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The History Project of the Norwegian Academy of Music

Project leader:
Astrid Kvalbein

Project period:
2018 – 2023


History of music

In 2023, the Norwegian Academy of Music (NMH) will celebrate its 50th anniversary. The history project contributes to the marking of this event with research on and documentation of the institution’s many activities over the years.

What forces were decisive in the establishment of a state funded academy of music in 1973 - 90 years after the school for organists, which was to become the Oslo conservatoire, was started up by the Lindeman family in 1883? How have teaching, performing, music theory and different musical genres been prioritized over the years? How have the most prominent Norwegian musicians influenced the school, and what matters have been closest to the heart for the different heads? 

The Academy’s history project, which is generously supported by the Lindeman Legacy, does not aim to answer all these questions in depth. However, some of them are crucial in the project leading up to the 50-years’ anniversary in 2023. The aim is to stimulate and support research on and documentation of the Academy’s history and how this relates to the history of music education in general – from the end of the 19th century onwards, with emphasis on the last 50 years.  

Archives, interviews and books

Rich archival material is available for this work; from the organist school up until today, as well as publications about the academy and related institutions. This will all be used to shed light on the history from many different angles, consulting relevant theory and literature. Special efforts will be made to preserve the knowledge embedded in the many practices of the Academy, which are more rarely written down or documented otherwise. How do the teachers at the academy teach and reflect upon their profession, whether within music history, classical singing, jazz saxophone, church music or teaching in primary school classrooms? What are the rectors and other leaders’ opinions on how to run an institution like the Academy? 

During the project period, a range of persons representing different disciplines, generations and functions in the life of the institution before and after 1973 will be interviewed. The interviews will provide input for research and analysis as well as journalistic portraits or other presentations, online or in print. 

The aim of the research is to develop and convey historical perspectives and new knowledge about music teaching in relation to the activities of, and the history of the Norwegian Academy of Music. The dissemination will be through academic publication journals and books and in other media, including popular channels. Researchers and writers will be recruited from NMH's own staff and other institutions and applicants for PhD and master scholarships at NMH are encouraged to design projects linked to the history project. 

Current projects

From the summer of 2018 onwards, three researchers have already been appointed: Olaf Eggestad (University of Stavanger), will write an article based on rich material about the pianist and professor at NMH from 1973, Robert Riefling (1911-1988). What characterizes the relations between teaching, ethics and aesthetics in the tradition Riefling came from, and the heritage he left to his students?

Ingrid Loe Landmark will focus on another profiled pianist and pedagogue, Mary Barratt Due (1888-1969). Although this founder of the private Barratt Due Academy, where Landmark is currently employed, is not directly linked to the conservatoire or NMH, she is a prominent representative of the many well educated women who taught in addition to composing and keeping up a career as solo pianist in the early 20th century. The efforts of the many private teachers have been fundamental for music teaching in Norway, but have scarcely been documented or studied critically. To promote such neglected music histories, is also an overall ambition for the project. 

Hans Weisethaunet (Department of Musicology, University of Oslo) will look closer into the arguments and reflections that set the ground for jazz to become part of the curriculum in higher music education in Norway. Among his sources are interviews with the enthusiasts and first staff at the jazz education in Trondheim from 1979 and from the early 1990s at NMH. Weisethaunet will also put the development of these educations in an international perspective. 

During its first years, the history project will also apply for external funding of research on topics relevant to a wider, international research community. The project leader consults an advisory board and reports to a steering committee. 

Anniversary book

As part of the project an author will be engaged to write an anniversary book on the history of the Academy. Here, the long lines will be drawn up whilst also discussing the controversies and pointed anecdotes from the 50 years long history of NMH, from 1973, and all the way back to 1883.   

Project leader


Astrid Kvalbein


Music History

Last updated: 4. September 2018