By Stephanie MacArthur, Sabrina McKenzie, & Dianna Vidas
In 1972, the Society for Education, Music, and Psychology Research (SEMPRE) was founded. In recognition of this milestone, SEMPRE organised a 50th Anniversary Conference, held online and in-person at the University of London on the 2&3 of September 2022. This hybrid conference offered delegates the opportunity to disseminate and critically discuss current research topics and studies in psychology of music and music education. In recognition of significant contributions to the field, four distinguished researchers were given Lifetime Achievement Awards – Professor Göran Folkestad, Professor Sandra Trehub, and Australians Professor Gary McPherson and Professor Dianna Kenny. These members presented the range of their important work in keynote addresses. In further recognition of the milestone anniversary, the Society provided funding for several diverse research projects and the conference proceedings included presentations by award holders.
The conference commenced with a warm welcome by Professor Graham Welch and an opening address by Dr Desmond Sergeantoffered a historical reflection on the Society’s beginnings, noting key figures, interesting anecdotes, and developments in the field. This important perspective was further enhanced during the conference dinner, with the world premiere of Aubrey Hickman’s string ensemble composition; a piece that had been meticulously transcribed, prepared and rehearsed for performance at the conference.
The hybrid format permitted a robust representation of Australian researchers. Day 1 commenced with Professor Jane Davidson’s engaging presentation from the work of her team on the impact of intercultural musical engagement on social cohesion. This was followed by Stephanie MacArthur’s findings on the ways in which seven-year-old children manage their emergent diverse learning needs in the instrumental music studio. Then, Sabrina McKenzie presented her research on the role music listening plays in cultivating self-compassion amongst young adults in Australia. On Day 2, Margaret Osborne and Ann Shoebridge presented preliminary results on a well-being protocol for musicians that offered interesting perspectives on performance related problems. Among the posters presented throughout the conference were one by Australian researchers Amanda Krause, Margaret Osborne, Solange Glasser, and Sabrina McKenzie, who explored the impact of COVID-19 on the value of listening to music, and Amanda Krause and Heather Fletchers’ poster on how radio listeners perceive its purpose and potential to support older well-being.
Two standout Lifetime Achievement Award presentations included those given by Professor Gary McPherson and Professor Dianna Kenny [which can be viewed at https://sempre.org.uk/50th]. Professor McPherson’s presentation was an interesting retrospective on his insightful research in music education and musical ability, and one that discussed the theoretical concepts that have both underpinned his work and progressed the field significantly. Professor Dianna Kenny offered an insight into her “meandering” research interests across music performance anxiety, psychodynamic psychology, and developmental psychology. This rich and broad landscape of Professor Kenny’s research in education, music and psychology included honouring connections with students and collaborative researchers.
Overall, the range of research presented across two very full days and several time zones was inspiring and energising for us as doctoral candidates and early career researchers. Particularly insightful were the keynote speakers’ summary of their career trajectories — something rarely discussed at large conferences. This was both personally and professionally important after two years of pandemic uncertainty. Further, the inclusive culture that permeated the conference encouraged us to engage, ask questions, and continue to be curious as researchers of music psychology and music education.
A heartful thanks to all involved in making our participation in the SEMPRE 50th Anniversary Conference a memorable and motivating historic event.