By Hannah Taylor, Tam N. Nguyen and Sabrina McKenzie

Warm, friendly faces greeted us without fail at the entrance door bright and early each morning, welcoming us into a room buzzing with activity, adventure, and anticipation. Despite the unrelenting 34-degree heat in Tokyo, Japan during the week of ICMPC17-ASCOM7, the enthusiasm of 530 passionate international researchers, united by their love for coffee and music, remained undiminished. Sustenance from mysterious cracker-snacks thanks to an organisational team who moved as one entity, and enriching lunches at the local ramen and sushi restaurants with new colleagues, supplied us with all the energy we needed to immerse ourselves fully in the whirlwind conference experience that took place between August 24-28th 2023.

As we reminisce about our time at ICMPC17-ASCOM7, it’s worth highlighting the cultural immersion that accompanied the academic exchange. Tokyo, where tradition seamlessly coexists with modernity, provided a rich backdrop for our conference experience. While we have never attended an in-person conference before, we weren’t really sure what to expect, however any nerves were extinguished after an early morning conversation with an author we knew by name, and not by face, who quickly revealed that we weren’t the only people in the room experiencing ‘imposter syndrome’ and reassured us that everyone was there for the same purpose: to connect with other passionate researchers from all over the globe.

It was an amazing feeling to replace combinations of letters that sit underneath the title of a journal article representing someone’s surname, with humans of varying heights and voices and smiles. The authors whose thoughts, ideas, and life works we have been getting to know so intimately during our thesis journeys suddenly became animated beings. Formal academic language was replaced with karaoke lyrics and the huge variety in stages of research careers became irrelevant as everyone contributed to a hub of exploration towards mutual goals of knowledge-sharing.

Some of us come from a place where we are intimidated by researchers who are well into their careers, at a seemingly young age, and we can find it hard not to think that the process of becoming accomplished must be streamlined and quick. Having the opportunity to meet experts who navigated unpredictable pathways to success brought to light fresh perspectives. Instead of catastrophising about the challenges we face while building ourselves up in the research world and feeling defeated by setbacks, we developed an acceptance and understanding that research is a journey and the ‘how to get there’ is unique to each of our own individual experiences. It is not our history or the pathways we have taken that bring us together, but our determination.

Conferences really do create a unique space to think, reflect, and share weird and wonderful ideas that range from brilliant to outrageous, in a safe, non-judgemental place with people who are as passionate about music as we are. A community in which we belong.

We are already looking forward into the future and considering how our work will take shape between now and the next opportunity we get to attend the next one. At this very moment, a close-knit group of us, who forged strong bonds during our time here, sit together in a room, crafting this reflection and cherishing the valuable new relationships we’ve cultivated.

Bring on ICMPC 2025!

See you all there,

Hannah, Tam, & Sabrina

Hannah is a researcher in music psychology whose work centres around how people with eating disorders experience and engage with music

Tam is currently finishing off her Music (Honours)/Science degree at UNSW, where her honours project is on how films can impact emotion in music.

Sabrina is a PhD candidate in Music Psychology exploring the role everyday music listening plays in cultivating self-compassion