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  • Writer's picturemartinthomasemo

"Why I'm staying up all night for a conference"

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

For 5 nights in April 2021, I attended the Researching in Music Education RiME2021. It was based in Bath, in the UK. This meant sessions went from 8:30pm to 5am NZ time. I slept during the day.

Here’s my reasons for attending, and some reflections.

1. To connect

I’ve been a distance masters, and not PHD student. I have chose to remain in the beautiful city of Nelson, instead of relocating to Wellington where my university is based. It’s only a 1 1/2hr commute if I need to be there (25min flight). I’ve had to forge my own academic community, which has included face to face, but a large number of twitter connections, zooms and emails. During the conference, I hosted a number of virtual cups of tea during the many breaks between sessions. I thought of it along the lines of what naturally happens when you’re lining up at morning tea to have a dry biscuit and weak coffee, you chat to the person next to you. In the virtual meet-ups, once the usual chit chat about hobbits, elves, our prime minister, covid-19 and Taika Waititi were completed, I met people from all around the world. I learnt about the challenges of indigenous music education in Canada, teaching music in prisons in the UK, community music making in Germany and controversial curriculum reforms in the UK. I also learnt about the core differences and similarities in how music education exists in high schools and universities around the world.

2. To participate

I’ve been thinking about music education, music teachers and technology for a while now and I sometimes think it’s not that important. Really, what does it matter what music educators think? Who cares about what they do in the classroom? Does it matter that we don't know? However, in presenting my preliminary PHD research at RiME2021 others reminded me that it IS important, and worthwhile. I got feedback, support and advice from knowledgeable people from all over the world, including people who I have been quoting for a few years. A conference that is entirely focused on my area (music education) is a place to get re-inspired about what I’m doing and it did just that. Sometimes the PHD is a slog. I thought it was a sprint, but it’s actually a marathon. Those at the conference supplied me with metaphorical bananas and energy gels.

3. To Learn

Conferences of this size, means that you can’t get to every presentation. There were usually 3 different presentation streams going at the same time. However, I did find a few times over the 5 days that I didn’t have something I really really wanted to go to, so just picked something interesting. (It was the middle of the night so it's not like I could go and put some washing on, or pop out for a coffee at a cafe!) That’s how I found myself learning from Jason Dasent about how he makes music as a visually impaired producer. Also hearing about the work he’s done with Avid, Focusrite and Arturia to make their products work with screen-readers. Now I know a little bit about that area, tucked it away in my brain and maybe one day, it will be useful. 30mins watching his workshop has enhanced my life.

4. To Network (to get a job)

There is a slim chance that I’m going to be able to get a full-time job at a university in New Zealand in my area (music teacher education) when I finish my studies in March 2022. There is a possibility I'll find work in something a bit more general (teacher education, music technology , governmental education policy or just a really great researcher). However, working in the commercial space is a strong option due to all the thinking and studying I've done about education which can be applied to any company that sells hardware or software to people. It’s likely I’ll need to move at least out of my small city, if not out of New Zealand. I realised this when embarking down this research path. Whilst I currently have a ‘portfolio career’ which translates to having 7 email addresses for the various contracts I have to earn money to live, I do sometimes dream of the day of just having one or two jobs. An international conference like this is an opportunity for me to put myself out there, make connections and maybe get a job. At the very least, I might get a guest zoom lecture (hint hint).

Thanks for reading, and if you want to know more about anything I’ve said, or what I’m researching, contact me though my contact page.

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