Keynote Speakers


We are excited and honoured to announce our four keynote speakers for the conference:

Roger Scruton, visiting Professor in the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies at the University of St Andrews, UK; Visiting Professor philosophy, Oxford University, UK

Estelle JorgensenFaculty in the Center for Research and Residencies, Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, Walden University, USA

Göran Larsson, Professor History of Religions, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Lauri Väkevä, Professor Music Education, Sibelius Academy University of the Arts Helsinki 


Roger Scruton, University of Oxford; University of St. Andrews, UK

Why Music Matters

Music engages us in many ways. We listen to it, perform it, dance to it, and sometimes compose it. It accompanies other activities, such as marching, praying, studying, working. And increasingly it occurs in the background of life, piped through loudspeakers in public spaces, sounding in iPods and in the soundtrack of movies. The inescapable nature of music in modern life has accompanied a retreat of the critical faculty. It is no longer considered appropriate or even possible to judge musical taste or to comment on the good or bad ways of listening, the good or bad ways of performing, the good or bad ways of creating music. Music is like the digestive system: it works differently in different people, but no one is to be either praised or blamed for it, and everything goes.

If we take this attitude, however, we find it very hard to say anything coherent about musical education. In the days when people were taught harmony and counterpoint, singing in choirs, and the art of listening to the classical repertoire it seemed clear that there was a musical curriculum. There were things that it was necessary to learn if this art were to be fully opened to the consciousness of the student. Teachers had an idea of seriousness in music, of the difference between the works that have something to say, and those that are mere entertainment, of the musical touchstones, which convey a content that can in some way change the life of the one who encounters them. Was that all an illusion? If it was, then what is the place of music in the curriculum? Is it reduced to the skills required for performance, without regard to the things performed? Do schools have nothing to teach other than acquainting pupils with what they already know, or allowing them to explore whatever repertoire appeals to them?

But if the old idea of music appreciation was not an illusion on what was it founded? Why does music, as it once was taught, really matter? From Plato to Adorno philosophers have given radical and sometimes troubling answers to this question, and I attempt to address it anew, from the perspective of analytical philosophy, by giving a theory of the place of music in the life of the mind.


For a biography and other information regarding Roger Scruton, please visit his webpage:

Estelle Jorgensen, Indiana University, USA

On the Role of Religion in Music Education

This presentation addresses the following philosophical questions:  Why should music education construed broadly critically engage the religions?  What problems arise for music education when it engages the religions?  How should music educators navigate the intersections of music, education, and religion?

Estelle Jorgensen is Professor Emerita of Music (Music Education) at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and Faculty in the Center for Research and Residencies in the Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership, Walden University, USA. She holds honorary doctorates in music from Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts, Finland, and Andrews University, U.S.A. She is the founder of the Philosophy Special Research Interest Group of the National Association for Music Education and co-founder of the International Society for the Philosophy of Music Education, and has led or contributed to international philosophical symposia in Bloomington, Indiana, USA (1990), Los Angeles, California, USA (1994), Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1997), Birmingham, United Kingdom (2000), Lake Forest, Illinois, USA (2003), London, Ontario (2005), Hamburg, Germany (2007), Helsinki, Finland (2010), and New York City, New York, USA (2013).  She is the editor of the Philosophy of Music Education Review and the Counterpoints: Music and Education book series published by Indiana University Press and Philosopher-Teacher-Musician: Contemporary Perspectives on Music Education (1993), and the author of four solo books--In Search of Music Education (1997), Transforming Music Education (2003), The Art of Teaching Music (2008), and Pictures of Music Education (2011)--and numerous articles in leading music education journals internationally.

Göran Larsson, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

Why should religious leaders care about music? A cognitive approach to religion and music

It is evident that many religious leaders are concerned about music. Many see music as a way of expressing their beliefs in the form of psalms, hymns and devotional music. Thus it may be seen that music confirms, upholds and teaches religious doctrines and religious ways of life. However, it is also evident that "wrong" musics can be perceived as a threat to individuals' religious identities and convictions. What kinds of music, and indeed considerations of what is music, is also an ongoing debate among many religious leaders. Is the recitation of the Quran music? Is it appropriate for Muslims to listen to Western pop music? Should Christians listen to Heavy Metal music? It is evident that religious leaders are often compelled to take a stance with regards to music. Should their followers listen to music, specific kinds of music, or should they abstain from listening to music at all? From this perspective, music is a pedagogical concern.

In order to discuss and explain why the concerns of religious leaders might be justified with regards to the relations between music and religion, it is also necessary to discuss the cognitive impacts of music on the individual. What happens in the brain and our cognitive systems when we listen to music? Does the brain go through similar experiences when exposed to religious expressions (for example, services, chants, hymns, recitations)?

Göran Larsson is professor of religious studies at the department of literature, history of ideas, and religion at the university of Gothenburg, Sweden. His research is mainly focused on Islam and Muslims in Europe.

For more information about Larsson's research please go to:

Lauri Väkevä, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki, Finland

Religious repertoire in general music education: spiritual indoctrination or cultural dialogue?

This presentation examines the philosophical, political and cultural implications of religious repertoire in Finnish general music education. Finnish public education is non-denominational by law, meaning that devotional practices should be restricted from teaching (including teaching of religion). Some commentators have stated that this premise is violated by the ongoing tradition of performing Lutheran songs at school events, such as spring and Christmas celebrations, arguing that pupils are either forced to participate in the religious practices of the majority or marginalized from such events as a result of their religious (or non-religious) beliefs.

Theoretically, this discussion can be examined against a historical-ideological tension caused by modern differentiation in Finnish society. The public school curriculum was established largely on Lutheran ideological premises; however, along with other school subjects, music later took later a secular and autonomous character, with pedagogy focusing on holistic musico-artistic development of the child independent of religious upbringing. The present attempt to maintain Lutheran musical practices in secular school can perhaps be seen as one sign of a need to recognize a cultural field of interpenetration that is hoped to unify differentiated aspects of Finnish culture under a set of values allegedly shared by majority of Finns.

Perhaps because of this need, school-based musical-religious practices are today often defended with cultural historical arguments, not infrequently with nationalist overtones. In this discourse, it seems to be sometimes taken for granted that Lutheran music represents something of perennial value in Finnish culture and is therefore worth preserving in public education. It has been also suggested that performing religious repertoire in school events is not really a devotional practice, but part of cultural presentation that should be a part of the upbringing of every Finn. While obviously problematic from the standpoint of religious equity, such arguments hint at the rhetorical possibility of justifying devotional music in school from the standpoint of cultural formation, or Bildung. However, in line with critical theories of Bildung, I will argue that the educational value of such practices cannot be credibly justified in terms of an allegedly unified national cultural tradition, but only as part of critical representation of a variety of cultural beliefs. This necessitates an egalitarian and voluntary approach to musical-devotional practices. While attempts to impose the religious practices of the majority upon all students needs to be criticized, this does not necessitate that Finnish school should not have room for religion-related cultural dialogue, as long as this dialogue allows for a variety of voices to be heard. In such conditions, religious music in school could become a matter of cultural dialogue rather than spiritual indoctrination.

Lauri Väkevä is professor in music education at University of Arts Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland. A co-author of three books, he has also published book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals, as well as presented papers in international conferences in the fields of music education, musicology, music history, and popular music studies. His main research interests cover Afro-American music, popular music pedagogy, history of popular music, pragmatist aesthetics, philosophy of music education, informal learning and digital music culture. Aside of academic career, his work assignments have covered working as a musician, music journalist, general music teacher, and instrumental teacher.