Conference Blog

Conference Director Helena Gaunt’s Introduction to Reflective Conservatoire Conference 2015

Welcome to the Reflective Conservatoire Conference blog! The conference is now just around the corner. As we have released the full programme, we hope to inspire you to begin thinking about some of the themes, to exchange and debate through this blog. A range of arts practitioners, conservatoire leaders, teachers and students will contribute entries to the blog, and there are opportunities with each entry to respond. Topics will include different perspectives from artists as teachers on their own development, new directions in connecting with audiences and socially-engaged practices, insights into the particular potential of Mindfulness for performers, and challenges of embedding creative entrepreneurship within curricula.

We will also be introducing particular sessions where we invite you to read papers in advance that presenters have prepared, so that the sessions in the conference itself can be dedicated to detailed discussion of the paper rather than having to spend the time presenting the material. Please join the dialogue!

I suspect that none of us will disagree that we are experiencing a critical time for the arts as a whole. Within contexts of major funding cuts and perceptions of irrelevance in some quarters, specialist education in the performing arts has a challenging and exciting part to play: championing and enabling fundamental values of human connection, artistic and creative expression, passion and determination to excel; at the same time empowering fresh thinking outside the box, interdisciplinary working, artistic and educational innovation and risk-taking. What I see happening is momentum building in renewing conservatoire practices based on these principles, and in repositioning the multi-layered value that our institutions can offer to young people, the creative industries and wider society. I believe, therefore, that it is more important than ever then that we grow and deepen our community and exchange in order to make a step-change collaboratively towards revitalizing experience of the performing arts at the highest levels, and embodying their vital place in society.

Our theme for the Reflective Conservatoire conference this year is ambitious and challenging: “Creativity and Changing Cultures”. Within this, we will have sessions on visioning future artistic learning environments, exchange and learning through the body across different art forms, the realities of professional life and need for creative entrepreneurship, enabling and supporting peer learning, transforming skills of feedback and reflection, deepening enquiry and research as artistic practitioners, the role of improvisation in developing core musicianship/artistic craft, connecting individual and group creativity. We will be showcasing innovative work and findings from recent research, and using these to open up key questions and debate about how we continue to develop specialist performing arts education with integral relationships to professional arts organizations.

As ever, the conference will juxtapose practical workshops, research presentations, performances, roundtables and opportunities for critical reflection and dialogue. We will generate dialogue and collaboration between practitioners, researchers, curators and institutional leaders, knowing that creative exchange and reflection between them can catalyze fresh thinking and new perspectives. The keynotes will each take a different approach to engaging us in their topics. Ricardo Castro, for example, will include performance in his presentation, and “The Artist as Maker” keynote will develop discussion and debate between experienced and younger artists across music and theatre.

I do hope that you will find this blog interesting, and that you will want to contribute.

With warm greetings,

Professor Helena Gaunt

Vice Principal and Director of Academic Affairs

Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Barbican Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DT

Joint author of: Preparing for Success: A practical guide for young musicians Susan Hallam and Helena Gaunt, co-editor of: Collaborative Learning in Higher Music Education, National Teaching Fellow (2009)

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