out in a strategic plan. The intention is that this will increase ISME's efficiency in leading and supporting music education worldwide.

The 29th ISME World Conference in Beijing that finished on 6th August attracted nearly seven thousand participants and contained a wide number of presentations, workshops and concerts and a large exhibition. This conference adds a new chapter in ISME's history and in the history of music education. It will have a long influence inside China as well as internationally.

With this conference the name 'Beijing' has taken on yet another meaning and so has the name 'China'. One feature of the ISME calendar is that we tend to refer to previous conferences by the hosting city's or the hosting country's name. In the future we will not call this as the 29th ISME World Conference in Beijing 2010. People will just say: "Do you remember Beijing" or "China! That was great!"

Thanks to all who made this conference a living manifestation for music education!

Håkan Lundström
Immediate Past President

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

10: Why Study Music?

10: Why Study Music?

Don Hodges

Institute for Music Research, University of Texas at San Antonio

Soccer, computer classes, scouting, and on and on—today's children have so many activities to choose from, it often seems as if their days are programmed from dawn to dusk. In the midst of all this, why should parents make certain their children are engaged in musical activities? Is there anything special that music has to offer? Participation in music instruction has many benefits and outcomes. Musical activities may help students develop leadership skills, enhance self-esteem, promote esprit de corps, or foster a work ethic and dedication to excellence. But, as valuable as these outcomes are, they can also be attained through other experiences. Joining a chess club might, for instance, provide many of the same benefits. What can be said, then, about music that is unique, and is there anything about it that would make it necessary for all children to have the experience?

As a starting place, consider that a musical experience cannot be replaced by any other. Just as reading a novel by Dickens cannot be compared to viewing a painting by Van Gogh, so watching a ballet cannot replace hearing a symphony by Beethoven. Even if a novel, painting, ballet, and symphony were all concerned with the same idea, what one gets from each experience is unique. Or, imagine going to a funeral. At some point words will be spoken in the form of a eulogy and there will also likely be music. The words cannot express what the music does, nor can the music substitute for the words. Both are unique expressions of that which is shared among the mourners.

Suppose one admits that music is, indeed, a unique experience but contends that that alone does not make it necessary for all children to have a musical education. After all, bungee jumping is a unique experience and we don't say everyone ought to experience that. Furthermore, nearly all children engage in music outside of school (e.g., watching MTV, listening to favorite CDs with friends, playing or singing in a "garage" band or church choir) so why should it be included as part of a school curriculum? The short answer is that "music provides unique and invaluable insights into the human condition." To unpack the implications behind this short statement requires two brief digressions—to define education and to look at modern conceptions of human intelligence.

What is the purpose of an education and what do we want our schools to do? Because answering these questions would entail another series of essays, let us begin with the following simple definition: "The purpose of an education is systematic development of the mind and capabilities of every child." In practice, our educational system has focused on the specific mental capabilities of language and mathematics. This narrow conception of human intelligence is reflected in curricula, standardized tests of academic achievement, and intelligence tests.

Recently, psychologists and others have begun to decry this myopic view and have argued for an elaborated view of human intelligence that more fully encompasses a broader range of human potentialities. One list includes linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, intrapersonal (access to one's own feeling life), interpersonal (ability to notice and make distinctions among other individuals, especially their moods, temperaments, motivations, and intentions), and naturalist (sensitivity to flora and fauna) intelligences. (A ninth, spiritual intelligence, only partially qualifies as it does not meet all eight of the specified criteria.) In this conception, each intelligence provides a unique and equally valuable way of knowing.

Cognitive neuroscience is identifying neural networks in the brain that support each of these intelligences. Evidence from psychology, anthropology, sociology, and other related disciplines supports the notion that humans are endowed with multiple ways of knowing. These human knowledge systems provide a means for sharing, expressing, understanding, knowing, and gaining insights into one's inner and outer worlds.

If one assumes agreement with the foregoing—that music does indeed represent a knowledge system—it then becomes legitimate to ask: What does one know, understand, share, or express through music? Our society recognizes and understands what is to be gained through language and mathematics knowledge systems; the generally accepted notion that a "basic" education consists of reading, writing, and arithmetic is but one example. But what is gained through music? What follows represents only a few of the things we know, discover, understand, experience, share, or express through music:

1. Feelings. Central to any discussion of music as a knowledge system must be the idea of feelings. From one end of the continuum dealing with vague, unspecified moods to the other end dealing with crystallized emotions such as grief or joy, music is intrinsically connected with feelings.

2. Aesthetic experiences. All human beings have a need for beauty and to activate their innate responsiveness to the organized expressive sounds that we call music.

3. The ineffable. Precisely because music is a nonverbal form of expression it is a powerful means to express or to know that which is difficult or impossible to put into words. Two of the most common human experiences that are frequently known through music are love and spiritual awareness.

4. Thinking. Musical thought is just as viable as linguistic, mathematical, or visual thought. It can be a potent means of expressing ideas and of knowing truth.

5. Structure. Closely allied to the idea of thinking is structure. The human mind seeks patterns, structure, order, and logic. Music provides a unique way of structuring sounds across time, as well as a providing a means of structuring thoughts, feelings, and human experiences.

6. Time and space. Time and space are the "stuff" of the universe. All human knowledge systems provide ways of dealing with time and space. As indicated in number 5, music is a means of organizing sounds across time. Although music occurs in "real" time, it deals more with "felt" time. Music, in connection with dance (bodily-kinesthetic knowledge system), is a primary means of experiencing space in time.

7. Self-knowledge and self-identity. Music's role in intrinsic, and especially peak (transcendent, life-changing) learning experiences, provides for powerful insights into our private, inner worlds. Many gain their sense of self through a variety of musical activities and experiences.

8. Group Identity. Group identity through music is both inclusive and exclusive in that: (a) music helps cement the bonding of those members of a group who share common ideas, beliefs, and behaviors, and (b) music helps isolate and separate one group from another.

9. Healing and wholeness. From more specific applications of music in therapy and medicine to more general interactions, music has profound effects on human beings. Music provides a vehicle for the integration of body, mind, and spirit.

All nine of these, and the many others that could be listed, can be subsumed under the idea that music provides insights into the human condition (i.e., the condition of being human).

Although music represents a built-in knowledge system that allows human beings to know aspects of their inner and outer worlds in a unique mode, such knowledge does not come automatically. All the knowledge systems represent potential learning modalities. More than any other animal species, for whom many specific behaviors are pre-wired, human beings rely heavily on learning for built-in potential to be realized. Human knowledge systems will not simply come to full fruition through a natural growth process; a series of environmental interventions in the form of learning experiences are necessary to activate them. Full development of any knowledge system will only come as innate potential is realized in environmental circumstances. We must learn how to use language, how to think logically and use mathematical symbols, and so on through the list.

Many aspects of a knowledge system can be learned informally, by observation and imitation. However, formal learning experiences, primarily in the form of an education, are the real keys to unlocking and realizing full human potential. Thus, education ought to be concerned with the systematic development of human knowledge systems. An important implication to come out of this discussion is that human beings need to be educated in all the knowledge systems in order to achieve maximum human potential.

One can learn how to speak, to count, to run and jump, to draw, and to sing through informal means. But it takes systematic development, to become a novelist, a mathematician, a ballerina, an artist, a composer. In many education systems around the world great emphasis is placed on linguistic and logical-mathematical knowledge systems and very little on the musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, and naturalist knowledge systems. In terms of formal education as schooling, adoption of the notion of a variety of equally valuable knowledge systems carries with it the implication that the curriculum will reflect these knowledge systems. All students should have an opportunity to experience and develop their capabilities in all knowledge systems. Clearly this is counter to the prevailing back-to-basics emphasis on language and mathematics skills, but it is far more consistent with the current understanding of the human mind from a behavioral sciences perspective. To adopt this viewpoint would place music in the core of the school curriculum.