16 November 2020, New York, USA (Virtual) – The United Nations Institute for Training and Research hosted a two-day virtual webinar together with its event partner, a prominent international non-profit alliance in the field of culture, the Global Foundation for the Performing Arts (GFPA). The public webinar consisted of two half-day sessions, lasted from 9:30 am (EST) – 11:30 am (EST) on 16 and 17 November 2020.
To accommodate audiences from multi-cultural backgrounds and present the panelists’ messages accurately to the audiences, UNITAR delivered a bilingual webinar along with its conference interpreters in both English and Chinese. The moderator of the event, Mr. Benjamin Woodroffe, the President of the GFPA started the first day of the webinar by introducing the host and official keynote speaker, Mr. Marco Suazo, the Head of UNITAR New York Office to the floor. In reference to the long-term collaborative relation with the executive director of the GFPA, Ms. Lucia Guo, Mr. Suazo recognized the immense impact that the pandemic has brought to the performing arts and classical music community. He expressed his excitement in hosting this virtual webinar, and hoped to reinvigorate artists and educators through this event. He also emphasized that the collaborative relation between UNITAR and Ms. Guo has resulted in fruitful results in promoting inclusive classical music education, and he looked forward for further collaboration in the future.
Mr. Woodroffe thanked Mr. Suazo for his remarks, and emphasized the importance of connecting educators directly with decision makers, which has become more tangible and expeditious given the prevalent use of online events during this unprecedented time. Mr. Liguang Wang, the Chairman of the Global Music Education League (GMEL) continued the opening session by thanking all the academies for their participation despite time differences, and the support from the hosting organization UNITAR. His keynote mentioned that music is the best tool to bypass bias and transcend language and cultural barriers as a universal language without words. Established in 2017, GMEL has initiated numerous international collaborations during the past three years. He looked forward to seeing more musical academies joining the league, and dedicating their time and effort in creating a more inclusive and collaborative synergy in the field of music education.
The Permanent Representative of Hungary, H.E. Ms. Katalin Annamária Bogyay, shared a video of welcome to everyone for organizing and contributing to this unique event. Coming from a country that is considered as one of the founding resources of for classical music, she believed that the pandemic brought in challenges, but also opportunities. She also believed that our new situation would inspire classical music education to be more innovative, and it would unite musicians and composers from around the world further through cross-border collaborations.
The first day concluded with the final session moderated by Mr. Hilden on the topic of transnational joint training of talents and sharing of educational resources between institutions. Mr. Julian Lloyd Webber, the Emeritus Professor of the Royal Bermingham Conservatoire, Ms. Aine Sheil, the head of department of the University of York, Mr. Loronzo Capaldo, the President of the Conservatorio Di Musica, Mr. Paul Hogle, the President of the Cleveland Institute of Music and Mr. Fred Bronstein, the Dean of the Peabody Institute at the John Hopkins University all mentioned their collaboration with GMEL, and how sharing resource significantly expanded their scope of work.
The round-table session featured topics such as professional development, artist mentorship, and training. A plethora of artists and entrepreneurs such as Mr. Kirill Troussov, a world-class violinist who is currently hosting online teaching Masterclass; Mr. Geoffrey John Davies, Founder of the Violin Channel and Mr. Adam Gatehouse, the former conductor of the Ballet Rambert and the Dutch National Ballet and the joint artistic director of the Leeds International Piano Competition all shared their experience and insights in designing and producing holistic learning experience for students around the world during this special time. The session continued with its second part – the Annual Meeting of the GMEL. The first speaker Mr. Kaarlo Hilden, the Rector of the University of the Arts Helsinki’s speech focused on the benefit of classical music education during pandemic. Given today’s situation, classical music education is working its way through a complicated yet exciting time where the impact of globalization and the urge for inclusiveness are increasing. Despite the difficult reality, schools and educational institutions are still trying to make quality music education accessible to students around the world. Mr. Jamal J. Rossi, the Dean of the Eastman School of Music at the Rochester University expressed desire to work collaboratively and across institutions. Ms. Anna Reid, the Dean of Sydney Conservatorium of Music stepped in and shared her opinions on the transformative power of music communication. Lastly, Ms. Anne W. Robertson, the Dean of the Department of Music at the University of Chicago discussed innovative technology and its application to education in practice.
The second day of the event started with a keynote remark delivered by Ms. Marie Paule Roudil, the Director of Office and UNESCO Representative to the United Nations in New York. As the dedicated institution for cultural preservation and transforming arts into positive change in the society, UNESCO understands the challenges that classical music and performance art educations are facing given current pandemic. However, Ms. Roudil believed that this also signaled a historical opportunity where art education will be more inclusive and accessible given the prevalent usage of online platforms. The session then moved on to a round-table discussion on the COVID-19’s impact to music competition. Directors from several international competitions, such as the Mahler Competition in Bamberg and Edvard Grieg International Piano Competition in Bergen voiced their opinions on the opportunities and the drawbacks of moving music competitions online.
The last session of the conference was hosted by Mr. Tornquist on the topic of higher music education and training advanced talents under globalization. Mr. Woodroffe, Mr. Webber, Mr. Xavier Bouvier, the Deputy Director of the Haute Ecole De Musique De Geneve and Mr. Brad Mahon, the Director of the Mount Royal University Conservatory shared their history and stories of their institutions, and most importantly, their standpoint and dedication in cultivating the next generation of artists and changemakers in the field of performing arts and classical music. Mr. Wang, the President of China Conservatory of music and the Chairman of the GMEL delivered a brief endnote for the second session.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Suazo re-emphasized the importance of music preservation for minorities and indigenous people as a precious way for self-expression, promoting nations’ collaboration, and incorporating music and art education into development agenda as an engine for creation, and making it more accessible for the people who are disadvantaged, and the communities that are truly in need.
This webinar organized by UNITAR New York Office and GFPA brought together the global directors of music conservatories, competitions and experts in the classical music sector committed to providing essential mentorship to secure and rethink the future of performance.
UNITAR and GFPA have been in close collaboration since 2018, and are working on future events, workshops and trainings focused on the Music and Development field with Ms. Lucia Guo, the Executive Director at the lead of this initiative. COVID-19 has greatly impacted the performing arts. Artists, conservatoires, concert venues and competitions have altered their operations and schedules significantly. However, this time of reassessment has inspired new ways of sustaining the music of its performers. Opportunities for greater international connection are expanding and this conference managed to help develop global solutions.
The event then moved on to a session named “development and innovation of global collaboration between higher music education institutions in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic” moderated by Mr. Rossi. This session shared practical real-life advice. Mr. Vasilyev Alexey, the Deal of St. Petersburg State Conservatory; Mr. Peter Tornquist, the Principal of the Norwegian Academy of Music; Mr. Panya Roongruang, the Dean of Bankok Thonburi University and Mr. Massimiliano Baggio, the Vice Direttore of the Conservatorio Di Musica “Giueseppe Verdi” Milano shared their activities since the pandemic hit, and most importantly, their experience in teaching international students in the context of the COVID-19. Different panelists shared the realities that they are living in different countries, and expressed their wishes for the pandemic to be over soon.