2010: A New Year

2009 is ending, and it was quite an interesting year. I spent much of it working as a Professor of Music at a very innovative graduate institution, the Sibelius Academy in Finland. I also had a summer research residency in Japan (National Institutes for the Humanities-Nichibunken, Kyoto), and traveled briefly for various music lectures and other professional activities in ten countries, mostly in Europe.

A major highlight of the year was the opportunity to mentor five outstanding students to completion of their doctoral degrees: Ari Poutiainen (jazz studies), Arnold Chiwalala (folk music), and Tapani Heikinheimo (music education) at the Sibelius Academy in Europe, as well as both Nancy Rosenberg (music education) and Robert Allen (music education) at Boston University in the USA, where I continued some earlier work by serving as an adjunct Master Lecturer.

I continued to be quite active in scholarship, with publication of chapters in four books (Multicultural Perspectives in Music Education [vol. 2 and 3], De-Canonizing Music History, and Music Education for Changing Times: Guiding Visions for Practice), as well as refereed articles in the journals Parlando (in Hungarian) and Visions of Research in Music Education. However, publication of my own books was postponed to 2010.

Another highlight of the year was contributing to the finalization of plans for the new Master of Global Music (GLOMAS) program in Northern Europe, and its official launch at the Womex festival in Copenhagen. This innovative degree will soon be offered in collaboration between institutions in Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, and promises to increase musical interactions between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

It was very enjoyable to attend the Society for Ethnomusicology international conference in Mexico City, where I was elected chair of its Historical Ethnomusicology special interest group. I expect this group to accomplish some great things over the next few years. I have also been participating in the Nordic Network for Integration of Music Informatics, Performance and Aesthetics (NNIMIPA), and have been appointed to the editorial board of its Journal of Music and Meaning, and asked to coordinate this group’s collectively authored research statement for publication.

It was also quite interesting to participate in the Orally Transmitted Music and Intercultural Education, symposium offered by EU Culture Initiative Music, Orality, Roots, Europe (MORE) at Cité de la Musique, Paris, France, and I look forward to more of its activities in the near future, including a conference to be hosted by Sibelius Academy.

On a more personal note, a major highlight of 2009 for me was my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, in Seattle in late December.

What are the plans for 2010? . . .

This year I must focus on publishing two books that have been delayed for much too long: Wind Bands and Cultural Identity in Japanese Schools: An Ethnography and Social History, and Patriotism and Nationalism in Music Education. I will also publish two more book chapters, in Sociology and Music Education (now in press), and the Oxford Handbook of Music Education (first draft now in review).

The new GLOMAS program will admit its first cohort of graduate students, and I am committed to seeing this program carefully planned and successfully implemented. I am currently chairing the curriculum development committee for this degree at Sibelius Academy, and coordinating the admissions review process between this institution and partner institutions in Sweden and Denmark. Additionally, I expect to see at least three more doctoral students complete their degrees this academic year.

There are several interesting new developments with the Historical Ethnomusicology group, and both the NNIMIPA and MORE projects in Europe. I am also looking forward to singing bass for the Finnish choir Kampin Laulu's tour of Hungary, and to participating in the NORDTRAD folk music conference in Latvia.

[I took the above photo of an impressive church tower in Copenhagen in early 2009, when I was a visiting lecturer at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory.]


Declining Popularity of Music Videogames

According to a Dec. 21 2009 article in the Tech Herald (entitled 2009 is last hurrah for ailing music-rhythm videogames, by Stevie Smith), “music-based videogames pulled in $1.4 billion USD in revenue during the course of 2008, but will be lucky to have amassed $700 million USD by the time 2009 draws to a close.”

Here is a link to the article:


This recent development seems to offer some new opportunities to rethink the educational possibilities of music video games. Major video game manufacturers have yet to develop a game that is fully endorsed by leading music education researchers for effectively facilitating enjoyable music learning. Surely, in time, video games will be produced in collaboration with educational experts that will lead to desirable learning outcomes and become widely used across educational systems, but to envision this will require unprecedented forms of collaboration between higher education and industry, which are sectors that have often failed to nurture mutual respect due to differing values. In fact, much may be gained from such collaborations, if developed with care.

[I took the above photo in Kyoto at the original headquarters of Nintendo, an innovative company that has evolved from production of playing cards to video games]


Joulu Choral Concert

Tonight is the final Joulu performance of Helsinki chamber choir Kampin Laulu. The festive concert is 7pm at Kellokosken Kirkko, in the greater Helsinki area.

A variety of choral pieces will be performed, ranging from traditional English madrigals to Finnish Christmas carols.

I sing the lowest bass parts with the choir.

Here is a link to the Kampin Laulu website:



Free Improvisation and Performance Anxiety Among Piano Students

Today, Dr. Robert Allen successfully defended his doctoral dissertation at Boston University, a multi-faceted experimental study entitled FREE IMPROVISATION AND PERFORMANCE ANXIETY AMONG PIANO STUDENTS.

Here is the abstract:

The sensations of a dry mouth, perspiration, knot in one’s stomach, lump in one’s throat, or that tingling feeling referred to as the “butterflies,” are phenomena generally referred to as symptoms of “performance anxiety.” The purpose of this study was to compare the levels of anxiety that students experience according to whether their public performance consists of a free improvisation or a repertory piece. This was based on the assumption that a free improvisation instructional strategy might aid in reducing levels of performance anxiety among school aged piano students, and should therefore be systematically evaluated for its potential to offer improvements to music education.

This study had two objectives: 1) examine the relationship of students’ levels of anxiety to free improvisation and repertory pieces during a performance, and 2) examine the effectiveness of free improvisation as a treatment for the reduction of performance anxiety. This research used the following instruments for data collection: 1) Spielberger’s State–Trait Anxiety Inventory for Children, 2) Musical Anxiety Report Scale (designed by the researcher), 3) Subject Interviews, 4) Parent Questionnaire, and 5) Performance Video. Thirty-six elementary, middle school and high school students from a private music teaching studio were selected from a list of potential subjects available to the researcher. Participants were selected based on age (7-18 years) and years of training (1-3), as well as to comprise a gender balance of 50% boys and 50% girls. They were then randomly assigned to three equal-sized groups, with 12 subjects per group. Subjects within the treatment 3 group(s) developed a free improvisation during weekly individual sessions, administered and observed by the researcher over a period of six weeks.

Sample criteria required that all subjects who participated in the study 1) play the piano, 2) claim to have experienced music performance anxiety, and 3) have not received any previous psychological or pharmacological treatment for their music performance anxiety. Each participant was taught applications of scale, harmony, and rhythm elements from which to construct their free improvisations. Results from this study validated free improvisation as a treatment for significantly reducing anxiety during the public performance of a musical work.

Congratulations to Dr. Bob Allen!

It was a pleasure to serve as supervisory professor for this doctoral dissertation. The study also greatly benefited from insightful comments by committee members Andrew Goodrich and Diana Dansereau (of Boston University).


MORE Symposium

Since yesterday, I have been at the MORE symposium on Orally Transmitted Music and Intercultural Education at Cité de la musique, in Paris:


Funded by the EU Culture Programme, The MORE (Music-Orality-Roots-Europe) Project “seeks to encourage innovative initiatives in the field of music education based on the intercultural potential of the range of traditional musics active in Europe”.

This is a very interesting project, that is raising stimulating proposals for the improvement of music education in Europe.

The next MORE symposium will be offered in Helsinki at the Sibelius Academy in late 2010.

Link for further information:



Historical Ethnomusicology SIG

I have recently been elected chair of the Historical Ethnomusicology special interest group of the Society for Ethnomusicology (2009-2011). “Histo-Ethno” is a small but vibrant international community (known as a SIG, for special interest group) consisting primarily of young scholars who study music in all parts of the world. It appears that we currently have around 45 members, although only about one-third that number managed to come to the most recent meeting in Mexico City. I would like to thank the previous chair Dr. Sandra Graham (University of California) for her nomination and encouragement, and secretary Dr. Ann Lucas for her kind support and helpful collaboration.

Historical Ethnomusicology may at first sound like an excessively specialized field of study, yet recently enormous reference works have appeared in related fields that would appear to be much more specialized, such as medical ethnomusicology. Actually, historical studies have been a major part of the field of ethnomusicology for a very long time, yet in recent years both the distinctiveness and significance of historical inquiry are beginning to receive greater attention than ever before. According to Bruno Nettl, “The number of ethnomusicologists doing work of an explicitly historical sort has increased to the degree that the term ‘historical ethnomusicology’ has begun to appear in programs of conferences and in publications” (Bruno Nettl, University of Illinois, 2005, p.274). However, Nettl has cautioned that not all historical studies of non-western music are necessarily ethnomusicological, and that “historical studies, to qualify as proper ethnomusicology, should relate somehow to the central tenets of ethnomusicological definition – relationship to other cultural domains and a view of music as a world of musics” (Nettl, 2005, p.273). These are wise suggestions that require careful consideration.

Kay Shelemay has also made some very important points regarding historical ethnomusicology. While she acknowledged that "most ethnomusicological studies today take history into account when discussing the ethnographic present", she also asserted that "ethnomusicologists can contribute more to the understanding of history than the record indicates" (Shelemay, 1980, p.234).

Recently, another outstanding scholar has at least briefly entertained the notion that the subdiscipline of historical ethnomusicology may be unnecessary: “The claim might now be sustained that all ethnomusicology is historical, just more so or less so as particular research interests and available data allow. One implication of this point of view is that it may be unhelpful to sustain a named subdiscipline called historical ethnomusicology” (Jonathan Stock, in The New (Ethno)musicologies, ed. Henry Stobart, Scarecrow Press, 2008, p.198). Therefore, one of the important challenges across the next two years for the Historical Ethnomusicology special interest group of the Society for Ethnomusicology will be to clarify this subfield’s contributions and delineate its distinctive theoretical concepts and methodological approaches relative to the rest of ethnomusicology. Among our proposed projects is development of an annotated bibliography and definition of the field and its key theoretical issues, as well as a virtual conference on current issues in historical ethnomusicology. I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next two years.

For those interested in learning more about this field, I recommend the following books:

  • Nettl, B., The Study of Ethomusicology: Thirty-one Issues and Concepts. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2005.
  • Stobart, H. (Ed.), The New (Ethno)musicologies. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2008.
  • Kurkela, V. & Vakeva, L. (Eds.), De-Canonizing Music History. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009.
  • Blum, S., Bohlman, P. V., & Neuman, D. M. (Eds.), Ethnomusicology and Modern Music History. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Also, please see Kay Shelemay's article:
  • Shelemay, K. K. (1980). "Historical ethnomusicology": Reconstructing Falasha liturgical history. Ethnomusicology, 24(2).

[I took the above photos at the 2009 Society for Ethnomusicology conference in Mexico City.]


Ethnomusicology in Mexico City

After the planning meeting in Helsinki yesterday of the Nordic Network for the Integration of Music Informatics, Performance, and Aesthetics, I have now flown to Mexico City for the Society for Ethnomusicology conference.

I am currently visiting El Colegio de México, A.C., commonly known as Colmex, The College of Mexico (pictured here in my recent photo), which is a prestigious institute of higher education that emphasizes graduate studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Later this week, I will be chairing the meeting of the Historical Ethnomusicology SIG, and a paper session on nationalism in music. It is quite interesting to see new developments in Mexican higher education. This 2009 meeting in Mexico City is the first Society for Ethnomusicology annual conference to be held outside the United States and Canada, so I think it sets an important precedent.

Here is a link to a powerpoint of the agenda for the Historical Ethnomusicology meeting:


Before traveling, I suffered a minor injury, but I am getting my strength back and intend to get caught up on deadlines as soon as possible.


Musiques de Tradition Orale et Education Interculturelle

I have been invited to give a lecture on December 3-4 at Cite de la Musique in Paris, for the EU Culture Initiative Musiques de tradition orale et éducation interculturelle.

This promises to be a very interesting event with important implications for musical practices in European higher education.

My presentation title:

Former les musiciens professionnels dans une société multiculturelle : Nouveaux enjeux et nouveaux développements

(Educating professional musicians for a multicultural society: Emerging issues and new developments).

Here is a link to the symposium program in English:


Here is a link to the abstract of my presentation:


Intensity of Interaction in Instrumental Music Lessons

Congratulations to Dr. Tapani Heikinheimo for completion of his doctoral degree at the Sibelius Academy, with the acceptance yesterday of his academic dissertation Intensity of Interaction in Instrumental Music Lessons.

Here is a link to the study:


Here is its abstract:

Previous research on one-to-one instrumental music lessons in higher education has shown asymmetrical relations between teachers and students and an emphasis on expression and technique in both implicit and explicit strategies of teaching and learning. In order to rethink the practice of instrumental and vocal pedagogy, to better understand such multivoiced musical and pedagogical interactions and to enhance musicianship, this study introduced and examined intensity as a relational phenomenon and as constituting a factor in interaction between teacher and student. Intensity of Interaction offers an overview of the dynamic character of the musical and pedagogical dialogue. It aims to encompass both instrumental lesson activity as a whole, and to reveal detailed elements of the teacher-student work. In order to theoretically frame and conceptualize the instrumental music lesson as a teaching and learning activity, the present study draws on pragmatist philosophy and cultural historical activity theory. The following twofold question guided the study:

How does Intensity of Interaction constitute musical and pedagogical meaning construction in instrumental or vocal teaching and learning and to which features of verbal and musical communication is Intensity of Interaction connected?

This study gathered data during a period of 3 years, through interactive processes and events in 22 lessons, using observations, video and audio recordings, field notes, intensity ratings, and stimulated recall interviews. The analysis viewed the data from two parallel perspectives on the lesson interaction. The first perspective considered meaning construction in the lesson activity. The other perspective entailed interpretation of the intensity ratings, that is, the perceived meaningfulness of joint musical engagement. The analysis combined these two empirical sources of information in the framework of Activity Theory.

The study and the analysis of the data consisted of the following phases: (1) formulation and testing of methods for analysis of Intensity of Interaction based on the intensity ratings and the Method of Voices from the field of Activity Theory, (2) determination, through application of this theory and method, of ways that music teaching and learning strategies arise through internal contradictions within various forms of a) musical play, b) narrative play, and c) knowledge inquiry, (3) development of a description of the theoretical construct Intensity of Interaction as a key component of the teacher/student dialogue in music lessons.

As an outcome, the increased awareness regarding meaning construction and diversity of problem solving in music lessons has implications for both instrumental pedagogy and future research. Firstly, the results showed how Intensity of Interaction is related to teaching and learning strategies. Secondly, Intensity of Interaction highlights qualitative elements in teacher-student work, which create musical and personal growth and development. Thirdly, the findings of this study challenged the paradigm of efficiency, in which efficiency of teaching is related to high teacher intensity and inefficiency related to low teacher intensity in instrumental instruction. Fourthly, Intensity of Interaction is comprised of the continuity of tension between sense making and awareness of musical reality, sense making and conventional meaning, and musical-pedagogical concepts versus musical-pedagogical reality.

Articulation of the contradictions facilitates change as an outcome of relations in which the two polarities are not exclusive but are brought into accord through a dialogical process. Consequently, Intensity of Interaction opens up prospects of development in lesson content and structure. In all, this study highlights the sensitive nature of the teacher-student interactions and the pragmatic value of Intensity of Interaction in educating musicians and in developing the teacher-student work. This suggests the usefulness of Intensity of Interaction as a tool for self-observation and teacher education, elaborating more reflective teaching and learning contexts within instrumental pedagogy.

Congratulations to Dr. Tapani Heikinheimo!

It was a pleasure to serve as co-supervisor of Tapani's doctoral dissertation, along with activity theory expert Ritva Engestrom and music education philosopher Heidi Westerlund.


Rethinking College Music Theory Pedagogy

Yesterday, Dr. Nancy Rosenberg successfully defended her doctoral dissertation at Boston University, an extensive academic study entitled FROM ROCK MUSIC TO THEORY PEDAGOGY: RETHINKING U.S. COLLEGE MUSIC THEORY EDUCATION FROM A POPULAR MUSIC PERSPECTIVE.

Here is the abstract:

Popular music today permeates American youth culture and society at large to an unprecedented extent, disseminated through information technology and a vibrant concert and club culture. Nevertheless, the subject of popular music remains slow to infiltrate mainstream academic music discourse, especially discussions of music pedagogy. In the case of music theory, there is a discrepancy between popular music discourse on one hand, and pedagogical practice that excludes popular music on the other. In the absence of relevant training and materials, instructors desiring to include popular music in music theory curricula do so in relative isolation, often casually, and/or to a very limited extent. Along with practical concerns, unresolved philosophical questions further impede development of a coherent vision for including popular music in the undergraduate music theory curriculum.

This philosophical study explores numerous issues around the intersection of popular music and beginning music theory education. Its three parts progress from the general to the specific. Part One considers current music theory and theory pedagogy through an historical lens, clarifying reasons for the disciplines’ neglect of popular music.

Part Two grapples with major issues around popular music’s inclusion in today’s college music theory. Traditional textbooks serve to introduce primary themes relating to music theory content and methodology, as philosophical perspectives on popular music’s role in music education are considered. Turning to current practice, several theory textbooks that include popular music content to varying degrees are examined, along with relevant research on the pedagogical implications of popular music and its learning processes.

Finally, Part Three offers original lessons and ideas for approaching core theoretical concepts through popular music. Throughout, areas of convergence and divergence between classical and popular styles are explored with the aim of developing fresh, experientially based approaches to presenting popular music alongside art music repertoire in teaching beginning music theory. While this study focuses primarily on past and current rock-influenced popular music, it will serve as a useful tool for music educators wishing to expand the boundaries of traditional music theory pedagogy to include any and all styles of popular music as a means of imparting core music theory concepts.


Dr. Nancy Rosenberg is a prolific composer and music educator who has taught at Brown University and Emerson College for many years.

Dr. Rosenberg’s dissertation is the first major study to focus on the role of popular music in music theory pedagogy, and may also be the first academic study to examine the field of music theory from the perspective of music education philosophy.

Congratulations to Dr. Nancy Rosenberg!

It was a pleasure to serve as supervisory professor for this innovative doctoral dissertation. The study also greatly benefited from comments by committee members Andrew Goodrich (Boston University), Lee Higgins (Boston University), and Ben Bierman (CUNY).


Chiwalala Doctoral Ceremony

The following is a press release from the Sibelius Academy website (http://siba.fi/fi/?id=32402):

The public examination of Artist Arnold Chiwalala´s demonstration of proficiency for the Doctor of Music degree will take place on Monday, November 9, 2009 at 11.00 a.m. in Chamber Music Hall, Sibelius Academy, Pohjoinen Rautatiekatu 9, Helsinki.

Title of Arnold Chiwalala´s demonstration of proficiency: Holistic and Intercultural Artistry

Title of the written work: Chizentele: My Path to Original Artistry and Creative Fusion of Ngoma with Finnish Folk Music and Dance

The statement on the demonstration of proficiency will be presented by the Chair of the Board of Examiners PhD, Ass.Prof. Alfonso Padilla. Statements on the written work will be presented by Professor David Hebert and Professor Hannu Saha. The Custos of the examination is Professor Vesa Kurkela.

The combined experience of living in two cultures, Tanzanian and Finnish, has played a part in Arnold Chiwalala´s creativity which led him to undertake this doctoral degree. He came to Finland already equipped with his artistic skills and education from home, but experiencing a new environment and a different culture has developed him as an artist. It has broadened his perspective on creativity and it has broadened his artistic imagination. Here in Finland he discovered the kantele. With this instrument, he has invented a concrete new style of music to which he has given the name Chizentele, and established a two-piece band, PolePole, to play this style. He has performed this new style Chizentele in all of his doctoral recitals. Added to that he has developed different ways for creating intercultural fusion of music, dance and songs.

The skills and knowledge that Arnold Chiwalala inherited from his parents and obtained from other sources - from school, society, the Bagamoyo College of Arts in Tanzania, the Department of Folk Music at the Sibelius Academy in Finland, various experiences of living in a different culture, the experience of working with other artists, and observations of other people´s work - have given him the capacity as an artist to see and do things as a whole, especially while he is creating his art. In this document he will explain how he arrived at this holistic conception of artistry through cross-cultural experience.

Arnold Chiwalala is a Tanzanian musician, dancer, singer, choreographer, composer, song writer and a Teacher. He was born in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in 1963. He was chosen to join the Bagamoyo College of Arts, Tanzania, in 1981. Arnold has worked as teacher and performing artist in the Bagamoyo College of Arts since 1985. Besides teaching he has been involved in various dance, music and theatre projects and performed in Africa, Europe and in the USA. Trip in November 1987 to Finland connected him with the country. Since 1989 he has traveled widely in the country to teach, give lectures and workshops in schools and in tertiary education such as Sibelius Academy, Theatre Academy, University of Helsinki and University of Tampere. He has also taught professionals in performing arts, school teachers and amateurs as well as worked with handicapped children and prisoners. As an artist he has collaborated with Finnish artists in various music, dance and theater projects, including Opera. Added to that, Arnold has performed for TV and his artistry works have been featured in Radio programs. In 2000 Yle TV 1 made a documentary film called “Musta Väinämöinen” about Arnold Chiwalala.


It was a great pleasure to mentor Dr. Arnold Chiwalala in developing the final document of his doctoral thesis, along with co-examiner Hannu Saha at Sibelius Academy. Dr. Alfonso Padilla (University of Helsinki) and Heikki Laitinen (Emeritus Professor, Sibelius Academy) did an outstanding job guiding and evaluating Dr. Chiwalala in his artistic work across several years of studies.

Also, I am pleased to report that the Finland Ministry of Foreign Affairs is now sending 10 copies of Dr. Chiwalala's thesis to its embassies in Africa.

Classics at the White House

President Obama and family have just hosted their first concert of classical music at the White House.

Here is a link to a related article:

According to the above article . . . “Asked after the workshop whether the Obamas’ gesture in celebrating classical music at the White House will help demystify the art form and bring it needed attention, Ms. Weilerstein said, ‘If that doesn’t do it, I don’t know what does.’”


RIP Claude Levi-Strauss

Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss (b. 1908) has just passed away. Author of The Raw and the Cooked and other influential books, his ideas have had a considerable impact on how social scientists conceive of music in culture.



Link to an article on Levi-Strauss and music:



On music in human life:

“Since music is a language with some meaning at least for the immense majority of mankind, although only a tiny minority of people are capable of formulating a meaning in it, and since it is the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable, the musical creator is a being comparable to the gods, and music itself the supreme mystery of the science of man, a mystery that all the various disciplines come up against and which holds the key to their progress.”

On scholarship:

“The scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.”

On the place of Europe in the world:

“Being human signifies, for each one of us, belonging to a class, a society, a country, a continent and a civilization; and for us European earth-dwellers, the adventure played out in the heart of the New World signifies in the first place that it was not our world and that we bear responsibility for the crime of its destruction.”

On the relations between historiography and social science:

“The anthropologist respects history, but he does not accord it a special value. He conceives it as a study complementary to his own: one of them unfurls the range of human societies in time, the other in space.”


New Music Programme Launch at Womex

Today I am at the enormous Womex event in Copenhagen, Denmark (and nearby Malmo, Sweden) for the official launch of the Glomus Network and its affiliated Master of Global Music Program. These highly innovative new developments promise to open up unprecedented opportunities for all kinds of musical studies in Northern Europe, including especially the music of Africa and the Middle East, as well as creative work in intercultural hybrid forms. It has been exciting to play such an active role in the planning of these new initiatives which may broaden the landscape of music in European higher education.


Choral Concert by Kampin Laulu

MERI (The Sea)
Kampin Laulu Chamber Choir
Cafe Jugend, Pohjoisesplanadi 19, Helsinki, Finland.
Saturday, 7th of November, 2009, at 4pm.
Tickets: 8.00-12.00 EUR

The sea will serve as the theme for the Kampin Laulu Chamber Choir's upcoming concert, featuring both old and new chamber choir music, mostly by Nordic composers:
Kuula - Nevanlinna - Segerstam - Vainio - Vidjeskog - Whitacre.
Conductor: Eric-Olof Söderström.

I sing the lowest bass parts with the choir. Here is a link to their website:



Two European Doctorates in Music

Two of the doctoral students I have been advising are nearly complete with the revisions to their theses, and will soon be giving their final doctoral presentations and graduating from the Sibelius Academy, in Helsinki, Finland:

-Tapani Heikinheimo (completion on 15 November 2009, Sibelius Academy): Intensity of Interaction in Instrumental Music Lessons (co-supervisor)

-Arnold Chiwalala (completion on 9 November 2009, Sibelius Academy): Chizentele: My Path to Original Artistry and Creative Fusion of Ngoma with Finnish Folk Music and Dance (co-supervisor)

Tapani Heikinheimo is the student with whom I have worked the most since coming to Sibelius Academy more than one year ago. His study offers new insights into the dynamic process of teaching and learning in one-to-one instrumental music lessons. Tapani’s other supervisors are activity theory expert Ritva Engestrom and music education philosopher Heidi Westerlund.

Arnold Chiwalala is a unique musician who has written an autobiographical and reflective thesis on his own artistic development as a renowned Tanzanian-Finnish songwriter, musician, and intercultural performing artist. His study offers new insights into issues in intercultural artistic development. Chiwalala’s other examiner is Finnish folk music expert Hannu Saha, and committee members include Heikki Laitinen and Alfonso Padilla.

It has been a great pleasure to work with such outstanding musicians and scholars, and I am certain both Tapani and Arnold will continue to make a difference in the field of music.


Music and Youth

Today, at 28 years old, Gustavo Dudamel debuted as Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, one of the world's great symphony orchestras. The story of Dudamel's musical upbringing, now widely known, demonstrates that new opportunities have emerged in the traditional field of European classical art music, and that age and nationality are increasingly viewed as unreliable indicators of ability at even the highest levels of musical leadership.

Dudamel’s visionary work in Venezuela with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra has also demonstrated the positive outcomes of national programs for community music education in economically challenged circumstances.




Here is a video clip of Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra:


Two New Dissertations

Two of my doctoral students from when I taught full-time at Boston University have recently reached the stage of final revisions, and will shortly be ready to move forward with their dissertation defense and graduation. Both of their studies are quite interesting, offering new insights into under-explored themes in the broad field of music education:

-Robert Allen (Defense date: December 15, 2009, Boston University): Free Improvisation and Performance Anxiety Among Piano Students

-Nancy Rosenberg (Defense date: November 13, 2009, Boston University): From Popular Music to Theory Pedagogy: Rethinking U.S. College Music Theory Education from a Popular Music Perspective

Both studies examine major challenges commonly faced by music educators, and offer useful new information regarding effective approaches to teaching. The dissertation defense is a public forum, and both online and face-to-face observers are welcome.


Historical Ethnomusicology

Ethnomusicologists are researchers who study music as a cultural phenomenon, and although much of ethnomusicological research addresses contemporary practices, some studies also examine historical questions. This summer I have been thinking a lot about the methods of historical ethnomusicology, examining how studies in this subfield as well as in related fields such as anthropology, cultural history, and historical sociology, grapple with how to meaningfully represent the musical past in scholarship: both the evidence-based past of empirical research and the remembered past of cultural narrative (both of which seem important in very different ways).

Much of my data collection in Japan this summer has focused on questions related to how the history of western music and music education within this nation is perceived in relation to the reality of what can be confirmed by historical data. Assuming that most of what had already been written on this topic was probably true, I entered this study with some untested beliefs and then encountered several surprises along the way. Many common interpretations and beliefs regarding this history have turned out to be rather different from what may actually be confirmed, including such questions as the following:

What is the oldest surviving form of European music in Japan? How did the first European instruments arrive in Japan? Who taught the first European string, percussion, brass, and keyboard instruments in Japan, and how and where were they taught? What is the oldest continuously performing westernized music ensemble in Japan? What is the oldest professional European orchestral ensemble in Japan? To what extent is it accurate to suggest that a particular individual may be regarded as the “Father of Western Music” in Japan? For what reasons did European instruments and music lessons become so popular in this nation? How did Japanese manage to produce the world’s largest musical instrument companies, and what has been the role of music industry in Japan’s system of music education? In what ways has the Japanese system influenced other Asian nations? How and why did music competitions become so popular in Japan?

Based on a thorough review of documents in Japanese and European languages (which range from rare archival materials to very recently published research articles), as well as consultation with many Japanese experts and additional interviews and observations, I have developed a revisionary interpretation of this history which I look forward to discussing with other scholars, particularly those examining similar questions in the field of historical ethnomusicology.


Final Weeks of Summer in Japan

On Sunday I attended the 48th annual Osaka prefectural wind band competition (48回大阪府吹奏楽コンクール) in Minoh, Japan. As expected, the bands there were outstanding, and I think the adjudicators also did an excellent job. Particularly memorable were performances of Jun Nagao’s Reminiscence by the Miki Wind Philharmonie and of Masamichi Amano’s The Sea’s Aurora by the Minoh Youth Band.

The bands that received the highest awards at this contest will advance to the regional competition, and those who receive the highest awards at that event will advance to the national level. Since the end of 2004, my research has suggested that the All-Japan Band Association's annual national contest is probably the world's largest music competition in terms of the number of contestants (over 14,000 bands, with a recently estimated total of 800,000 competing musicians). Nowadays, many music scholars in Japan and abroad seem to agree that there appear to be no larger music competitions in the world.

Here is a link to the final results from the Osaka-level event:


Next week I am visiting the headquarters of Yamaha, Kawai, the Keishicho Museum, Showakan Reading Room, Finnish Institute in Japan (at the Embassy of Finland in Tokyo), and Professors at Tokyo Gakugei University and Yokohama National University.

It is a pretty busy schedule, but I expect to acquire some interesting new information and make progress on planning for future research projects.


Music and Changing Generations

Below is a link to an interesting report just released from the Pew Research Center entitled “Forty Years After Woodstock, A Gentler Generation Gap”. The report describes changing perceptions regarding both generational differences and music preferences in the United States. Such studies may contribute to evaluations of the relevance of music education programs in contemporary society.



Sound Sensibility

On July 21, the technology company Apple “disclosed its first quarterly decline in iPods sold” as discussed in Arik Hesseldahl’s provocative article “The iPod Is Dead. Long Live the iPod,” from the latest issue of Business Week (linked below).


New music technologies are increasingly expected to offer multifunctionality while younger generations of music consumers seek products that facilitate more active and empowering forms of creative interaction rather than mere passive reception of music. The very nature of human musical experience is changing to some extent with each new generation of music technologies.

Below are some informative links related to the history of sound recordings:






This partial eclipse was visible from Japan at around 11am today. Many people took a short break to observe it, a chance that only comes once every 40 years.

Recently, I have been enjoying listening to Toru Takemitsu’s composition for shakuhachi and biwa, aptly entitled Eclipse.


Festival Music in Japan

Yesterday in Kyoto was the Yamaboko Junko parade of the Gion Matsuri, which is one of Japan’s three most famous festivals. The origins of the Gion Matsuri are traceable to 869 AD, and the highlight of its parade is the nine hoko, or enormous floats, each of which is pulled by a team of around 30 to 40 men. Each hoko contains several musicians playing the distinctive gion-bayashi (祇園囃子) festival music, which features the shimmering sounds of gongs, taiko drums and flutes playing semi-dissonant motifs. Attached is a photograph I took of one of them while I attended the event with Helena Capkova and others. Interestingly, women are not permitted to participate in any aspect of the parade, and this 1,100-year old festival also has strong religious connotations, both of which are factors that have hindered the wide adaptation of such festival music traditions into schools.


Future of the Bolshoi

According to a recent story by Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times, Alexander Vedernikov, the “chief conductor and music director of the Bolshoi Theater resigned suddenly on Monday . . . throwing the future of the institution’s $1 billion renovation project into chaos.”

About six years ago I lived in Moscow, where I taught music courses for Lomonosov Moscow State University and performed and recorded with the Pan-Asian ("Wa-On") Ensemble at Tchaikovsky State Conservatory. During that period, I would frequently visit the Bolshoi, which despite recent challenges has remained a uniquely important venue in the field of European art music, a priceless landmark. Any visitor to the Bolshoi Theatre can confirm it is a truly impressive place worth preserving for future generations.

The current situation at the Bolshoi reminds us of the importance of ensuring that the significance of cultural heritage is not hastily dismissed during times of economic crisis. Through organizations such as UNESCO, European Union commissions, and various NGOs, it is possible to effectively turn the attention of lawmakers and corporate boards toward the urgent needs of global musical heritage sites, whether calling for renewal in New Orleans, New Delhi, or New Caledonia.

Here are links to some related programs:





Research in New Zealand Performing Arts

Research in New Zealand Performing Arts has announced a new call for papers.

This is one of the only peer-reviewed scholarly journals in New Zealand that publishes music research. Although the journal examines performing arts generally, nearly half of its articles have been music-related. I serve on its editorial board.

Here is a link to a website that offers the complete announcement, as well as the previous two issues of the journal:


NAEP American Arts Education Report Released

The National Center for Educational Statistics (U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences) has just released its report “The Nation’s Report Card” National Assessment of Educational Progress, Arts 2008. It has been a decade since its last assessment of the state of arts education in American schools.

While this report contains some interesting findings, it seems important to keep in mind that in the past such reports have tended to generate controversy due to both their content/methodology and the ways in which they are misinterpreted for various political purposes.

Here is a link to an announcement of the report:


Here is a link to its results:


According to the executive summary of this report, its most significant finding is the following:

Racial/ethnic and gender gaps evident in both music and visual arts

Although the results for music and visual arts are reported separately and cannot be compared, some general patterns in differences between student groups were similar in the two disciplines.

  • Average responding scores in both music and visual arts were 22 to 32 points higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than for Black and Hispanic students. The creating task scores in visual arts were also higher for White and Asian/Pacific Islander students than for their Black and Hispanic peers.
  • Average responding scores for female students were 10 points higher than for male students in music and 11 points higher in visual arts. Female students also outperformed male students in creating visual art.


Keiper, S., Sandene, B.A., Persky, H.R., and Kuang, M. (2009). The Nation's Report Card: Arts 2008 Music & Visual Arts (NCES 2009–488). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.


Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson, one of the most popular music performers of all time, died yesterday. Upon hearing the name Michael Jackson, all kinds of images run through one’s mind, although it is quite difficult to separate fact from fiction. Many people long to become famous, but perhaps we should all be thankful to have never attained the kind of fame that tortured Michael’s personality and led to such a complicated and unhappy life. Michael became a kind of living icon, symbolic of so many different issues, including the role of shock and empathy in the construction of mass-mediated stardom. It is impossible to imagine what it would have been like to be him, and difficult to know whether he will be remembered more for the hints of artistry on stage or the tragic symptoms of unbalanced stardom in his personal life. It seems there is much to learn from a careful study of Michael Jackson's life, yet it may take many years to attain an accurate and balanced understanding of who he really was, and the impact he had on American society and popular culture in much of the rest of the world.




Ali Akbar Khan

Ali Akbar Khan (April 14, 1922 – June 18, 2009), the great Indian musician has passed away. He was important not only as a prolific performer, but also as a leading pedagogue in the sharing of Indian traditional music among non-Indian students. He was founder of the Ali Akbar College of Music, near San Francisco, California. More information regarding Ali Akbar Khan may be obtained from the following websites, and some videos are linked further below.



Performance of Rag Zila Kafi

Ali Akbar Khan Interview


Desperation in the Recording Industry

In the UK during the past year, for the first time in generations, more income was generated from live performances than from sales of music recordings. This development is rather shocking for many in the field of music, and would have been very difficult to imagine a mere decade ago. Times have certainly changed for the global music recording industry, which seems to have recently entered an era of desperation due to the rapid popularization of new technologies. The following news story from the USA illustrates an extreme example of the present situation:


According to this report from last week, “a Minneapolis jury awarded the four major labels $1.92 million in damages after unanimously finding that a 32-year-old mother had willfully infringed on their copyrights by downloading and sharing 24 songs on the Kazaa peer-to-peer network.” The article describes the defendant in this case as “Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a 32-year-old Brainerd, Minn., mother of four who testified during the retrial that her ex-boyfriend or sons, then 8 and 10, were most likely responsible for downloading and distributing the songs.”

According to a report on the same story that appeared in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/20/arts/music/20arts-192MILLIONFI_BRF.html), “a lawyer for the Recording Industry Association of America, which filed the suit, said that she “infringed my clients’ copyrights and that she then tried to cover it up.”

This case raises many interesting issues in terms of music ownership, legal philosophy and social justice. Suppose instead of merely sharing a few songs, these children (or their mother, or her ex-boyfriend) planted some seeds from patented genetically engineered lemons bought from a local supermarket, raised a new tree, and then sold around $24 of lemonade produced from its lemons on the nearby street corner, according to American custom. Or, suppose they merely performed these songs on that street corner upon a stage constructed of wood from the tree derived from patented seeds, or on wooden flutes they carved from the tree branches, without explicitly crediting the tree’s corporate developer or paying the music industry for performance rights to the songs. Or, suppose the true origins of the patented lemon could be traced to a group of indigenous peoples in the Southern hemisphere who had cultivated citrus trees for generations, and from whom the original parent tree had been stolen, and from which a relatively insignificant genetically engineered modification was patented by a corporation in the Northern hemisphere. Suppose the precise mineral content of the water on which the lemon tree was raised had been patented by the local reservoir, and the mother and children had unknowingly violated its terms by failing to offer a royalty payment to the civic engineers for commercial use of the water. The notion of intellectual property certainly can be (and has been) taken too far at times, and it seems that proportionality should be a guideline when it comes to meting out punishments for these kinds of cases.

The act of sharing a few songs does not seem to constitute such a grave criminal offense, and no matter how much one might try to make lemonade out of these lemons, a $1.92 million fine seems excessive in this case. But perhaps not to music industry executives. One cannot help but wonder, are there any musicians living today in modern industrialized societies who have not at some point shared music with others in a way that the industry would now like us to regard as unconscionable and illegal? Does this incriminate us all?

Music educators should bear in mind the possibility of becoming the next target of this kind of lawsuit. Fair use for educational purposes is a principle that may be lost if educators are not vigilant in defending its continued relevance in the contemporary world. But for now, hopefully we can enjoy our lemonade as we freely share what we still can of music with our students.

Here is a link to a recommended article by Charles R. Nesson on related issues:


UPDATE (August 3, 2009) - Here is a link to another case like this one:



Summer is Here

The first week of June has ended, and the days are becoming incredibly long in the Nordic region while the academic year is finally drawing to a close. Today, one of the doctoral students who I have worked with in Helsinki this year Ari Poutiainen was awarded his doctoral degree at Sibelius Academy for successfully defending a dissertation entitled Stringprovisation: A Fingering Strategy for Jazz Violin Improvisation. The dissertation is now published on the Acta Musicologica Fennica Series, as volume 28 (Finnish Musicological Society, ISSN 0587-2448). According to the external reviewer, Norwegian violinist Dr. Stig Roar Wigestrand, there appears to have never before been such a thorough study on the topic of jazz violin technique. I think this dissertation also effectively demonstrates the possibilities of artistic research as a methodological approach in the field of music.

For the rest of this summer I will be advising Arnold Chiwalala and Tapani Heikinheimo as they also make the final revisions to their doctoral dissertations in order to graduate from Sibelius Academy in September 2009, and I anticipate some of my doctoral students from Boston University finishing shortly as well.

I am leaving Finland soon to give lectures in Belfast and London, followed by a summer-long research residency at Nichibunken in Kyoto, Japan. The trip to the UK is sponsored by a grant from the QUB Internationalization Fund, acquired and coordinated by Suzel Ana Reily at Queen's University, Belfast. Above is a photograph taken by my sister Christina the last time I was in the UK, which was surprisingly bright in April (hence the squinting). On that trip, I presented a paper at the Research in Music Education (RIME) conference in Exeter, with the kind support of the Martta Sihvola Foundation. After that conference we very briefly visited Buckingham Palace, which contains many iconic reminders of the complicated legacy of colonialism, but the palace gardens were quite impressive, which is where this photo was taken. I am eager to visit the UK again, and look forward to talking with several very interesting music scholars there, including Suzel Ana Reily, Trevor Herbert, and Lucy Green.


Nichibunken Residency

It is exciting to have the opportunity this summer to be a Visiting Research Scholar at Nichibunken, the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, in Kyoto, Japan. Nichibunken is a division of Japan’s National Institutes for the Humanities, and is a uniquely important resource for foreign researchers who specialize in studies of Japanese culture. The image linked here (which I found on the internet) is from the Nichibunken library, a state-of-the art facility that offers large collections and databases as well as access to content from rare historical documents. At Nichibunken, I will be broadening the scope of my research on wind music in Japan to include study of conductors, the musical instrument industry, government policies, and noteworthy ensembles. I think this research will have implications for musicians, educators, and scholars in other nations because in recent generations Japan has become globally influential in many areas of music. I look forward to interacting with the outstanding scholars at Nichibunken, and to publishing the findings from this new research.

Here is a link to my Research Agenda, which indicates recent and forthcoming publications, as well as some current/ongoing projects.


Music Education and Multiculturalism

The Finnish Journal of Music Education (FJME) invites proposals for a themed issue: Music Education and Multiculturalism

Guest Editors:

Associate Professor Sidsel Karlsen and Professor David Hebert

[2012 UPDATE: This issue has been published and is available online:

Finnish Journal of Music Education, Vol.13, No.1].

The purpose of this issue is to offer readers insights into the challenges and opportunities that music educators meet as a consequence of living and working in societies that are becoming increasingly multicultural. Contributions may particularly examine such issues from the perspective of music learners. Articles dealing with music education and multiculturalism in Finnish or Scandinavian perspectives are of particular interest.

We welcome articles representing a variety of approaches and disciplines. Submissions for the publication are requested to be sent to Sidsel Karlsen (sidsel.karlsen@siba.fi) by October 1, 2009.

The Editorial Board will consider manuscripts written in the following languages: Finnish, English and Swedish. Articles written in a language other than English must include an English summary of maximum length 200 words. The articles are reviewed by an expert panel. For further instructions, please read the guidelines for contributors (below).

Heidi Westerlund, Professor, Managing Editor


Instructions to Contributors


The Finnish Journal of Music Education publishes articles and reviews on the research and practice of music education. The Editorial Board will consider manuscripts written in the following languages: Finnish, English or Swedish. Articles written in a language other than English must include an English summary of maximum length 200 words. The ethical code of FJME does not allow consideration of any articles already published or submitted for publication in other journals or books. Publishing decisions on manuscripts are made by the Editorial Board of FJME. The articles are blind-reviewed by researchers that have expertise of the topic. Please submit your text to the editor(s) by e-mail as an attachment (rtf). Further information about submitting contributions is available from the Managing Editor.

Contact information

Postal addresses, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of the contributors should be enclosed.

Other remarks

The author of an article or review published in FJME will receive two copies of the issue.