The Social Turn and Implications for Higher Music Education

How does higher music education respond to the social turn? – an afternoon seminar on March 8 at Helsinki Music Centre. François Matarasso, the seminar’s keynote speaker, will talk about TRACTION: Opera Co-Creation for A Social Transformation, a joint project between five countries. Jo Gibson and Sari Karttunen will summarise the results of the three-year, four-country study Music for Social Impact from the perspective of musicians’ education and learning. Axel Petri-Preis will present an Austrian Master’s programme Musik im Dialog as an introduction to a panel discussion with community musicians, researchers and representatives from the Sibelius Academy.

Speakers: François Matarasso, Jo Gibson, Axel Petri-Preis, Sari Karttunen & Heidi Westerlund. 

Panel discussion: Geoffrey Baker, Kristiina Ilmonen, Axel Petri-Preis, Pasi Pihlaja, Riikka Talvitie & Markus Utrio with closing words by Kaarlo Hildén.

Socially engaged music-making is a growing niche in the music field, with a plethora of practices ranging from participatory, socially responsible and impactful music making to musicians’ engagement with civic missions in society. This expanding social-relational turn shakes the traditional bases for professionalism in music and highlights new understandings of musicians’ potential to undertake new tasks in changing society. Connections between art and participation not only challenge the elitist forms of music business, and unsettle the traditional hierarchy between musical experts and amateurs; performers and audience, they also offer many possibilities. 

This Social Turn and Implications for Higher Music Education seminar marks the end of the Finnish sub-project of the Music for Social Impact: Practitioners’ Contexts, Work, and Beliefs project (“SIMM”). The SIMM project has been led by Professor John Sloboda, Guildhall School of Music & Drama and conducted in the UK, Belgium, Colombia and Finland between 2020 and 2023, funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. In disseminating the results of the SIMM project, the seminar focuses on the questions: How might the social turn challenge higher music education, if at all? Can professional education of musicians survive in times of crises without engaging in larger societal trends, policy recommendations, and moral imperatives? Should young artists with fresh ideas and energy be prepared by their training “to take on the system’s assumptions” (François Matarasso: A Restless Art: How Participation Won, and Why It Matters, 2019, p. 166)? 

The invited international speakers of the seminar are: the freelance community artist, writer and consultant François Matarasso, Dr Jo Gibson (Guildhall School of Music & Drama, UK), Dr Axel Petri-Preis (University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Austria). 

The seminar is hosted by the Finnish research team of the SIMM project, Dr Sari Karttunen and Professor Heidi Westerlund (Sibelius Academy & CERADA). 

The seminar takes place on March 8 at 3–7 pm in Black Box, the Helsinki Music Centre, Mannerheimintie 13a. Participation at the event is free of charge, but please register by March 3, 2023:


15.00–15.05 Heidi Westerlund & Sari Karttunen: Introduction.

15.05–16.00 François Matarasso: The Restless Art of Co-creation: Learning from the Traction Project. 

16.00–17.00 Jo Gibson & Sari Karttunen, Music for Social Impact project, UK & Finland: Education for Participatory Music-Making: Perspectives from Practitioners in the Field.

Break 30 minutes: Wine and snacks

17.30–17.45 Axel Petri-Preis: Exploring New Ground in Music Curricula: The Master’s Degree Contemporary Arts Practice at mdw.

17.45–19.00 Panel discussion The Social Turn and Implications for Higher Music Education: Geoffrey Baker, Kristiina Ilmonen, Axel Petri-Preis, Pasi Pihlaja, Riikka Talvitie and Markus Utrio with Heidi Westerlund as panel leader and Jo Gibson and Sari Karttunen as research-based facilitators.

Panelists: Kristiina Ilmonen (Professor in folk music, Department of Folk Music, Sibelius Academy), Markus Utrio (Vice Dean of the Classical Music Department, Sibelius Academy), Pasi Pihlaja (musician, community musician), Riikka Talvitie (composer, Lecturer in composition, Department of Composition and Music Theory, Sibelius Academy), Geoffrey Baker (Royal Holloway University of London/Agrigento Music) and Axel Petri-Preis. 

Closing words: Rector Kaarlo Hildén (Uniarts Helsinki).


8.3.2023 klo 15:00 – 19:00


Black Box

Mannerheimintie 13

00100 Helsinki

Sijainti kartalla

Katso reittiohjeet