From the Reflective Conservatoire Special Issue Editorial


Helena Gaunt,Helena Gaunt






Guildhall School of Music & Drama, UK

More: Reflective Conservatoire Special Issue Editorial

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Fulfilling the potential of the paradigm shift now upon us means that institutions and all those working within them need an adaptive approach and dynamic skills (Helfat and Peteraf, 2009; Helfat and Winter, 2011). Both students and staff must find ways to work imaginatively, collaboratively and reflectively as ‘‘innovative knowledge communities’’ (Hakkarainen, 2013).

It is vital that we further champion the interface between education and professional worlds, increasing two-way influence and exchange, challenging rigid conceptions of transmission/apprenticeship or one-way traffic from professional to student, and making way for co-created laboratory spaces focused on experiment, collaborative enquiry and risk-taking, supported by rigorous feedback and reflection.

It is only this that will fully enable us to embrace the current renaissance that can reconnect the arts within the heart of society, helping new and innovative interdisciplinary work to flourish, and fuelling co-creative relationships between artists and ‘‘audiences.’’

It is only this that will enable us to embrace the global context of the performing arts and the potential of practitioners who move around the world, empowered to respond creatively to unfamiliar experiences and to produce work that crosses cultures and dismantles traditional boundaries, blurring the edges of long-established disciplines and developing new arenas of excellence.

The Reflective Conservatoire Conference has been grappling with these issues since 2006, bringing research and practice together to stimulate and support change within the sector, enabling experiment and reflection, professional exchange, artistic and educational innovation including interdisciplinary work at personal, curriculum and institutional levels. The sense of urgency around this agenda is gathering momentum, and in 2015 particularly addressed some interwoven challenges:

  • The place of the performing arts in society and their relevance across different sectors. Our disciplines risk losing their way and centrality to the fabric of society.
  • Professional work is faced with public funding cuts that are crippling abilities to maintain artistic standards and to take risks and innovate.
  • Perceptions abound in some quarters that the performing arts have lost touch with what people want and need in order to be able to express a voice; they have become a ghetto of an elite, usually the white upper middle classes consuming the arts as entertainment; diversity is not being embraced sufficiently, and inclusive approaches to performance, appropriate to the 21st century, are lacking.
  • New visions are required. In preparing the next generations of professional artists, ‘‘excellence’’ continues to be a key mantra. However, as contexts for the arts diversify and relevance to context is increasingly understood to make a vital contribution to excellence, the concept itself is becoming more fluid. It is therefore essential to extend and enrich traditional understanding of excellence and to embrace the reality of multiple excellences (Lerman, 2012; Renshaw, 2010).
  • Within curriculum change and enhancement of learning and teaching, ownership of the learning process for emerging artists is essential to empowering them to meet unknown future challenges.
  • This includes championing the potential of peer and informal learning, and the richness of engaging in communities of practice, alongside the process of accessing specific expertise of individual master teachers.

This special edition draws on a range of material from the 2015 Reflective Conservatoire Conference. It seeks to catalyze visions for specialist education/ training in the performing arts in 2020 and beyond, to consider current developmental initiatives, and to reflect on the contribution these can make to the fields of research and professional practice in the arts and humanities more widely

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