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Message from Susan O’Neill, ISME President and Elina Laakso, Chair, Helsinki 2020 Conference Committee

Dear ISME Members, 2020 Helsinki World Conference Participants, and Colleagues,

We are writing to inform you that the International Society of Music Education (ISME) is cancelling the 34th World Conference that was due to take place in Helsinki, Finland from August 2-7, 2020. This decision was reached through a unanimous vote of the ISME Board on March 30, 2020 after consultation with the Helsinki 2020 Conference Team and Uniarts Helsinki.

For more than 2 years, ISME has anticipated the convening of the Helsinki 2020 World Conference. As a membership society, we value our biennial, face-to-face meetings and the opportunities they afford for sharing and discussing scholarship and practice, celebrating music making, and networking both formally and informally with colleagues from around the world.

Since the beginning of the year 2020, the world has seen unprecedented conference cancellations due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. In order to control the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization and governments world-wide have limited international travel and the borders of many countries have been closed for an indefinite period. Major events and conferences in countries around the world have been cancelled and universities have moved away from in-person to remote instruction. Many universities have cancelled all international travel by students and faculty until further notice. At this time, it is not known how long the impact of the global pandemic will be felt, but major economic implications are already predicted and it is not likely that any major international conference travel will be taking place for many months and possibly longer.

Sadly, as a result of COVID-19 and the travel and economic impact that is happening around the world, it is no longer feasible for ISME to hold an international conference in Helsinki in 2020. We are also unable to hold the Commission pre-conference seminars. However, we are working on plans to reimagine some opportunities for virtual presentations and meetings that will enable us to honour our professional responsibility to share significant research and practice. We will provide more information about our plans for virtual activities as soon as possible.

A few additional issues to note:

  • Those members who are already registered for the World Conference and/or pre-conference seminar will receive refunds.
  • A virtual General Assembly will take place on August 6, 2020 to enable members to review the biennium budget and activities and to announce the results of the Board Elections.
  • ISME will publish the 34th World Conference Proceedings of accepted full papers.
  • The ISME Board will be spending the next few months reviewing options for holding the next ISME World Conference in 2022. An announcement will be made to all members as soon as a decision is reached by the Board. 

We know that this is disappointing news. A record number of ISME members worked very hard on their submissions and looked forward to an amazing in-person seminar or meeting this year in Helsinki. We also collaborated with many dedicated people from around the world who contributed in numerous ways to the planning, reviewing, sponsorship and organization of the World Conference and pre-conference seminars. We thank each of you for sharing your expertise and for your tremendous efforts and goodwill in supporting the work of ISME. Your actions and service to the Society have made a positive difference to our community, and ISME will emerge even stronger because of your efforts.

Susan O’Neill                                                  Elina Laakso
ISME President                                               Chair, ISME 2020 Helsinki Conference Committee