The AEC celebrated its 70th year in existence in some style. I want to begin by thanking all contributors to articles in our newsletters and in particular to Communications Coordinator Alessandra Callegari for her tremendous work bringing the ideas together for publication. I wish also to thank the AEC office team for curating the wonderful exhibition at the Congress and indeed for their professionalism and excellent work throughout a busy year. It says much about the foundations of an organisation, when it can reach this venerable age still growing, developing, and striving for more.

In this final article of 2023, I change the focus from the past to the future.

In the immediate sense, in 2024 we will have a transition to a new Executive Director in Finn Schumacker. Stefan Gies steps away from an organisation made immeasurably stronger under his leadership, providing Finn with a great start. I am excited to work with him and was delighted to see him fit so effortlessly into our recent events, getting to know all of you. I thank Stefan for his ground-breaking work across advocacy, content, and building a network that is stronger than ever.

We approach also the final year of the AEC Creative Europe Networks funded project “AEC – Empowering Artists as Makers in Society (ARTEMIS)”. This project continued many of the main themes from the earlier “Strengthening Music in Society”. Throughout 2024, our members can expect the publication of various resources which have been produced by the ARTEMIS Working Groups and I am confident that they will be of value to you in the years to come. The end of one project means the beginning of a new application, and already Finn and Linda are preparing for the new Creative Europe Networks call, which closes in March. Such calls always note core areas of focus for the EU, and in this call, it seems that the required Actions of the programme will further enable AEC to make progress on inclusion and diversity, and in particular gender balance. I hope that we can also continue to enrich and grow our community with more inspiring input from students, and from our colleagues based outside Europe.

I am grateful to the Members of AEC who allowed us some leeway in presenting only a framework Strategic Plan to the General Assembly in November 2023. This has allowed us to give Finn time to bring his own thoughts to the detailed Strategic Plan, to link it to the EU bid, and to ensure that it remains relevant and inspiring for our Community.

2024 is a key year for the EU, with European Parliament Elections coming in June. AEC is founded within the EU context, and much of our advocacy relies on the skills, creativity and empathy of the political class with whom we engage. My wish is that the next Parliament will have members that understand and respect the value of culture to society, and back this up with meaningful support.