An Interdisciplinary Gathering: Attending the 50th Anniversary Conference of the Society for Education and Music Psychology Research (SEMPRE)

This weekend (2nd-4th September 2022), I was glad to attend the 50th anniversary conference of the Society for Education and Music Psychology Research (SEMPRE). Set in the imposing Senate House of the University of London, delegates gathered for two days of discussion and presentation of the latest research in music & science/music education, as well as a retrospective look at the lives of some of the key researchers in the history of the society, particularly Dr Desmond Sergeant and Aubrey Hickman.

Senate House building, University of London

Durham University’s Music and Science lab were represented in the research presentation of Jane Davidson of the University of Melbourne on social cohesion through intercultural music engagement, on which Professors Tuomas Eerola and Martin Clayton of the Durham Music Department were co-investigators, as well as my own poster communicating my research on subjective feeling in qawwālī listening. The first of these was music to the ears of this ethnomusicologist, as the data strongly suggested that students who learn about music from a different background of their own show greater empathy for people of that group! The second, my own research, presented the results of two studies, suggesting three factors into which most emotions felt with qawwālī (Sufi music in India/Pakistan) listening at the shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi can be categorised: virtuous feelings, spiritual love, and religious trance, and thus supporting the view that different genres and cultures will report different musical emotion profiles.

Other highlights for me included Xi Zhang’s discussion of the relation between phonetic tones and musical melodies in Chaozhou songs, Graziela Bortz’s discussion of the continuation of the legacies of slavery in music education in Brazilian higher education, Hannah Marsden and Ruth Montgomery’s research on musical education for deaf children, and Sandra Trehub’s lifetime achievement award presentation in which she discussed a plethora of research on musicality in infants.

Other than the research presentations themselves, there were a number of elements especially for the 50th anniversary. These included the investment of up to £100,000 of research funding in various research projects over the last few years, and the world premier of a piece of music composed by Aubrey Hickman, a founder of the society.

Chamber strings group performing the world premier of a piece composed by Aubrey Hickman at the reception of the SEMPRE 50th Anniversary Conference.

In sum, this was a weekend which displayed the variety of the research engaged in by SEMPRE members, from cross-cultural work, through music therapy, music and emotion, music and wellbeing, music for early years education, and music education for neurodiverse people, among many others! Happy 50th birthday to SEMPRE, and here’s to 50 more!


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