Spotlight on: Diversity

The AEC Annual Congress and General Assembly 2014 in Budapest chose as its main theme ‘The Future of European Higher Music Education: upholding tradition, promoting diversity and encouraging innovation’ (AEC 2018).

In its European Agenda for Music, issued in early 2018, The European Music Council (EMC 2018) states diversity as one of the core objectives and calls it ‘the oxygen of a thriving music scene, the key to a varied, innovative sector that resonates with everyone.’

While cultural agencies and HMEIs in Europe seem to welcome a diverse approach to music and music education, many institutions still struggle to change from past academic objectives and traditions to the needs of the contemporary musical world. Can one uphold tradition and perceived high artistic standards, promote diversity and encourage innovation at the same time and thus open HMEIs to musical forms previously excluded?

An appreciation of differences

Anna Benedikt, researcher at the Centre of Gender Studies at Kunstuniversitaet Graz/Austria (2018) sees the concept of diversity as the appreciation of differences (and common features) in individuals and groups of people based primarily (but not only) on gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, age and physical ability. These differences are legally referred to as ‘protected characteristics’ under UK’s Equality Act 2010 and ‘protected classes’ under the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. These dimensions of diversity have an impact on the opportunities and chances of individuals. In short, the concept of diversity celebrates difference and promotes anti-discrimination and inclusion.

The cases presented in the posts to follow are meant to facilitate reflection and discussion about HMEIs’ diversity management, a multi-dimensional approach to foster diversity and to target and remove discrimination.

Institutional approaches

One dimension of such an approach can be to look at the institution in itself. HMEIs can reinforce their commitment to acknowledging and celebrating the differences aforementioned in their students, faculty and administrative staff by adopting policies that ensure that rights, obligations and expectations on behaviour are clearly specified for all its community members.

Another dimension open to institutions can be exploring musical genre and genre diversification. To find common areas relevant to several (or all) genres can help foster interdisciplinary activities that may help to better prepare musicians and artists for the present and future scene. This can also include common courses across genres like music business, a Studium Generale component to the degree programs or a mandatory introduction course to different styles. Some of the cases in the posts to follow discuss various approaches to interdisciplinarity within and beyond the conservatory walls.

Within the AEC, the issue of diversity has been taken on most explicitly by the Pop & Jazz Platform (PJP). While remaining a genre-based network by name, the platform has  continuously worked over past years to call attention to changing paradigms in Higher Music Education. The ideal situation seen by the PJP is that musical communities who share the overall aim to strengthen music’s impact in society work together.

This article is a part of the publication titled How are diverse cultures integrated in the education of musicians across Europe? Other chapters can be found here.

 Works cited

AEC (2018): The AEC reflection on a European Agenda for Music: a short report on the Annual Congress 2014

AEC Jazz&Pop Platform PJP (2018): Statement of Purpose, available on the AEC website

Benedikt, A. (2018) ‘Diversity & Diversity Management’, keynote at Kunstuniversitaet Graz/Austria, Translated from German by Stefan Heckel

Gardenswartz/Rowe Diversity Model:

European Music Council (2018): European Agenda For Music, see