Advent i fengsel

The Social Agency of Conservatoires of Music

Project leader:
Geir Johansen

Project period:
2015 – 2018

Research centre:


Social responsibility

Have conservatoires of music any contribution to make to the development of society? What might that contribution be in addition to, but not detached from, conservatoires' social outreach by community music projects in hospitals, prisons; and elderly people's homes?


The aim of the study is to raise a discussion about how music conservatoires can take part in the public conversation on the development of our future societies in a more explicit way than hitherto.

During the recent decades we have seen a change in the social outreach activities of music conservatoires around the world, from addressing traditional, western concert contexts to new arenas of delimitation such as prisons, hospitals, homes for elderly people and refugee camps. Even more recently voices have been raised asking if conservatoires of music should also take part in the larger conversation of society.

Should we “ask ourselves whether conservatoires have any contribution to make to addressing the increasing polarization of modern society, increasing environmental and economic threats, the breakdown of popular trust in the ability of politicians and corporations to work in our interests?”, John Sloboda said in his address to the Reflective Conservatoire conference at Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2012.

The present study is investigating the prospect, possibilities and limits of conservatoires of music in addressing such large societal questions and the connections between such priorities and the social outreach of those institutions towards the manifold of new arenas of the delimitation of music. The conservatoire is studied as a system of higher education at society’s meso level with particular relations to its environment, by drawing on theory of social systems, structure-agency relations and the sociology of education.


The project is based on an initiative by John Sloboda, Ingrid Maria Hanken, Øivind Varkøy and Geir Johansen, which led to a one year project on conservatoires and society which is run in collaboration between Pascale De Groot, Helena Gaunt, John Sloboda, Henk v. d. Meulen, Richard Wistreich, Peter Tregear, Tuomas Auvinen, Helena Tulve and Huib Schippers.


Tregear, P., Johansen, G., Jørgensen, H. Sloboda, J., Tulve, H. & Wistreich, R. (2016). Conservatoires in society: Institutional challenges and possibilities for change. Arts & Humanities in Higher Education 15 (3-4): 276-292.

Project leader


Geir Johansen

Professor Emeritus

Music Education

Last updated: 25. April 2014