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The reception of the EAS Prague Congress will spread from Prague to all of Europe!

Those are the words Josef Scheidegger, a renowned scientist, accomplished artist and former EAS President (EAS - European Association for Music in Schools, based in Brussels), spoke at the closing ceremony of the Prague EAS Congress with the motto “Everything depends on a good start,” (J. A. Komenský - Comenius) taking place between May 12 – 15, 2005 at the Faculty of Education, Charles University, Prague, under the auspices of Petra Buzková, Czech Minister for Education. A lot of time and effort has been invested in what turned out to be an event of scientific and social importance for education experts from all over Europe. Already back in 2001, during the EAS Congress in Riga, the EAS Board came with the suggestion to organise a congress in Prague. Next, an international organisational team was created, involving experts from the Faculty of Education (Charles University, Prague), Jan Deyl Conservatoire and Tuners School (Prague), Rolino Language Studio (Prague), Collegium Marianum Tyn School (Prague), and a great number of graduates and teachers coming from various Prague schools. Together, we began working on the content, the logistics and the financial support for the Congress. The Congress was promoting the legacy of J. A. Komenský (Comenius) and other great teachers in the field of music education for children at an early age. The aim of the Congress was to present more than just the Czech perspective, namely to create a European platform for inspirational ideas, views and experiences of music teachers from most EU countries. That is why we have issued a call for papers among the participants of the two previous EAS Congresses (2003 in Vienna, 2004 in Athens) to come to Prague and present their ideas on how to implement the contemporary teaching methods into music theory and music education of nursery and school age children. In total, the Prague Congress was attended by approximately 200 Czech and foreign scientists, teachers, teacher trainers, civil servants and students from 20 European countries. About a hundred of them had been carefully chosen by the EAS Board to present their papers, categorised into one of seven thematic fields: social impact of music education, music activities in nursery and primary schools, identifying and developing talent, professional education and training of nursery and primary school teachers, ideas for school and family working together towards music education, experience from different EU countries education systems and, finally, the presentation of music education tools. The Congress was accompanied by an array of events, such as music creativity workshops, presentations of music literature, teaching tools and materials, visits to Prague schools, concerts and sightseeing tours in the magnificent city of Prague.


The opening ceremony took place on May 12, 2005, in the Karolinum Great Hall of the Charles University. It was attended by representatives of ISME (International Society for Music Education), major European music associations, the European Parliament, the Czech Ministry of Education, the Czech Music Society and Charles University. The Congress participants were greeted by Míla Smetáčková, President of the Czech Music Society (Prague), Liane Hentschke, ISME President (Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil) and Josef Scheidegger, EAS President (Luzern), who all emphasised the importance of music in the life of children today and highlighted the ethical dimension of the conference. Zdeněk Helus, Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Education, Charles University (Prague) added a philosophical dimension to the Congress when he showed how music helps realise and experience values important in life, such as kindness, beauty, truth, order and empathy. The opening ceremony concluded with the outstanding performance of the Bambini di Praga Children Choir and an informal buffet. The Congress business began on May 13, 2005, in four congress halls, located in the historical Karolinum building and at the Faculty of Education, Charles University. Obviously, it is impossible to render the Congress proceedings in detail, nor to introduce all authors with their contributions. However, in this article, we would like to point out those which may be inspirational, regardless of their country of origin.


The Social Impact of Music Education section was opened by Eva Opravilová (Prague), who says that along considerable material, technical, information and media opportunities, the modern age has brought manifold threats to the healthy development of a child’s value system. It is very easy for a child to come in touch with many negative social phenomena; today, the world is beyond the comprehension of a child. Only too often do we witness how a child’s aesthetic feeling gets deformed, their sensitivity dampened, traditional human values devalued and the sense of moral responsibility deformed. We are seeing a growing number of activities for children grounded in the world of media and information technology. That is why it is imperative that we devise and popularize new incentives for art education, indispensable for a child’s healthy development. Eva Michalová (Banská Bystrica) came with an emotional appeal for a better communication between teacher and student. A child, conceived in love, comes into this world with their parents’ code of love. It is the responsibility of the teachers to open and further develop this code. Music education, associated with emotionality, creativity, empathy, intuition and humanism, must be integrated with the beauty of other arts (integrative and polyaesthetic education), with learning about and tolerating other peoples and cultures (multicultural education), with the love of and respect for nature and the environment (environmental education), and with self-reflexion (global education). Magnus Gaul (Regensburg) seems to agree, he spoke about research projects that had been carried out among primary school children in Germany. The research was mapping the children’s experience with music reception and music production in and outside school, such as preference for certain music genres, instruments and the interest in active music-making. The research has confirmed that music education plays a crucial role in the development of emotionality in children and that it is important to ensure music education plays a prominent role in the general schooling system. According to Josef Scheidegger (Luzern), the musical elite can only grow out of a broad and healthy musical base. Each child has the right to discover and develop their talent. Therefore it is important to create favourable conditions for the growth of a child’s musicality in families, in and outside schools, as well as in the media. Promoting musical sensitivity and influencing the musical taste of small children is an invaluable investment every wise society should make.


The Music Activities in Nursery and Primary Schools section comprised discussion of the creative dialogue between teacher and child in the following areas: listening to music (Jaroslav Herden - Prague, Karl Heinz Zarius - Düsseldorf, Marian Janek - Banská Bystrica), voice (Alena Tichá - Prague), playing instruments in schools (Derek Kitt - Cornwall, Michael Schumacher - Mainz), activities combining music and movement (Eva Jenčková – Hradec Králové, Manuela Widmer – Salzburg), integration and music creativity in schools (Felix Belo - Banská Bystrica, Lenka Pospíšilová - Prague, Juraj Hatrík -Bratislava) and the experience of primary schools with extra music lessons (Jan Prchal -Liberec). These educators have presented the results of their lifelong commitment to music education. Most have preferred the workshop format, which contributed to a lively atmosphere of the Congress. The presentations of Czech and Slovak educators especially have earned high recognition and well deserved respected.


A lot of experts applied to make their contribution in the Identifying and Developing Musical Talent section, their focus being the psychological, sociological and artistic aspects of a child’s musical development and talent identification. Results of interesting research projects and surveys have been presented - let us name just a few. Susan Young (Exeter) is interested in musicality in very young children. Her conclusion was that certain musical features are evolutionary coded in genes; however, their development requires external and early care. Therefore, small children need a stimulating environment. S. Young tried to answer the question whether talent was a gift, an inborn quality. She believes that musicality is indeed a gift which needs to be presented to a child in the form of early and good quality music education. Zoltán Laczo (Budapest) presented a historical and analytical summary of the term ‘musicality.’ His question was – is musicality an inborn quality or a skill to be learned? In Z. Laczo’s scientific team, the prevailing view is that musicality can be acquired and its components do not correspond to the objective music parameters identified by C. E. Seashore. According to Z. Laczo, musicality comprises of sensitivity, expression and originality. The true gift, the one which leads a child to musicality, is a good education system and an excellent music teacher. Andrea Sangiorgio (Rome) reviewed the work of Edwin Gordon who came with a systematic and scientifically sound model for the development of cognitive music thinking (audition). In devising his methodology for fighting music illiteracy, E. Gordon has integrated the most up-to-date findings of neurology, cybernetics and linguistics. This work is an extension of the Orff music system aiming at the development of music skills, abilities and musical thinking. A. Sangiorgio also discussed the challenges of scientific research concerning elementary music education, saying that the role of education research is integrate the different fields of elementary music education in content, objectives and methods. Mauela Widmer (Salzburg), an educator from the Orff Music Institute, drew attention to a number of methods dealing help deal with the issue of musicality. She presented her own way of communicating musicality in a group. During musical activities, a ‘creative field’ comes to life whose quality is determined by the individual qualities of each member of the group. M. Widmer works with heterogeneous groups of children having specific psychological needs. The children share a common interest in music. They all get a space to express their musicality. Gradually, the individual performances and ways of expression get accepted by other members of the group. In this way, the children’s musicality and other personality values are developed. Adri de Vugt (Holland) is in charge of the European ‘meNet Gruppe2’ project, devoted to education of small children. The board, consisting of A. de Vugt, Susan Young (Exeter), Ruth Schneidewind (Vienna), Blanka Knopová (Brno) and Constantijn Koopmann (Hague), discussed professional issues relating to musical development, cultural differences in the education surrounding small children, projects in their respective countries of origin, they introduced the audience to a variety of interesting concepts of work related to music education of gifted children, and finally called for the intensification of international cooperation. Many other contributions voiced the same opinion, for example those of Zuzana Slavíková (Prešov), Vít Gregor (Prague), Libuše Tichá (Prague), Stur Brandstrom (Luell), Pepa Michaelides (Nicosia), Airi Liimets (Talin), Vera Banki (Budapest) or Branka Rotar Pance (Maribor).


The Professional Education and Training of Nursery and Primary School Teachers section focused on the mission of universities in the teacher training process. Congress participants were concerned with the following questions: Are universities specializing in teacher education continuously capable of providing a good quality music education to future teachers? How to produce quality music teachers for the work with the youngest children? How to strengthen the role of music education in our schooling system? Ruht Schneidewind (Vienna), for example, described the role of elementary music education at a university in Vienna. ‘Elementary music making’ creates unity and gets children involved in active playing. Different activities activate corresponding areas of human perception and initiate sensual and emotional experiences which lead to cognition. Thus, elementary music making leads to greater independence and helps form an individual relationship with music. Heinz Fuglistaler (Basil) described the system of elementary education for teachers in Basil, offered at the Basil Music Academy. Graduates earn a diploma in elementary music education. The program itself covers the basics of five areas: voice (speaking and singing), listening, the basics of instrument playing, musical movement and dance, and, finally, music terminology. The Academy emphasises the integration of these skills, the bottom line being that children learn to embrace music through active participation. Live Deckers (Eupen) stressed the need for elementary music education to be organized at institutions of higher education. She described a highly interesting cooperation model between schools and music ensembles, illustrated by a number of successful examples in France, Germany and Belgium. Martin Prchal (Ultrecht), president of the Association Europeénne des Conservatoires, Academies de Musique et Musikhochschulen, talked about opportunities for Europe wide cooperation in the field of art education. On the whole, some contributions voiced a very critical opinion, for example that of Eleonóra Baranová (Banská Bystrica), assessing the quality of education provided to students of nursery school education in Slovakia. The subjects suffering most are those teaching practical skills and knowledge. Felix Belo (Banská Bystrica) confirmed that there is far too much didactics in the curricula of education universities. Students know how to teach but they lack the content and practical music skills. According to F. Belo, the correct way to approach the mind of a child is through emotions, through their heart. The best way to approach a child is through art, best, through music. More critical comments were voiced, some informing about certain secret forms of ‘elimination’ of music education. The issue was further discussed by an international panel consisting of Irena Medňanská (chair, Prešov), Ivan Poledňák (Olomouc), Renate Heinisch (Baden-Württemberg), Daniel Šimčík (Prešov) and Gabriela Konkol (Gdansk). The panel concluded that the children’s exposure to live music is radically dwindling. In many families, immersed in a life of materialism and consumerism, education is neglected and music making in families is virtually non-existing today. Children suffer from an emotional deficit and their cultural development is substantially threatened. The responsibility for this development is shifted to nursery and primary schools which, however, obviously cannot substitute families and provide a fully-fledged development of all children’s musicality. The restrictive measures in the new EU member states are deplorable, since they continuously harm art education. Research has shown that healthy personality development can only occur if the rational and emotional aspects are well balanced. Why, then, do teachers and people involved arts have to fight against open or covert elimination efforts at all levels of the education system, including universities (such as the merging of music and art lessons)? There is room for improvement also at Czech and Slovak universities which train future nursery and primary school teachers, above all in teaching practical music skills. At universities, more time is devoted to education theory and didactics, while practical music skills are neglected. However, without a good command of their voice or another instrument, a teacher cannot be expected to provide music education of high quality. Those responsible for compiling the curricula should be aware of this fact and they should not compromise educational goals to economic considerations. Is the economic deficit in our societies perhaps greater than the cultural deficit? Finally, this section housed presentations of the results of research carried out in primary schools or at universities, as well as offering some inspirational onsets for the cooperation among schools - Marijana Kokanovic (Novi Sad), Liz McCoulough (Northumbria), Nopi Telemachou (Cyprus), Birgit Jank (Potsdam), Rineke Smilde (Holandsko), Nesrin Kalyoncu (Turecko) and others.


In the Ideas for School and Family Working Together Towards Music Education section, many ‘bridges’ were ‘built’ to connect school and family. Renate Heinisch (Germany), former member of the EU Parliament, now a member of the European Economic and Social Council, is working hard to make music and cultural education of children a priority in various bodies and organizations within the EU. In her contribution, R. Heinisch described a new system of cooperation between parents, grandparents, educators, teachers and scientists, which had been introduced in Germany and other countries. Gabriela Konkol (Gdansk) presented the results of research on the family background of outstanding musicians. Most of them had had parents who were strongly interested in music or were making music themselves. G. Konkol assumes that the degree of social and cultural maturity of parents bears a direct impact on the future musical inclination of the child. Mathias Rietschel (Münsterland) introduced a Robert Bosch Foundation project called ‘Concerts for the Whole Family.’ Viera Grohová (Poprad) and Jaroslav Vereb (Poprad) came with a project that encourages cooperation between parents, nursery and elementary schools. In a cooperative procedure, children write songs and musicals, as well as make music themselves. Anita Lehmann’s (Rzesów) contribution was full of fresh ideas on the relationship between school and family. Miloš Kodejška (Prague) and Libuše Novotná (Prague) presented how languages are taught in the Prague ROLINO agency, drawing on family methodology and creatively incorporating diverse musical skills and activities.


The section entitled Experience from Different EU Countries Education Systems and Presentation of Music Education Tools attracted a large number of applications. Congress participants learned about the Czech music education system applied at the Faculty of Education, Charles University, presented by Jana Palkovská (Prague), as well as systems operating in Hungary, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Cyprus, Greece and Turkey. All participants of the congress were also informed with a very interesting project of Victoria Flüsser, which works in many European countries. European Association for Music in Hospitals and Marc Bloch University of Strasbourg coordinates it. Prof. Flüsser demonstrated that music is a very important therapeutic aim in the process of treatment, for example at hospitále.


What teachers value most are practical ideas and suggestions. Therefore, the last section of the Congress was devoted to the Presentation of Music Education Tools and this section turned indeed very popular. From the many contributions, let us highlight the ‘Children and Music’ project by Metodeja Schneiderová (Prešov), ‘Let’s Walk Together’ by Daniel Šimčík (Prešov), folk music drawing on the traditions of Eastern Slovakia, a project presented by Anna Derevjaníková (Prešov), and, finally, the music compositions for children by Juraj Hatrík (Bratislava).


The Prague Congress was accompanied by a number of events. Two exhibitions of textbooks, music books and teaching tools from many European countries were open to all Congress participants. The first was organized by Congress participants from various European countries; the second was prepared by the progressive Helbling Verlag, a leading music publishing house in German speaking countries. Helbling Verlag is the publisher of the ‘Mip-journal’ for music teachers. Congress participants highly praised the four concerts given by four different ensembles during the Congress – the Bambini di Praga Children’s Choir, the ‘Notičky’ Ensemble (Řevnice u Prahy), the ‘Aries’ children instrumental ensemble (Liberec), Limbora - the Slovak folk ensemble (Prague) and the Faculty of Education Mixed Choir (Charles University, Prague). On May 13, 2005, the Congress participants could pay a visit to one of Prague’s schools (the ‘Sluníčko’ or ‘Srdíčko’ school in Prague 5, the ‘Gen. F. Fajtl Primary School’ in Prague 9 specializing in music education and the Jan Neruda High School in Prague 3).


In conclusion, let us reiterate the final statement of the Prague Congress articulated by representatives of European music and culture associations (Josef Schiedegger and Franz Niermann - EAS, Martin Prchal and Rineke Smilde - Association Europeénne des Conservatoires, Academies de Musique et Musikhochschulen, Ruth Jakobi - European Music Council, Míla Smetáčková – Czech Music Society, and other important EU personalities) and endorsed by the ISME Secretary General and ISME Board members (International Society for Music Education, with president Liane Hentschke). All have emphasised the fact that, apart from the economy and politics, the European integration process needs a policy promoting sophisticated cultural education. European integration brings together economic and political strength and defines culture as a mosaic of diverse local and national traditions that are increasingly becoming aware of their own value and unique features. The wealth of Europe as a whole lies in its cultural and artistic diversity. The Prague Congress was a venue for exchanging information on the work of music and music education institutions and organisations on the local, national and international level. It is in our common interest to strengthen the importance of music education in schools and families, and to improve the quality of training received by future teachers at universities in Europe. International projects in this field should receive support according to parameters defined by the Congress representatives. The aim of future Congresses will be to improve the quality of the international research system and the quality of cooperation in certain areas. During the Congress, a new EAS Board was elected. Franz Nierman (Vienna) was voted new EAS President. Another important event was the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the European EAS and ISME on May 14, 2005. The EAS Prague Music Congress was an important milestone in the development of music education and international cooperation of scientists, teachers and students. That is why, according to the words of former EAS President Josef Scheidegger, the “reception of the Prague Music Congress will spread from Prague to all of Europe!”


Doc. PaedDr. Miloš KODEJŠKA, CSc.
President of the EAS Congress International Organization Team
Charles University, Prague


The Congress was supported by the Charles University Grant Agency (Prague), The International Visegrad Fund (Bratislava), EAS (Brussels), The Austrian Culture Forum (Prague), The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (Prague) and Rolino Language Studio (Prague). The Congress received no support from the Czech Fund for the Development of Universities (Prague).