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Home / News / Why attend a pre-conference seminar?
Why attend a pre-conference seminar?
16 Oct 2019

In the lead up to the conference, ISME's Commissions host pre-conference seminars which are quite different in size, tone and content to the world conference itself. Who should go? Why are these seminars useful? We asked some of last year's pre-conference seminar delegates to provide their insights. Here are their comments:

Louise Godwin, doctoral student at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia attended the CEPROM pre-conference seminar in 2018 in Almaty, Kazahkstan :

As an Australian, the decision to attend an international conference on the other side of the world is a very big one. The journey is long and tiring and the costs are high. However, attending the ISME World Conference offers a wealth of rewards. In my experience, one of the biggest is the chance to attend one of the eight smaller seminars that take place immediately prior to the main conference. These are intimate, inclusive and engaging gatherings, held in diverse locations, offering an important balance to the busy and inspiring main conference.

In 2018, I attended the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musician (CEPROM) in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The seminar was held at the Kazakh National Conservatory, and brought together academics, scholars and practitioners who all share an interest in preparing professional musicians for their lifelong careers. The sessions were structured around the presentation of papers, with two allocated respondents posing questions and offering comments on each paper. The floor was then opened for general discussion. This format allowed for the presentation of multiple perspectives on the seminar theme, providing rich opportunities for new insights. The conversations continued well after each session ended, as we gathered in restaurants or walked together to explore Almaty. I left the seminar with both new friends and new knowledge to contribute to my PhD research.

I remember feeling anxious about the prospect of travelling by myself all the way from Australia to Almaty. I had never imagined that I would visit Kazakhstan! However, the CEPROM Chair, Pamela Pike, made the whole experience so much easier. Pam booked all our accommodation, knew exactly when we were each arriving in Almaty, and welcomed us with local information. This warm welcome continued over the course of the seminar days. We chatted over breakfast, gathered around a single large table to discuss seminar papers, shared meals together, and heard wonderful performances by students from the Kazakh National Conservatory. We even had time to visit museums, and travel to the Medeu Valley where we caught the Shymbaluk ski resort chair lift.

I have no doubt that the 2020 CEPROM seminar in Oulu, Finland, will include the same warm welcome, vibrant experiences and learning opportunities. Hosted by the current CEPROM Commission Chair, Heidi Partti, the seminar is certain to be full of cultural and intellectual rewards. But equally importantly, it will be full of laughter, music and friendship.

Joanne Rutkowski, Professor Emeritus of Music Education at The Pennsylvania State University (USA) has attended all but one Early Childhood Commission Seminar since 1994.  She also served as a Commissioner from 2008-2014.

While the ISME World Conference is fabulous and mind-opening, it can be overwhelming at times.  If you do not know many other participants, the experience can sometimes be isolating – like attending a huge party with many distant relatives you have never met!  Everyone is welcoming and friendly, but the size and scope of the conference doesn’t often allow for many close professional relationships to develop.  The Commission Seminars are more like getting together with your close friends and family!  Attending the Early Childhood Commission Seminar has become one of my favorite events.  I have met so many persons from around the world with similar interests and now consider them close friends and colleagues.  We look forward to reconnecting every two years.  I have even collaborated with international colleagues on research studies all because of attending a Commission Semianr.  So, what about the seminars allows for these friendships to develop.

First of all, the number of participants is generally small, although the Early Childhood Commission Seminars can attract upwards of 70+ participants.  But that is still a much smaller community than the World Conference.  Generally, one presentation occurs at a time, which means all participants have the same experience.  That is different than selecting a presentation to attend among many offered at the same time.  With this configuration participants have a common experience allowing for wonderful discussions and conversation.  The Early Childhood Commission Seminars include a wide variety of presentations – research, models of practice, and workshops.  We also begin every day with a participant sharing a song from his/her country or culture.  We often have meals together and stay in the same housing facility.  It is also typical for us to take an afternoon excursion one day to see more of the area and learn more about the country hosting us.  We also have a final conference dinner that is always very special.

When anyone asks me about attending an ISME event I always highly recommend they attend a Commission Seminar as well as the World Conference.  When you do, the World Conference can still be a bit overwhelming, but now when you attend sessions and concerts and walk the venue halls you will see your new family from the Seminar – all the relatives won’t be distant anymore!

Amanda Niland, a lecturer in Early Childhood Education at the University of Sydney, Australia has attended every ECME seminar since 2004:

Attending my first ECME seminar in the amazing city of Barcelona in 2004, as an early childhood music educator just beginning on my pathway as a researcher, opened my eyes and inspired me to growing professionally in ways I could never have imagined. The ECME pre-conference seminar, and the ISME conference, are inclusive gatherings that welcome musicians, educators and researchers from so many different musical and cultural backgrounds that it is impossible to go away without some new knowledge and insights that will enrich your work and your life.

The ECME seminars are professionally and musically stimulating, as well as being very social and welcoming. I have attended every ECME seminar since 2004, and most ISME conferences, and have made new friends and professional colleagues each time. I’ve also had the chance to visit many wonderful places, including China, Greece, Brazil, Israel, the Netherlands, Italy, Taiwan, Scotland and Israel. Immersed in our own communities and busy lives back home, it is easy to forget that there are always different ways to approach music, education, research, and indeed life. Attending ECME and ISME every two years, and enjoying musical, intellectual, cultural and social ‘feasts’ in a different part of the world, has been, and continues to be, an exciting part of my life. Whether you are an educator, researcher or academic, anyone with an interest in young children’s musical lives will enjoy attending an ECME seminar. Finland, the venue for the next ECME seminar and ISME conference, has a rich musical heritage and thriving early childhood music education, so ECME 2020 is sure to be a memorable seminar.