Sempre 40th Anniversary

This two-day event, hosted by the Institute of Education in London, presented leading international research and celebrated Sempre's activities and achievements over the past 40 years.

The programme included a range of special sessions that bring together distinguished members of the Society, as well as other eminent researchers, enabling discussion of the challenges and opportunities for future work.

Two keynote presentations were delivered, the first by Professor Johan Sundberg about his pioneering research on the voice, and the second by Professor Liora Bresler, drawing on her international work in arts education. Other special sessions included a presentation on the History of the Society, an Editors' Symposium with current and former editors of the Society's two journals (Psychology of Music and Research Studies in Music Education), reflections on music psychology research by Professor Alf Gabrielsson (Sempre Lifetime Achiever), a film report by Professor John Baily (the Sempre Ambassador to Afghanistan), an address from colleagues representing the Argentine Society for the Cognitive Science of Music (SACCoM) drawing on their links with Sempre, a report on Sempre's research into funding for small research grants in the UK, as well as a plenary roundtable to address current and future challenges in the field.

Celebration Event Podcasts

A Review of the Conference

Artemis Apostolaki

The Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research celebrated its 40th anniversary in a two-day conference, hosted by the Institute of Education in London during 14-15 September 2012. The event served to highlight SEMPRE’s development and contribution in the field of music psychology and education research during the past 40 years, as well as to present international research by eminent members of the Society, distinguished researchers in the field and new researchers. The conference programme included two keynote addresses, four special presentations, an Editor’s Symposium and a Plenary, a plethora of longer or shorter research papers and poster presentations, as well as the opportunity for individual tutorials with some of the established scholars participating in the conference.

Professor Graham Welch opened the conference with a brief welcome address, in which he introduced four historical members of SEMPRE: Dr Charles Plummeridge, Dr Gordon Cox, Dr Desmond Sergeant and Dr Leon Crickmore, each one of whom depicted aspects of the music psychology and education research during the first years of the Society’s life. Dr Cox presented the trends in music psychology research during the 60’s and the 70’s, reflected in the aims of the Society, initially named Society for Research in Psychology of Music and Music Education (SRPMME). Dr Sergeant, first editor of the Society’s journal, Psychology of Music, described the challenges of the first years of the Society’s publication Psychology of Music, while Dr Crickmore, who succeeded the first Chairman of the Society, Arnold Bentley, in 1974, shared anecdotal material from the first years of the Society’s activity. Dr Plummeridge and Dr Cox gave an account of landmarks after the 80’s, describing the emergence of new trends in research and the flourish in relevant institutions and publications, as well as the evolution of the Society through its collaboration with SAGE publishing and the establishment of several award schemes.

In the first keynote address that followed, Professor Johan Sundberg gave a detailed account of voice research since the middle of the 20th century: using numerous audiovisual examples, he described the challenges posed by production and measurement mechanisms, explained the developments and basic theories that revolutionized voice and speech research, and presented interdisciplinary implications and future directions of the field.

The Editors’ Symposium featured current and past editors of the Society’s two journals, as well as a representative from SAGE, who shed light on different aspects of the development of music psychology and education publications over the years, the complexities of the editing and reviewing processes and several important points for authors and researchers; the ensuing discussion with members of the audience also led to interesting and useful conclusions regarding the position of non-English contributors in the field of international publications.

The first day of the conference continued with three parallel sessions, which included individual papers, shorter research statements and very brief research ‘rushes’. The first session, Health and Wellbeing, was chaired by Professor John Sloboda and featured research regarding musicians’ physical and mental health, performance anxiety, music in Third Age and in virtual environments, and moral demographics in the distribution of music. The second parallel session, Perception, was chaired by Professor Ian Cross and included research on learning and imagery processes, the development of temporal, melodic and emotional perceptions and neural correlates of music production. The third parallel session, Therapy, chaired by Professor Jane Davidson, featured papers examining the effect of music in pathological, congenital or acquired, conditions and the implications on music education.

Professor Alf Gabrielsson, SEMPRE Lifetime Achiever, concluded the first day of the conference by sharing some reflections on music psychology: the interaction of ‘academic’ psychology with the arts, the importance of research on specialised aspects of musical experience, the challenges posed by phenomenological characteristics of this experience and, finally, the uniqueness and developmental behaviour of absolute pitch traits.

The second day of the conference opened with a keynote address delivered by Professor Liora Bresler, who gave a stimulating talk on the philosophical bases of music education, drew parallels between everyday experiences and teaching/learning processes, and highlighted the importance of distance levels in the aesthetic mindset. Professor Bresler reflected on the characteristics of insightful qualitative research in the arts, the development of intensified perception in education and the distinction between judgement and critical thinking in research.

Parallel sessions in Day 2 included: a session on Motivation, chaired by Dr Gordon Cox, featuring research on motivation in relation to music production and music listening, a session on Performing and Listening, chaired by Professor Johan Sundberg, including papers examining communication, creativity and modality during rehearsal and performance, and the role of individual differences in musical achievement; the third parallel session, Impact and Interaction, chaired by Professor Raymond MacDonald, featured papers looking at social aspects of music creativity, educational aspects of music in specialised and gaming software, and other music education topics. The second round of parallel sessions included: Musicality, chaired by Professor Susan Hallam, featuring research on musicality measurements and factors and the development of musicality in children; Community, chaired by Dr Stephanie Pitts, including papers examining the impact of music education and music making on various aspects of the community; and Learning, Teaching and Attending Music, chaired by Professor Liora Bresler, featuring research on music teaching and learning strategies, on the role of emotions and physical attributes of sound in the perceptual outcome of listening processes, and on the impact of singing during music lessons and infancy. The poster session of the conference featured seven parallel thematic displays: 1. Instrumental and Vocal Pedagogy, 2. Education, Culture and Society, 3. Learning, 4. Musical Identities and Personalities, 5. Therapy and Health, 6. Perception and Cognition, 7. Performance.

After the end of the poster session, Professor John Baily, SEMPRE Ambassador for Afghanistan, presented a short documentary film, Return of the Nightingales, about the function of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), which has received financial support by SEMPRE, amongst other institutions. The film itself, as well as the ensuing discussion, was extremely interesting and illuminating regarding the progress of a pioneering music education establishment in the sociocultural, political and financial context of contemporary Afghanistan. The final special presentation of the conference was delivered by Dr Jane Oakland, head of a SEMPRE project investigating the role of small grant funding in music research; Dr Oakland presented very encouraging and useful findings of the project, especially for early-career researchers.

The conference concluded with a roundtable in which Professors John Sloboda, Graham Welch, Eric Clarke and John Baily shared some final remarks on the current and future challenges in research in Music Psychology and Music Education; the plenary incited a lively discussion with the audience regarding future directions of research. Overall, the SEMPRE 40th Anniversary Conference was an extremely interesting and varied event, excellently organised by the conference director, Dr Elaine King. It featured internationally renowned researchers in the fields of Music Psychology and Education, as well as a large number of speakers, ranging from early career researchers to teachers with up to 60 years of experience in music education practice. Moreover, the decision to include flexible presentation formats, such as individual papers, research statements, research rushes and posters, gave to participants the opportunity to familiarise themselves with a variety of research projects; this led to lively discussions and exchange of ideas between researchers from different disciplines, further contributing to the success of this celebratory event.