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[ Ms Janelize van der Merwe attended the 33rd World Conference of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) in Baku, Azerbaijan during July. She tells us about the conference. ]

A colleague recently asked me what the collective noun for music educators is. After the International Society for Music Education’s 2018 conference in Baku, Azerbaijan I have come to the conclusion that it is a celebration of music educators!

Music educators from across the globe travelled to Baku to share their research and music education practice. The opening ceremony showcased the tapestry of arts in Azerbaijan and included performances by the Azerbaijan State Symphony Orchestra, the Azerbaijan State Dance Ensemble, the Azerbaijan State Choir Capella and distinguished soloists.


The MASARA delegation included staff members, postgraduate students, and alumni. The following papers and workshops were presented by members of MASARA:

  • Dr Albi Odendaal (MASARA’s acting research director) co-presented a paper with Prof Heidi Westerlund and Dr Sari Levänin — Thinking in unison? Brain imaging, music education advocacy, and neuromyths.
  • Ms Kathryn Ang (current PhD student) — Parent-teacher partnerships in group music lessons: a collective case study.
  • Dr Corlia Fourie (recent MASARA graduate) — Exploring the lived piano-playing experiences of older adults.
  • Ms Janelize van der MerweExploring student-teachers’ understanding of the relationships between caring and musicing in the Naledi community music programme. She also contributed towards a workshop with Eva Nivbrant Wedin titled Pearls in your pocket: sharing in a community of musical practice.
  • Prof June-Boyce Tilman (extraordinary professor in MASARA) — Sex, sexuality, gender and music education, and she participated in a symposium titled The journey through spirituality, music and identity in musical development.

My personal highlights of the conference included performances by Shahriyar Jamshidi on the Kurdish kamanche, and by Coral Allegro Once Valencia, an inclusive choir from Spain. I also enjoyed the President’s Extended Welcome Reception, which included performances by Azerbaijani traditional musicians and fire artists.


ISME 2018 embraced the concepts of community and collective decision-making by including open planning and strategic sessions. ISME serves as an important networking opportunity for scholars and practitioners in music education and community music. MASARA grasped this opportunity with both hands and we were able to build new relationships, which promise to enrich the educational experience of our undergraduate and postgraduate students in the future.

At the end of an eventful week participants were invited to the 2020 ISME conference in Helsinki. The closing ceremony showcased the musics of Finland with performances by folk musicians from the Sibelius Academy and the renowned Finnish fiddle band Frigg.

ISME (Janelize van der Merwe)

Finnish fiddle band Frigg performing during the closing ceremony.


Ms Janelize van der Merwe teaches music education and community music in the NWU School of Music. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the Steinhardt School for Culture, Education and Human Development at New York University, completing her PhD under supervision of Prof David Elliott. She believes in the transformative potential of research, and as such, she is passionate about transformative and participatory approaches to research in the field of community music.