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Archive for April, 2011

RIME 2011

‘The aim of the conference is to gather together researchers, teachers and practitioners to share and discuss their research which is concerned with all aspects of teaching and learning in music: musical development, perception and understanding, creativity, learning theory, pedagogy, curriculum design, informal settings, music for special needs, technologies, instrumental teaching, teacher education, gender and culture. Music education is also  viewed in  the context of arts education, the whole curriculum and its socio cultural contexts.’ (RIME,2011)

My application to RIME 2011 was 2-fold; to hear and meet some excellent music education and community music researchers and practitioners as well as taking the opportunity to draw a line under 11-years of project work with the Nomad project at the University of Limerick. With my paper accepted and sharing the stage with people such as Lee Higgins, Dawn Bennet, Cecilia Bjork,Kathryn Marsh, Alexandra Kertz-Welzel and Mark Whale standards were set to be of the highest order with plenty of scope for honest and critical discourse.

‘The Nomad Project: returning to the field for further educational investigation’, marks the end point, research wise, of nearly 11 years of project-based community music, academic and course development work. A tall order to represent the depth of work that has been done by the project during this period. With the fear of misrepresenting the project, the paper was written from the view of the author – offering personal and group narratives and case studies. All of which being framed by the development of community and Traveller education development in Ireland since the ‘boom’ times experienced since the late 1990’s. Hoping to develop a new presentation style whilst retaining an appearance of confidence and an ability to ad-lib I decided to use a new presentation tool – ‘Prezi’.

This tool challenges the lateral style of powerpoint using a single canvas instead of the traditional slide format of other tools. Allowing for non-linear presentations, where users can zoom in and out of a visual map thoughts can jump from one section to another when planning. I found that it forces the user to think about the order and pathways making for a more organised presentation, certainly more work but once the basic skills are acquired, I found it to be a most liberating way of presenting.
My presentation was placed in-between Brit Ågot Brøske Danielsen (Norwegian Academy of Music, Norway) and Kathryn March from the University of Sydney. Both with strong community music and outreach leanings I was right at home. Brit reported on the reflections of students involved in a music programme at a Palestinian refugee camp in the Lebanon, having learned about this programme from the participant perspective in Beijing it was wonderful to hear how the music students had found the experience. Kathryn treated us to many clips from the playground featuring the role of music in the lives of refugee children in Sydney, very interesting work. I was happy to receive plenty of questions and comments during the session and afterward.

It was difficult to choose what papers to attend, organisers had requested when going to a session to stay at it for the remainder of the presentations and not to walk in and out of sessions. A point that I well appreciate as it can be disconcerting as a relatively inexperienced presenter to have people walking out of ‘your’ session.

Ailbhe Kenny from Mary Immaculate College, Limerick presented a case study on a music partnership that she and her students had engaged with a local primary school followed by Lee Higgins. Lee spoke about community music and the individual within the group. As a community musician recently returned to 20 hours of workshopping in relatively large group situations I relished this presentation, which was as ever thought provoking asking questions of the practitioner and the ethic responsibility we have to the individual as well as the group. Lee spoke about ‘a sense of an ethical relationship’ with the people we as community musicians and music educators work with on a daily basis. Although I aspire for an equal relationship with the groups and other facilitators I work with everyday, can that this ever be true? I ‘call’ and ‘welcome’ the group but can that call ever be fully met by the individuals? No is the answer. How could it be? The facilitator has the expertise, the experience, the facilitator plans and makes the decisions as to whether the group will divert from that plan on a given evening etc. A line that resonated with me that morning was ‘ the sense of being equal is imagined, not reality’, even as I type these words I am disappointed in myself, in my pedagogy that I claim to offer all-inclusive, student-centred learning whose door is always open. Is it though? Is it really? There has to be a planned session irrespective of whether that plan is followed, there are limits to what participants can say or do, surely! Lee compares this to having people to your home for dinner, they are most welcome but they cannot help themselves to his record collection or leave with his sofa! Thus the conditional, yet warm welcome is imagined.
Lee’s was the 2nd paper of the conference, perhaps a bit early to be peaking? There was more to come and I was not disappointed.