During the recent school holiday break I travelled to the UK to present a paper titled Consonant Agendas: Priorities of conductors and student members of school choirs amidst pressure to change at the Research in Music Education (RIME) Conference 2015, hosted by the University of Exeter in Devon. Not only was this a fantastic opportunity for me as a music educator but presenting within the conference setting, in a way, both personally and professionally validated my research.
Papers were presented in themed groups allowing delegates to attend where it was most suited to their interests and area of expertise. Also presenting in the choir research theme was a PhD student from the Czech Republic who discussed his experiences as both a choir member in the Czechoslovakian Children’s Choir under Communism and as a conductor of a Children’s Choir in the time since Communism. A fascinating experience to hear the history of a country and the image, controlled by the communist leaders, that was portrayed to the world. The second presenter was a Swedish Conductor. She shared her ethnographic research, discussing the observations she had made of four of the most prominent Swedish children’s choir conductors. This too was an amazing paper to hear and relevant to any school choir conductors.
Other papers that were most relevant to my teaching had themes in composition and the use of iPads as an initial method for digital composition. A very thorough study has been carried out in a Norwegian school and documented by a professor at the University of Bergen. Also of great interest was a study, by an English conductor of community choirs. His research explored the feelings of performance anxiety amongst adult singers in choirs. His results shared similarities with the results of my school aged study. This suggests that there needs to be greater research into the area of performance anxiety amongst school aged choir members, providing them with skills to overcome performance anxiety and to develop into confident adults who will, hopefully, become members of adult community choirs.
The conference was truly a most inspiring experience and has left me with much enthusiasm for future research. I am hoping to explore a number of areas in the future including performance anxiety, more singing in schools and the choice of repertoire.
John Colet School