By Benon Kigozi
Past President,Pan African Society for Musical Arts Education
The Pan African Society for Musical Arts Education (PASMAE) held its tenth biennial musical arts conference at Sifundzani High School in Swaziland from 29th June to 2nd July 2017. With participants from 13 different countries including South Africa, Cyprus, Uganda, United States, Swaziland, Zambia, Botswana, Australia, Zimbabwe, Seychelles, Nigeria, and Kenya in attendance for the four-day event, a selection of keynote speakers, paper presenters, workshop facilitators, and performers gathered in Mbabane for the event.
The conference opening ceremony commenced with a series of events spanning speeches and entertainment. In her speech, the principal of the host institution, Phindile Magongo applauded PASMAE for choosing Swaziland, a country where they have ‘never had a music education conference before’. Guest of honour, the Inspector of Sports and Culture Sipho Zurane, from the Ministry of Education, commended the work of PASMAE which he termed as ‘extra-ordinary and extremely relevant’. The outgoing president informed members that ‘PASMAE is confronting a period of many changes during a time of global change’, and he assured them that ‘the Society continues to grow and adapt, remaining always motivated, responsive, focused, relevant and open to new ideas’. He hailed members, as organidation leaders, ‘for attending the conference and bringing their expertise to our gathering in order to help us pave our way into the future’.
At the welcome reception, guests were treated to highly entertaining indigenous traditional drumming and dancing by the local ensemble Sibhaca, which proved to be participatory so that spectators couldn’t resist but actively participate.
The following morning, in the plenary session, the first keynote speaker, Yiannis Miralis from the European University, Cyprus, shared perspectives on music education in the 21st century, looking at the present and imagining the future, a topic deemed suitable in this era and age of worldwide change.
Christopher Di Santo of Stockton University in the United States delivered the second keynote address on unity through diversity, which presentation made him a perfect choice for a keynote speech addressed to a room full of participants from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds. The speech resonated well with PASMAE the success of which is as a result of our diversity as active members, who despite our regional, professional and educational backgrounds converge together biennially to commit to the development and advancement of musical arts education, a truly interdisciplinary field.
A number of paper presentations addressed a wide array of topics concerning the dispensation of musical arts in a changing world, offering significant amounts of knowledge to participants.
The aim of the afternoons was to bring together everyone for hands-on workshops in the main hall. Highly interactive workshops were facilitated by Winnie van der Walt: “the Dance Room”, Danelle Herbst: “Staging the future”, Zenda Nel: “Let us try it out”, and Nelson Manganye: “Indigenous and traditional Tsonga children’s game songs”.
At the General Assembly, the business meeting of the Society, the President gave a detailed report covering the last biennium, clearly showing that PASMAE was on the right track. The reviewed PASMAE constitution was presented by the chair of the Constitutional Review Committee, Judy Thonell, and it was unanimously ratified by the Assembly. Honorary Life Member of PASMAE, Caroline van Niekerk, shared detailed information relating to the next ISME in Baku, Azerbaijan. She explained to those present the benefits of being ISME members and encouraged them to sign up for membership. The elections of the in-coming executive committee were conducted for the positions of the president-elect and three vice presidents, as provided for by the constitution. A highlight of the General Assembly was when the out-going president announced the appointment of Judy Thonell as PASMAE’s Honorary President, in recognition of her meritorious and selfless contribution to the advancement of PASMAE. Judy takes on this role with effect from July 1, 2017.
The new Executive Committee comprises the President: Eze Tochukwu (Nigeria); Honorary President: Judy Thonell (Australia); Past President: Benon Kigozi (Uganda); President – Elect: Mellitus Wanyama (Kenya); 3 Vice Presidents: Bibian Kalinde (Zambia); John Chitambo (Seychelles); Dorette Vermeulen (South Africa); and the appointed Secretary General/Treasurer: Zenda Nel (South Africa).
Sunday’s events featured an all inclusive paper session: An African-based avant garde: Training for art music composers based on concepts from African traditions, which was presented by the composer Lukas Ligeti. Participants experienced further time with each of the two keynote speakers, Yiannis Mirallas and Chris Di Santo, to expound more about their work and research, and how that impacts musical arts education.
Conference participants embarked on an afternoon-long excursion to cultural villages to explore the Swazi culture through song and dance as well as pick souvenirs from the craft markets. These excursions provided unique and enjoyable learning experiences complementing the conference theme.
PASMAE 2017 was concluded with one big group dinner and traditional indigenous dancing by Sibhaca ensemble of the Mbabane City Council.