In the past month, also AEC's lobbying and advocacy activities were dominated by the corona pandemic. This holds, at least indirectly, also true for the struggle for the adoption of the European Commission's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) budget about which the last AEC newsletter reported in detail. There is so far no substantial new information on the topic, and therefore we decided to focus this time on three aspects that could be described as side effects of the COVID crisis.
1. Health and wellbeing
In some respects, the pandemic has an immediate impact on the health and social security of musicians in general and on the Higher Music Education sector in particular. All of a sudden, many people became aware of how dramatic the decline of the economic situation of many musicians is when all live performances cease overnight. Singing in choirs was stopped by government bans and it became obvious what life without culture actually means. But the economic hardship that many musicians have fallen into is only one side of the coin. Also the psychological stress resulting from the crisis has increased significantly.
Aside from the fact that some of our members quickly formed a network to investigate the immediate consequences of the COVID crisis on musicians' health (e.g. through research projects on virus transmission via aerosol particles – we reported about it in the May newsletter), an old topic gained new relevance: what can we do to ensure an environment for students, but also for teachers, that protects them from mental disease and provides them – in case it nonetheless happens – with fast, discreet, appropriate and professional assistance?
Maintaining mental health is part of a sustainability agenda that has for quite some time high priority in the social debate, but has been given additional impetus by the consequences of the epidemic. According to a common definition, ensuring sustainability in the strict sense can be expected only if it is affecting to at least the fields of economy, ecology and social coexistence, and not only to individual aspects of it.
To answer the question how music and Higher Music Education might contribute to the promotion of sustainable thinking and action, seems to be far more difficult. AEC is involved with this issue for some time. A presentation on AEC's sustainability concept and the related internal debate that has originally been scheduled to be part of the European Music Forum (EMF) 2020 is – after the EMF was cancelled due to corona – now available as an item of the EMF online series. We would be pleased if this would contribute to stimulating further discussion.
People have somehow gotten used to the fact that air traffic might be grounded due to Icelandic volcanoes or terrorist attacks. But many were just shocked to see borders closed in inner-European traffic. We are happy that these times are over now, but we also feel that the intensity and quality of cross-border collaboration is at risk to decrease. There will be less Erasmus mobility in the coming semester compared to what we are used to from the past, and the number of young musicians from other continents applying for a study place at a European Music HEI will be lower than in previous years. Retreating to the national level can be sensed in some areas. It may well be that as soon as the pandemic is over, we can quickly get back to the status quo ante. But it may also be that this does not happen on its own, but that we must actively strive for ensuring that internationalisation gains back again the level we were used to before the crisis.
But there are also good news to report: many of these countless webinars and online meetings are attended by people from East Asia, Canada or New Zealand. We should take care to make sure both: restoring the quality of the past and fostering what we have newly gained.
It will certainly be a core task within AEC's advocacy agenda for the hopefully near future.