Early in July The New Zealand Society for Music Education (NZSME) and the International Society for Music Education (ISME) hosted an event in Auckland, New Zealand. Its title was Taonga of the Asia Pacific Rim, and it was a Regional Conference, Trade Exhibition and Performance Festival. There were four strands each of which emphasised cultural difference.
Strand One, Performance and Shared Values in Music Education, looked at development of an understanding of the many musics of the world's cultures and how to share them.
Strand Two, focussing on the Pacific, had content related to the preservation and renewal of migrant cultures.
The third strand was a crossover stream looking at cultural mixes, commerce and music education.
Music therapy had a place in the fourth stream about community development in culturally diverse societies. Daphne Rickson and Morva Croxson presented a joint paper on this theme within the music therapy context, and Lisabeth Toomey had a case-study paper in music therapy.
The four days were permeated by wonderful performances from Maori and Pacific Island people of New Zealand, from school groups, visiting Chinese folk musicians, dancers from Nuie, original music of all genres, jazz, Orff and many more. It was an exciting "allsorts" of programmes dotted among some very good paper presentations.
The first keynote address from New Zealander Keri Kaa was titled "We Sing Because We Must". Patrician Shehan-Campbell (USA) talked about "Shared Values: Meanings of diversity for those who teach music and children". There was a stunning keynote from Opetaia Fo'ai on Traditional Pacific Music. Opetaia is a composer, vocalist and guitarist who leads a pop-folk group Te Vaga, a lively band which complemented the stirring performance of Maori Action Group Te Waka Huia. This latter group combined the old-style kapihaka song-dance tradition with some 21st century choreography. On many occasions we saw in action the ability of music makers to extend the tradition they had inherited, so that young people became involved in performance or were excited as audience.
The final keynote speaker was Christopher Small, author of Music, Society and Education and Music of the Common Tongue. His third book Musicking puts forward the premise that "musicking, taking part in a musical performance, is an act by means of which we explore, affirm and celebrate our concepts of ideal relationships..... it affirms or contests assigned social identities." He introduced a refreshing philosophy and semantic to the making of music which has much relevance to music therapy practice.
There was much that was relevant, and refreshing. I came away with new insights into old scenarios, with affirmed energy for the power of music to effect change. It is a simple thought, but often music therapy specialisation needs a robust infiltration of such an event. The energy and excitement of this focus on the music of different cultures was as good as a sabbatical or a holiday!
Croxson, Morva (2001). Taonga of the Asia Pacific Rim. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy. Retrieved June 13, 2013, from http://testvoices.uib.no/?q=fortnightly-columns/2001-taonga-asia-pacific-rim