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CEMPE - a national centre for music education with an international mandate

Illustrasjon av Espen Friberg

How can a fairly small centre located on the outskirts of Europe contribute to the Scandinavian and European discourse on higher music education? And how well did we succeed?

Already in the application for the establishment of a Centre for Excellence in Education (SFU), it was stated that CEMPE should be a national centre for excellence in music performance education, and not just a centre for the Norwegian Academy of Music. The application also included plans to launch a European platform for learning and teaching in collaboration with the AEC (the European umbrella organisation for higher music education institutions). So while the plans were there from the start, realising them was more difficult. For how can a relatively small centre located in tiny Norway contribute to the Scandinavian and European discourse on higher music education? And how well did we succeed? In this text, we will look at how CEMPE, through participation, dissemination, collaboration and initiative, from the institutional level down to the personal level, both influenced and was influenced by European discourses on what higher music education is and should be.

Throughout CEMPE's ten-year period, we can see a development in which the centre has moved from focusing on engagement and involvement within the Norwegian Academy of Music, to involving national and eventually also Scandinavian sister institutions through seminars and innovation funds, to contribute to the European field through close collaboration with the AEC and a number of collaborative projects on research, pedagogical development work and competence development.

International cooperations

International collaboration has taken place at different levels during CEMPE's period, from institutional collaborations down to individual teachers and researchers who have found each other through common interests.

At the institutional level, CEMPE has had a close collaboration with AEC throughout the period, formalised through the operation of LATIMPE from 2018-2021. Together with AEC, CEMPE organised a number of seminars and conferences and published articles online, in book form and in journals. Other collaborations include NAIP (New audiences and innovative practices), Healthy Conservatoires Network and ICON.

At the research level, there have also been many important and very fruitful collaborations. One of these projects is WILMA (Work-Integrated Learning in the Music Academy) where Jon Helge Sætre, then head of CEMPE, initiated a collaboration with the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester to investigate practice schemes at various European music education institutions and the rationale and ideologies behind existing schemes. Another project is Guro Gravem Johansen's collaboration with Una McGlone in Glasgow on improvisation and rehearsal and the project where Jon Helge Sætre in collaboration with colleagues in Queensland explored the learning potential in having the chamber music teacher as an equal, playing member of the ensemble instead of instructing from the outside.

International platforms – participation and initiative

To contribute to the dissemination of project results, CEMPE has been well represented at international conferences for higher music education and music education research throughout the period. Several of the music educators involved in CEMPE's projects have published in scientific journals and presented at research conferences. From the outset, this has been an important channel for disseminating knowledge about projects that others can then build on.

Another measure has been to initiate international conferences to gather the European higher music education field for knowledge sharing and collaboration. In 2015, CEMPE joined forces with the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London to organise the international conference The Reflective Conservatoire (ICON), where several NMH teachers presented their pedagogical development projects. In 2017, CEMPE and the other research centres at NMH organised a major international conference entitled The Protean Musician. Together with AEC, CEMPE organised the 2018 conference Becoming musicians - student involvement and teacher collaboration in higher music education at NMH, and in 2020 a digital conference entitled Students as researching artists - music, technology and musicianship. In 2022, NMH hosted a large, three-day conference dedicated to musician health and the health of performing arts workers. This conference was organised in collaboration with Creo and NTO.

CEMPE has also had the opportunity to organise a few smaller seminars. Together with the AEC, we organised a symposium in Glasgow in January 2020 for researchers interested in exploring digital tools, and in 2022 we held a digital symposium on assessment in higher music education. CEMPE has also been a partner in ICON - Innovative Conservatoires, which has organised hands-on professional development courses for teachers at European music education institutions.

As the pandemic changed the ways in which we collaborate and work across national borders, CEMPE has transitioned to organising more events digitally. During the pandemic, we gained important insights into the use of digital seminars and ways of interacting online. Despite the obvious limitations of the digital format, we saw that more people had the opportunity to participate and we succeeded in involving people from a wider geographical area, which provided new perspectives and great discussions.

LATIMPE and the SMS-project (2018-2021)

The platform for learning and teaching described in the 2013 application became a reality in 2018, when LATIMPE (Platform for Learning and Teaching in Music Performance Education) was created in collaboration with the AEC as part of the larger project Strengthening Music in Society ('the SMS project'). This was the first time the AEC had collaborated with an institution about a platform, and it was presumably possible because of CEMPE's role as a national coordinator and its position as an SFU. The work of the SMS project became very important for CEMPE's development, and at the same time CEMPE contributed to the development of alternative ways of thinking about learning and teaching in European higher music education. For example, LATIMPE worked on what student-centred music education can look like and how teacher collaboration can work in practice. By analysing student-centred practices, the working group came up with the concept of the “student as a researching artist”, i.e. a position where students become researching artists with ownership and agency in their own education and development. The working group that developed LATIMPE published online articles, contributed with presentations at seminars and AEC conferences, published an anthology (Sætre & Gies, 2019) and organised professional development courses for teachers. The working group was led by Jon Helge Sætre.

The SMS project was a comprehensive project, with eight working groups that developed a wealth of resources in areas such as entrepreneurship, digitalisation and the future of music education. These are all available at An important final outcome was the concept of "Musicians as makers in society", (Gaunt et al., 2021), developed by Helena Gaunt and the other members of working group 1 of the SMS project, which described a paradigm shift in higher music education

Read the article by Helena Gaunt and colleagues (2021)

Watch the film made to communicate the content of the article

In the new AEC-project, Empowering artists as makers in society (ARTEMIS 2022-2025), deputy leader of CEMPE, Ingfrid Breie Nyhus, is part of the working group dealing with capacity building in higher music education.

Publications and results

Results from all these projects are available through various media. Many are published on as online articles or in the annual magazines published by CEMPE. Research articles have been published in various journals and anthologies. Below is an overview of other places where information about CEMPE's work can be found: