Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation grants one million euro to strengthen cultural diversity in music education

The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation has granted one million euros to the Sibelius Academy of Uniarts Helsinki, for a project promoting diversity in music education through international cooperation, and more broadly, cultural equity in society.

Riikka Hänninen

The four-year project “VOICE AND JUSTICE – Music as a Facilitator of Diversity” addresses the growing polarisation and inequality, as well as the need for intercultural dialogue in Finnish music education and broader society. It examines the role and significance of music as an expression of cultural heritage and as a means of societal discourse.

“We aim to develop a study path in Finnish music education that genuinely prepares students to operate in a multicultural society. The goal is to increase understanding of different cultural perspectives, heritage, ownership and value,” says Emilie Gardberg, Dean of the Sibelius Academy.

Strengthening diversity, inclusiveness and accessibility in Finnish music education is a common intent declared by industry actors in 2020 (Vision for Music Education 2030).

Problem-solving through music

The project also explores the tools music offers in addressing culturally sensitive issues and its potential to serve as a safe space for opening difficult societal discussions.

“Solving problems through music is a new way to approach societal challenges. We investigate the role of music, musical heritage and music performance as enablers of cultural understanding and dialogue. Our purpose is to create connections and increase awareness between cultural traditions,” Gardberg says.

“We aim for far-reaching impacts on both the practices of Finnish music education and the overall development of our society.”

Influences from the United States on cultural dialogue

The Sibelius Academy collaborates with American music schools and international experts in this project.

“Through this project, we strengthen our dialogue about rights related to cultural heritage, inclusiveness and diversity, which is much more advanced in North American academic discussions,” Gardberg explains.

Partners include the University of Southern California (USC) Thornton School of Music (Los Angeles), De Paul University (Chicago), the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe in California and the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe.

The project will carry out four artistic collaboration projects and numerous teaching visits. A four-year research project spans the entire endeavor.

In collaboration projects, students examine, for example, the influence of indigenous peoples on the development of music cultures in Europe and America, or popular music based on jazz as a means of communication and bridge-building among today’s youth. Moreover, the co-creation of a new opera originating from the creators’ cultural backgrounds and diversity is included in the project plan.

Significant investment in developing Finnish music culture and education

The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation supports a total of three music projects with significant funding.

The Instrument Academies received over 1.2 million euros from the foundation. The academies, comprising of the String Academy, the Young Pianists Academy and the Brass Academy, support the musical activities of talented children and youth aged 8–20 across Finland.

Additionally, a project implementing the Finnish Vision for Music Education 2030, received 660,000 euros for creating models of future-proof music school culture.

“The exceptional investment by the Erkko Foundation produces results that will permanently change the practices of the Sibelius Academy and Finnish music education more broadly, and through that, also affect societal dialogue and values,” Gardberg concludes.