Symposium, “A Tower of Babel: Institutions and Epistemologies”

Conservatorium van Amsterdam, 24-26 august, 2023

Beginning in 2020, four Dutch institutions – two universities and two conservatories – embarked on a multi-tiered collaboration to bring the practical and academic study of music closer together. Enabled by a Leadership grant from the Comenius program of the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research, these collaborations led to an exchange of existing courses and new joint offerings between the partner institutions.

The Conservatorium van Amsterdam (CvA) and the University of Amsterdam (UvA) created the Academy for Musicology and Musicianship Amsterdam (AMMA) by aligning their bachelor programs. HKU Utrechts Conservatorium and Utrecht University offer a sequence of courses that fits both their master programs: the Academy for Musicology and Musicianship Utrecht (AMMU).

These two joint projects address music’s role in society, politics, and culture and the increasing need for musicians to recognize societal issues in their search for funding. Furthermore, they contribute to the development of artistic research and performance studies, which have challenged the traditional professional division between artists and scholars. Finally, although musicians and musicologists have benefitted from combining studies in the past, many found such a combination hard to carry out. And with current limits imposed on funded study time, it is not feasible without institutional coordination.

But what does it mean to start a collaboration across the divide between university education and vocational training, even when it occurs within a single field? For all its apparent benefits, it faces massive challenges. These not only lie in students’ expectations and prior education or in the professional values their institutions instill. They also lie in the different ways these institutions work. Significant vulnerabilities include admission, registration, schedules, communications, access to facilities, and grade processing. What the collaborating teams want to achieve often burdens the departments whose services they need.

So, how can we create more efficient interactions between such established educational cultures? Apart from music, which other fields would benefit from such interactions? How could they impact the landscape of higher education, professional practices, and students’ learning trajectories and career prospects?

These questions will be central to a two-day symposium, “A Tower of Babel: Institutions and Epistemologies,” hosted at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, from Thursday evening, August 24, through Saturday, August 26. [A number of] invited speakers will represent different communities of stakeholders in collaborations like the ones mentioned above: students and alums, teachers and lecturers, staff and administrators. Invited representatives from other artistic and academic fields will also join the discussion to talk about the broader implications of institutional and professional divisions that continue to hamper more fruitful exchange between disciplines and practices. The symposium will consist of lectures, discussion panels, showcases of work by students, and performances. In addition, the audience will be invited to participate actively in the exchanges at several moments.

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