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Interview with Professor Lee Higgins, President of the International society of music education (ISME)

Aug 16, 2018

In the run-up to final preparation of Music Education Symposium within the Moscow trade-fair NAMM Musikmesse Russia, we interviewed his main speaker - Professor Lee Higgins, President of the International society of music education (ISME).

Lee Higgins 010

What is the mission of ISME? Could you please tell a little about the Society history and its activities worldwide?

The purpose of the the International Society for Music Education (ISME) is to promote the learning and teaching of music for all people, to support the professional growth of music educators throughout the world, and to encourage the teaching of the diverse musical practices of various cultures. ISME was formed at a conference convened by UNESCO in 1953. In the years that followed its formation, ISME gradually evolved to what it is today, a worldwide organization for music educators that seeks to celebrate the diverse ways that people engage with, and develop in and through, music. ISME represents an international, interdisciplinary, intercultural network of professionals who strive to understand and promote music learning across the lifespan. Members from over 80 countries across the world share a commitment to culture, education, conservation and the durable development of our cultural heritage, and to evidence-based policy and practice.

What challenges do teachers of music face worldwide? How do these challenges change from region to region?

One thing that makes ISME truly unique among music education organizations is that it aims to be a place for global dialogue among leaders of associations as well as individual members. This is important as music educators from all around the world face ever-changing landscapes of funding and policy that have a direct impact on the ability to offer appropriate quality music education. We know that music is one of the things that make us distinctively human and the sheer variety of different types of musics, and ways people participate in it, mean that it is in the interest of all that have a stake in music education to have teachers who are sensitive to the many ways people across the world engage with music and music learning.    

In September, you are holding the first big event at NAMM Musikmesse Russia for music teachers. What is it about and what are your expectations?

The purpose of this symposium is to bring together music educators working in the local area to discuss contemporary issues surrounding music education. This event is an opportunity for music educators who wish to explore and develop ‘alternative’ approaches to active music making and to work collaboratively towards designing a series of training events that would support their needs. We recognize the strong tradition of excellence in Russian conservatoire classical music education. This event will be focused on those who wish to develop wider approaches to participatory music education which might for example, include pop and rock, samba, African drumming, improvisation, songwriting, and composition. This is a consultative and collaborative enterprise so following the symposium we would like to share our findings and thoughts with the participants. It is hoped that together we can craft a series of events for NAMM Musikmesse Russia 2019 that (a) directly responds to the perceived needs of local music educators, and (b) offers ideas and models of what might be possible but perhaps not currently thought about.

Why do you think it is a good idea to hold such event at the music show?

Both NAMM and ISME understand the strength in a collaborative partnership. In this instant it is between those that make, produce, sell, and distribute music instruments and music materials and those that are engaged in music education. If we consider these two areas as part of a much larger music eco-system then both areas are reliant on each other. Opening up a dialogue from within the music show provides opportunity for a ground-up collaboration and open dialogue, this is a chance to build meaningful relationships in an effort to form a strong structure going forward. From this we hope that a progamme might be developed that responds to the needs of Russian music educators whilst offering new challenges and alternative pedagogic methodologies that might expand and enrich current Russian practices.