Idyllically set on a lake and in direct proximity to the estate where Jean Sibelius once found inspiration and composed is Kallio-Kuninkala, a seminar centre run by the Sibelius Academy of Finland’s University of the Arts Helsinki. It was there that the second cooperative Student Forum of PhD students from the Sibelius Academy and the mdw took place from 2 to 5 May 2019.


Participants Vienna
f.l.t.r.: Alfred Ornig, Doris Pamer, Veronika Larsen, Thomas Grauf-Sixt

Following on the first Student Forum in October 2018 at the mdw in Vienna, four doctoral students were able to travel to Finland to take part in the second research event of this kind in May of 2019. There, Veronika Larsen, Doris Pamer, Alfred Ornig, and Thomas Grauf-Sixt had the opportunity to present their work and put it up for discourse as part of a European dialogue.


Poster analysis
Poster analysis ©Johannes Gold

The cornerstone for the idea to set up this music school research platform was laid at the first European Music School Symposium, held in autumn 2017 at the mdw. During this symposium, it became clear that there was a need for this field of research to be represented at universities in order to place music schools’ future work on a firm footing and ensure the quality of arts and music education for future generations. This symposium gave rise to a collaborative effort by the Sibelius Academy and the mdw that is run by Michaela Hahn, Heidi Westerlund, and Cecilia Björk. The objective of this cooperative Student Forum is networking between professors, researchers, and students who are involved in the still-young field of music school research.

The programme of this three-and-a-half-day forum was ideally designed, with an optimal distribution of intensive sessions and commensurately necessary leisure phases that made possible superlative-quality work. A refreshing morning walk through the idyllic Finnish landscape kicked off the Forum’s schedule, which featured five daily work phases, and a relaxed sauna session was enjoyed at its conclusion. What’s more, the freshly prepared meals with organic products from the region ensured the participants’ physical and mental well-being and left nothing to be desired.

Doris Pamer
Doris Pamer ©Johannes Gold

This forum’s content revolved above all around the matter of scholarly presentation formats: pitching, creation, and presentation of research-related posters, and peer feedback. Research communication skills were trained, analysed, and built upon in a targeted manner. And the input provided by Professors Heidi Westerlund (Sibelius Academy) and Michaela Hahn (mdw) as well as Cecilia Björk (Åbo Akademi University) made it possible to clearly perceive and understand their respective specific approaches to the issues at hand. Focusing on the essence of one’s own research work formed the basis for a discourse on scholarly approaches and research methods in terms of the objectives behind the respective research questions. And the research network that was developed here makes it possible to advance one’s own research by comparing the different systems, as well as to take new aspects into account while placing a central focus on one’s own work.

The outcomes of this highly inspiring, motivating, and productive researchers’ retreat were presented at the Second European Music School Symposium—the motto of which was “Music Schools – Masters of Collaboration?”—on 10 and 11 October at the mdw. A poster exhibition by the Finnish and Austrian students as well as a “surprise pitch” by six PhD students bore impressive witness to their successful work.

For the year 2020, a further Student Forum—this one to be held in Austria—is being planned, and it may be hoped that this unequivocally enriching collaboration between the Sibelius Academy and the mdw will continue to offer numerous students opportunities to engage in European discourse.


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