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Principal's Speech

Here you can read Principal Astrid Kvalbein's speech from the opening ceremony in Lindemansalen 28 August 2023.

The year has indeed already begun for many – those of you who are new have had orientation programs and performed a concert last week. It was truly fantastic to witness all the first-year bachelor students sing in chorus and perform Terry Riley's 'In C' on nearly all instruments at the university library on Friday!

Equally inspiring was the opportunity to meet and listen to our colleagues on the joint day last Thursday, where we were presented with examples of a wide range of pedagogical and artistic developmental work and research that can take place here at the NMH.

– We are entering the anniversary celebration year at full speed

These days, we are fully immersed in the anniversary celebration year here at the Music Academy, with a program throughout the day on Sunday – starting with the parade from Jernbanetorget shortly after 11, passing through 50 different events and concerts around the University's Aula on Karl Johan street, and culminating in the evening's celebratory concert.

I also want to remind everyone that the mayor has invited us to a wonderful reception at City Hall next Monday at 3 PM. There's room for everyone! And be sure to join us for a group photo the following Monday at 1 PM.

There will be a series of events throughout the academic year – from the Ultima Festival to church music events, small and large conferences, and, of course, concerts!

I also want to remind everyone that the mayor has invited us to a wonderful reception at City Hall next Monday at 3 PM. There's room for everyone! And be sure to join us for a group photo the following Monday at 1 PM

Astrid Kvalbein

– A year marked by struggle

It may feel paradoxical that we are celebrating now amidst a year characterized by struggle. Due to the global situation and the priorities set by our government, we enter this academic year with tighter financial constraints than we have faced in a long time. This is noticeable. However, we still know that we will continue to provide and deliver music education at a high international level this year and beyond. Thanks to all the resources we have at our disposal, most importantly, the human resources, which are primarily driven by musical and artistic forces.

Perhaps, in fact, times like these are when it's essential to showcase ourselves, as the anniversary provides an opportunity to do so – to show the world who we are, what we do, and what we mean to the entire society.

We are also pleased to welcome students from a wide range of countries outside Norway, even though some of them – those outside the EEA area – now have to pay a high fee to come here. A payment that we and many others have fought against.

On that note, I want to extend a special welcome to our international students and staff. This academy might be placed in the periphery, geographically speaking, but we have always strived to take part in a greater world, where musical traditions – be it jazz or other improvised forms, folk music or the so called Western classical and contemporary music – are shared across all sorts of boundaries.

Given these international ambitions, we are also excited about the participation in the European University Alliance IN.TUNE will bring. With funding from the EU, we will create projects and share practices between similar institutions in Belgrade, Vienna, Helsinki, Paris, Bucharest, the Hague and Barcelona in the following years.

We are looking forward to that, and looking forward in general. While at the same time looking back on the preceding years.

Perhaps, in fact, times like these are when it's essential to showcase ourselves, as the anniversary provides an opportunity to do so – to show the world who we are, what we do, and what we mean to the entire society.

Astrid Kvalbein

– Draw inspiration from our history

The anniversary allows us to learn from and be inspired by our past.

Since I was actually in charge of NMH's history project a few years ago – initiated during the previous leadership – I could speak for hours about how it all began, actually with organist education back in 1883, which later became the music conservatory, all founded and driven by the "Lindemanns" whose busts we see along the walls of this hall.

I could also add something about the women that the history project has brought out from the shadows – for instance, about Anna Lindeman, who ran a school, composed, and taught, or about Signe Lindeman, who became the country's first female concert organist. (I could even add a note about how enthusiastic Signe was about Josephine Baker, the cabaret artist who often performed in banana skirts and topless, an experience she had during her honeymoon with her husband in Paris (and another note about how that enthusiasm might have contributed to their divorce a few years later)).

Or I could tell you about the major debate over the location just before 1973, ending with the narrowest possible majority for Oslo even though Harald Sæverud believed that the musical soil in Bergen was so fertile that a music academy could almost sprout from the ground there in the west.

Or I could tell you about the endless struggle to secure enough space for what we do – all the different addresses until this building was completed in 1989 and the second building in 2007, after the merger with the Eastern Music Conservatory – and what we are fighting with today.

But you might as well read more about all of this in Alfred Fidjestøl's anniversary book or in the many other publications that emerge from the history project – including the splendid anniversary magazine that also tells many stories about what has become of some of those who studied here, out in the world, afterwards.

Both seriousness and laughter during Astrid Kvalbein's opening speech at the official opening of the academic year on 28 September.

– Building on our values

One thing I want to emphasize and talk about on a day like this is the values that shaped those who founded this school 50 years ago.

We are continuously building upon those values. One crucial decision made back then was that the NMH should be much more than an elite academy for only the very best soloist candidates. They should also study here, but the mission was – and is – greater than that.

Here, I'd like to quote my predecessor Robert Levin's speech at the opening in 1973:

"The Music Academy shall supply society with highly qualified personnel in various fields within performing and creative music and music education. Do we know what types of musicians we need?

Yes, we know much! We know that throughout our country, there is a call for music teachers in schools, leaders and teachers for music schools, choir and orchestra instructors, musicians forming the core of our regional orchestras, church musicians, and musicians for performing in the local communities. We also know that our professional orchestras need highly qualified musicians. Our only opera house needs vocal talents both for choir and solo roles. The production of film and theatre music requires arrangers and performers. Entertainment music, jazz, pop – they all need musicians. There's a great need for creative musicians, considering various aspects of concert life, applied music, and further pedagogical work. And lastly – certainly not least – there is a need for performing soloists."

Levin pauses at three keywords in NMH's mission: Society. Music. Humanity.

These three words and the connections between them will be subjects of reflection for us in the coming year as we embark on a strategic process – raising our gaze and stating what the Music Academy should be for the next ten, twenty, and perhaps fifty years.

And Levin so eloquently spoke about what binds us all together here, what motivates us: "Music is our clay. It's what we shall work with.

Astrid Kvalbein quoted NMH's first principal Robert Levin in his opening speech in 1973
Robert Levin smiles at the piano.

And Levin so eloquently spoke about what binds us all together here, what motivates us:

"Music is our clay. It's what we shall work with. Music – a magnitude that cannot be defined, breaking the limits of words, affecting minds, inspiring, exciting, soothing, possessing greater power than a thousand words and heavy weapons, the highest of all artistic forms – what a material we have been given!"

Now, let me introduce some of the individuals and material we have here today, namely the students Elisabeth Lund Tomter and Oskar Valand Halvorsen, who will perform the fourth movement of Schumann's Märchenbilder for us: "Langsam, mit melancolischem Ausdruck."

And I declare the 51st academic year in NMH's history open.

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