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EKIP – Expanding artistic narratives

EKIP-project at Vridsløselille Statsfængsel, DK

For a whole semester, students at the Rhythmic Music Conservatory (RMC) in Copenhagen work on creative, collaborative projects that respond to societal needs or challenges. This article aims to present the main educational intentions of the course and to share experiences of running the course through its first semester.

New possibilities and new expectations

Currently, art’s function and the artist’s role in society are rethought and reframed in many ways. Artists are expanding the idea of professionalism and increasingly collaborating, using their artistic competencies across institutional and disciplinary borders. By this, they create social innovation and value in other fields, such as health, education, business, environment, and social work. The current expansion of professionalism is not limited to the arts. The increased renegotiation takes place across diverse domains and professions, coinciding with the restructuring of society. These present changes call for curriculum initiatives in higher music education as well as in higher education in general to equip students with the skills and competences needed for new professional opportunities and expectations. A pertinent question is how higher music education can prepare students for such a future.


At RMC in Copenhagen, we have addressed this call by implementing a new project semester in the bachelor programs for performers and composers, premiering in the fall 2022. The interdisciplinary course is called “EKIP” (External, Collaborative [Danish: Kollaborativ], Integrated Project), a co-creation between the already existing subjects of artistic development work, entrepreneurship, and music pedagogy by a team of six teachers. In EKIP, students work in transdisciplinary or cross-sectorial partnerships with professionals or institutions outside RMC to develop artistic and/or arts-educational projects that respond to societal needs, challenges, or opportunities.


The external focus of the course represents an intention to relate to the world outside the institution, both as a general educational ideal of world-centredness and as an innovation-based version of an internship.


The course’s c(k)ollaborative focus represents an intention to support students in co-creating and engaging with collaborative methods, both in artistic and arts pedagogical practices, while fostering a collaborative approach to entrepreneurship. It also represents an intention to enhance students’ well-being and sustainability in their later working lives.


In its integrated focus, the course presents a holistic and global orientation rather than curriculum-based thinking. By fostering collaboration between different entities, we intend to stimulate interaction between academic subjects, perspectives, and individuals that can lead to transformative learning processes and allow for risk-taking and exploration of various professional identities. Our hope is to inspire students to investigate transdisciplinary and trans-professional approaches to their projects, enabling them to explore personal desires and visions that transcend habitual disciplinary boundaries.


The framing of the course as a student-driven project is based on the educational perspective/philosophy that student’s participation and autonomous knowledge construction is essential for learning processes. As a music conservatory, RMC is rooted in a tradition that places great emphasis on individual products or performances, where students and teachers display and are assessed by virtuosity in performance, composition, or conducting. Therefore, we also conceive EKIP as a renewal of practice towards more process-oriented, reflexive, and collective practices and product formats.

“Ekipping” as a practice

Halfway through the semester, I ran into some of the students in the course and asked them how they were doing. “We’re ekipping”, they answered. These students collaborated with a company that had invented mattresses with sound vibrations used for body treatment, investigating areas across body treatment, music therapy, wellness, and concert formats as a contribution to the further development of the company and the professional field.

For the team of teachers, this was a very affirming turning point: in two months, EKIP had developed from an unknown abbreviation in a written curriculum into a verb used casually and naturally by students, thereby making EKIP a living practice in the everyday culture of RMC.

EKIP-project at Vridsløselille Statsfængsel, DK

First-year ekipping practices

As early as the first year, students’ ekipping practices turned out to be manifold and diverse:

Some students collaborated with a municipal nature guide to produce a soundwalk podcast for citizens. A project developed auditory formats for erotic art in collaboration with a sex-positive movement. A student linked up with a journalist and travelled to a small island to explore the experience of climate change from a local perspective and disseminated the project through a documentary. Another project took place in a Swedish museum of natural history, where a composition student collaborated with a Norwegian film director to produce a film about the geological aspect of time.

Although EKIP projects are not required to have a pedagogical dimension, many of the projects turned out to be either pedagogical or to include educational perspectives. Several projects offered some form of value for target groups that may feel marginalised in society. A student created songwriting workshops for psychiatric patients, focusing on the connection between the sensitivity of mind and the sensitivity of sound. Another student investigated singing communication with babies to create a prototype of an opera for babies. A collaboration played out between a student, an organ builder, and a kindergarten, resulting in a playground organ installation. Several projects explored diasporic communities in and outside Denmark with titles such as “What is Home?” and “Call Centre for the Displaced”, with podcasts, videos, concerts, installations, and workshops as musical practices.

Artistic interdisciplinarity

Interdisciplinarity between art forms has been widely used by students in the course, and a significant outcome of many of the projects. While some students had prior experience collaborating with artists from other disciplines, other students became inspired to explore cross-disciplinary collaborations through EKIP. The collaborating partners included filmmakers, journalists, visual artists, set designers, writers, dancers, instrument makers, and chefs. In addition to the interdisciplinarity that arose through the partnerships, however, some students took the opportunity in the open framework of the EKIP project to work artistically and interdisciplinary. Thus, several students chose to express themselves through exhibitions, installations, texts, films, podcasts, and visual art. The initial idea was for students to document their projects in formats that could be uploaded digitally for assessment. However, the students’ creative processes called for more diverse documentation formats than we had initially planned, as many ended up doing practices that were not suitable for digital uploads framed by time and expressed in sound. For instance, one student who collaborated with a hospice to investigate the experiences of individuals facing impending death chose to disseminate the project in an art exhibition.

Collaboration as mindset

For the six teachers involved, teamwork and collaboration have been a strong priority. When staffing the team, we involved teachers who had collaboration as a core value and who explicitly wished to contribute to developing EKIP. We developed the course plan together, and we have been co-supervising and co-teaching throughout the course. A key tool for our collaboration has been a joint online log in which everyone could follow the didactical process and the progression of the projects, strengthening us as a transdisciplinary team.

As for the collaborative mindset of the students, we managed to foster students’ motivation to join external partnerships, but it turned out to be challenging and uncomfortable for students to collaborate with each other on their projects

Malene Bichel RMC

As for the collaborative mindset of the students, we managed to foster students’ motivation to join external partnerships, but it turned out to be challenging and uncomfortable for students to collaborate with each other on their projects. They found it difficult to envision generative ideas that went beyond their individual understanding of their artistic profile; thus, most students completed individual projects in which they collaborated only with external partners. However, students working individually experienced more challenges compared to the student teams due to feelings of loneliness, lack of motivation, and work overload.

Therefore, approaching the coming semester, we have made team-based projects the default organisation in the curriculum, and increased the focus upon expansion of the students’ artistic narratives and upon collaboration as a mindset and an overall value.