The profession Working Group

Understanding the evolving trends and issues in the music profession is essential for professional training institutions so they can provide their students with a solid preparation for professional life. Feedback on this evolving profession was sought from professional stakeholders, as well as from teachers and former students who are both teaching and performing. Structured research also provided crucial information. This awareness of the profession and the surrounding environment should assist training institutions in their curriculum development and assist them in their teaching of innovative traditional and contemporary forms of musical practice.

The objectives of the Polifonia working group on the music profession were to search for and reflect on information related to trends in the profession. In the light of these findings, and by studying professional training institutions’ curricula, the group suggests areas of potential development for conservatoires. The group also reflected on the relevance of the current list of learning outcomes defined by the Tuning working group and how they respond to the identified trends in the music profession.


  • Descriptions of the latest trends in the music profession
  • A study on the relevance of learning outcomes to the music profession
  • The identification of rare and new competences via portraits of musicians working on the cutting edge of diciplines, case studies and site visits
  • A study on alumni policies in professional music training institutions
  • A study on the free movement of musicians in Europe


  • Gretchen Amussen (Co-chair – Conservatoire de Paris)
  • Rineke Smilde (Co-chair – Prins Claus Conservatoire Groningen)
  • Lincoln Abbotts (Association of British Orchestras)
  • Timo Klemettinen (European Music School Union)
  • Katja Schaefer (Bayrische Akademie der Schönen Künste)
  • Einar Solbu (European Music Council)
  • Rui Fernandes (International Federation of Musicians)
  • Fiona Harvey (Association of British Orchestras) – member in first project yea

To consult various materials related to this working group, please go to the project material page.

Latest trends

Mapping trends and changes in the music profession is a challenging task, due to the breadth of the field and the realities of a rapidly changing society. Professional training institutions need to know how best to prepare their students for their future profession by providing them with the skills and competences students leaving the institution needed to meet these changes.

In order to have the broadest view possible on latest and future trends, the profession working group included members of professional organisations as well as representatives of conservatoires. On-site visits during the course of the funding period provided opportunities to meet with key personalities and to study in greater depth specific areas of interest. The on-site visits also helped the group to develop a gallery of portraits of musicians and case studies which demonstrate the evolving profession. The results of the research provided the basis for the group’s reflection and assessment as to how these trends and inherent competencies link back to learning outcomes developed by the Tuning working group, while also suggesting areas for potential development in conservatoires.

A literature study has been undertaken for the profession working group. It was a first approach to some of the recent and ongoing changes in the music profession, mainly in the technical sector.

You can find an overview of this study in the project material section.

Musicians’ portraits, case studies and site visits

Career paths in the field of music can be as creative as the subject itself. The subjective experience of musicians involved in innovative practice demonstrates the wide range of possibilities a musician has in his or her professional life, as well as specific constraints that may have influenced an individual career.
The profession working group’s portraits of musicians, descriptions of innovative models, and site visits demonstrate new and rare competences as well as examples of innovative practice.
Musicians’ portraits

Corrie van Binsbergen (guitarist, composer and band leader)
Oene van Geel (jazz violinist, violist and composer)
Sean Gregory (composer, performer and creative producer)
Markku Kaikkonen (music teacher in special music education)
Jérôme Pernoo (cellist, performer, teacher and festival director)
Kouame Sereba (performing musician)

Downloadable Documents:

Musicians’ portrait: Corrie van Binsbergen: Full text document.
Musicians’ portrait: Oene van Geel: Full text document 
Musicians’ portrait: Sean Gregory: Full text document 
Musicians’ portrait: Markku Kaikkonen: Full text document
Musicians’ portrait: Jérôme Pernoon:Full text document 
Musicians’ portrait: Kouame Sereba: Full text document

Case studiesStichting ‘De Kamervraag’ (Trends in Dutch Chamber Music)
The Days of the Profession (Conservatoire de Paris)
Rikskonsertene in Norway (cross-cultural music encounters and concerts for children and youngsters)
The Sage Gateshead (performance and educational venue)
Interactive Music making in Hospitals and other Health Care Facilities
Experimenting with and Renewing the Concert Form – The ‘Innovatoire’ Competition at the Paris Conservatoire
Southbank Sinfonia (British orchestra)
Listening to the Louvre – an example of cross-arts collaboration

Downloadable Documents: 

Case Study: SWOT ‘De Kamervraag’: Full text document 

Case study: The Days of the Profession: Full text document 

Case study: Rikskonsertene in Norway: Full text document 

Case study: The Sage Gateshead: Full text document

Case study: Interactive Music making in Hospitals and other Health Care Facilities: Full text document

Case study: Southbank Sinfonia: Full text document 

Case study: Experimenting with and Renewing the Concert Form – The ‘Innovatoire’: Full text document

Case study: Listening to the Louvre – an example of cross-arts collaboration: Full text document 

Site visits

Dartington (Great Britain)
Lisbon, Porto (Portugal)
London (Great Britain)
Paris (France)
Plovdiv, Sofia (Bulgaria)
Reykjavik (Iceland)
Vilnius (Lithuania)

Downloadable Documents: 

Site visit report: Dartington: Full text document
Site visit report: Paris: Full text document
Site visit report: Plovdiv, Sofia: Full text document 
Site visit report: Reykjavik: Full text document 
Site visit report: Vilnius: Full text document

The Conservatoire and the Profession

The traditional image of European conservatoires as hallowed, elite institutions, far-removed from the realities of society and its trends, is slowly but surely changing. At the dawn of the 21st century, it is clear that conservatoires find themselves at the heart of questions which permeate the society and indeed the music profession as a whole, ranging from the development of multicultural societies in Europe to the impact of new technologies, from the changing nature of audiences and consumers to ever higher standards of excellence.

How indeed can conservatoires take a leadership role, becoming “innovatoires,” “exploratoires,” where risk-taking is embraced, where new social, political and economic realities are integrated into this ongoing dialogue, allowing institutions to forge new partnerships with the profession and the community at large? More concretely, how does the conservatoire embrace and integrate change into the overall vision of the musician’s training while also maintaining national traditions and the highest standards of artistic excellence?

The profession working group investigated the above mentioned questions and possible answers are given in the following texts which address different important issues such as:

  • Dialogue in Conservatoires
  • Models of excellence
  • Lifelong learning environments in conservatoires
  • Educational Organisation
  • Curriculum
  • Teachers
  • Students
  • What new educational approaches and new learning environments in Conservatoires which integrate the lifelong learning concept will provide

The full text document can be downloaded here.

Alumni and the Profession

Alumni are truly at the crossroads between conservatoires and the profession. On the one hand, these professional musicians have undergone training at the conservatoires and may continue to look to them for lifelong learning opportunities, and on the other they are now vital, active members of the profession. As such, alumni constitute a vital link between the two, helping, through their feedback, to ensure that conservatoires stay abreast of ongoing developments in the profession, taking these into account in the training programmes offered, and thus forging new partnerships that enhance professional opportunities for students. Alumni in turn benefit from contact with their conservatoires via lifelong learning opportunities and through possibilities of maintaining and developing networks amongst themselves as well as with current students and teachers.

Alumni can be invaluable in providing professional opportunities for students as well as knowledge of the professional network; they can also inspire, providing students, professors and staff with precious advice and guidance. Maintaining links with former students help conservatoires see what new skills need to be taught as well as their relative weight in the professional world. Finally, keeping a pulse on professional developments via alumni may suggest which areas are providing the greatest employment opportunities and those in which dwindling resources and/or increased competition make employment opportunities rarer.


A Handbook on Alumni policies was developed. This handbook addresses issues such as:

  • The alumnus relationship: why it matters to the institution and to the individual
  • alumnus
  • The student experience: its importance in shaping the alumnus relationship
  • Organisational responsibility for alumni: where does it belong?
  • Contacting and tracking alumni: the major challenge
  • Building an alumni organisation
  • What alumni want from their alma mater
  • Benefits and services for alumni
  • Optimising our relationship with alumni
  • The alumnus as staff member
  • Conclusion and recommendations

The Handbook can be downloaded from the publications section on the AEC Website.

Alumni policies in European Conservatoires

The Profession working group conducted a study of alumni policies in European conservatoires. While such policies are prevalent in North American institutions of higher education where they serve first and foremost as fundraising vehicles and secondly to support the development of a career service network, the phenomenon is a relatively recent one in Europe and responds to different perceived needs.

The publication ‘Today Students: Tomorrow Alumnus‘ includes a brief study of current alumni policies in European conservatoires and the focus of their activities.

Downloadable Documents

Questionnaire on existing alumni policies

The following texts describe two models of good practice, one of which takes a socio-economic approach to professional integration of alumni, the second of which puts alumni at the center of encounters with representatives of the profession organised for students.

Downloadable Documents

Example of good practice: The Observatoire for Professional Integration and the Professions at the Paris Conservatoire
Example of good practice: The Days of the Profession / Les Journées de la Profession, Conservatoire de Paris, 21–22 September 2006

Free movement of musicians

Music professionals who originate from an EU country are allowed to travel and work freely within the territory of all EU Member States, as provided by Article 39 (freedom of movement for workers), Art 43 (freedom of establishment) and Art 49 (freedom to provide services) of the EC Treaty. Thanks to mobility schemes such as the Socrates/Erasmus Programme of the European Union, an increasing number of music students gain international experience and are therefore more interested in and more suited for an international career. Although music is by nature a field of study and work in which there has always been a great deal of mobility, problems that occur when music professionals or students travel can be numerous.

Diploma recognition is one of the areas in which serious problems can occur when travelling abroad to undertake studies, to be employed or to set up a company. There are several international developments which aim at improving the mobility situation by increasing transparency and comparability of national educational systems, such as the Bologna Declaration Process and the Lisbon Recognition Convention.

In order to address these issues, an independent study (MA thesis) made for Polifonia in 2005 dealt with the following research areas:

  • The Treaty articles, case law and secondary legislation applicable to the free movement of professional musicians and music students in the EU.
  • The main obstacles to the free movement of professional musicians and music students within the EU.
  • The regulated professions in music in EU countries.
  • Implementation of the objectives of the Bologna Declaration in the professional music training sector in EU countries.

The full study text is available below:

Downloadable Documents

Free movement and recognition of qualifications in the European Union: the case of music professionals

Glossary of Terms

  1. Communities of practice
  2. Community work / creative workshops in music
  3. Experiential learning (learning by doing)
  4. Generic skills
  5. Globalisation
  6. Identity (professional)
  7. Inclusion (social)
  8. Internationalisation
  9. Metacognition
  10. Mentoring
  11. Musical leadership
  12. Networking
  13. Reflective practice
1. Communities of practice

Term developed by Lave and Wenger. It essentially maintains that learning is about participation in communities of practice; becoming engaged in socially organised activities and so about membership and construction of diverse social bonds with other participants. Acquiring competencies and skills is almost secondary with respect to these processes of constructing new social identities and ways of thinking.

Source: Tavistock Report, ‘Review of Current Pedagogic Research and Practice in the Fields of Post-Compulsory Education and Lifelong Learning (The Tavistock Institute, February 2002).

2. Community work / creative workshops in music

Creative workshops, meaning laboratory environments in participatory arts: the improvisational nature of collaborative approaches in workshops can lead to people expressing themselves creatively, encouraging a team approach to music-making, instilling a sense of ownership and responsibility both in the process and in the final product. Exchange of ideas and skills among the participants becomes an integral part of the process, deepening one’s understanding of, and connection with, music. This collective exploration of approaches to improvisation gives people the freedom to interact and respond intuitively to what is going on around them.

Source: Gregory, S. (2005). Creativity and conservatoires: the agenda and the issues (p.282). In G. Odam and N. Bannan (ed.), The Reflective Conservatoire. London: Guildhall School of Music & Drama / Aldershot: Ashgate.

3. Experiential learning (learning by doing)

Based on Kolb’s experiential learning cycle which underscores the importance of some kind of dialectical interaction between action and reflection and has been widely used in studies of informal learning. A more refined version, dealing with some of the more simplistic elements of Kolb’s model, is found in the work of Boud, Cohen and Walker whose interest similarly is in experience as the foundation of, and the stimulus for, learning.

Source: Tavistock Report, ‘Review of Current Pedagogic Research and Practice in the Fields of Post-Compulsory Education and Lifelong Learning (The Tavistock Institute, February 2002).

4. Generic skills

Generic skills are those that apply across a variety of jobs and life contexts. They include metacognition and metacognitive skills. Some common elements are visible: basic/fundamental skills (e.g. literacy, using numbers, using technology), people-related skills (communication, interpersonal skills, teamwork), conceptual/thinking skills (collecting and organising information, problem-solving, planning, organising, thinking innovatively, thinking creatively), personal skills and attributes (responsibility, resourcefulness, flexibility, time management), skills related to the business world (innovation, enterprise skills), and skills related to the community: civic or citizenship knowledge and skills. Generic skills are also known by several other names including key skills, core skills, essential skills, key competencies, necessary skills, transferable skills, employability skills, life skills.

Source: NCVER (

5. Globalisation

The social, political, and financial impact of the growth of trans-national economic and social entities on a global scale.

6. Identity (professional)

Self identity is the self as reflexively understood by the person in terms of her or his biography (Giddens: ‘Modernity and Self-Identity’ 1991). Mills (2006) addresses the professional identity of musicians. She speaks of a “career identity” which she defines as a “subjective identity”, because the actual professional identity as felt by the musicians she interviewed did not match with the musicians’ use of their time or their source of income (the objective career). In this way the subjective career can be perceived as a career in terms of the musicians’ aspirations and thus the musicians’ professional identity. Mills calls musicians with a portfolio career encompassing performance and teaching “performers-teachers”, which she perceives as performers for whom instrumental teaching is integral to their professional identity. In researching professional identity and career Mills (2004 a) devises sensitivity, authenticity, recognisability, differentiation and extensibility (being able to be used for other groups).
Sources: Mills, J. (2004). Working in music: becoming a performer-teacher. Music Education Research, Vol. 6, nr. 2. Mills, J. & Smith, J. (2006). Working in Music: Becoming Successful. In Gembris, H. (ed). Musical Development from a Lifespan Perspective.

7. Inclusion (social)

Giving people the opportunity to access all that society offers, it is about helping people live fulfilling lives and to feel a part of the community.

8. Internationalisation

Promotion of individuals, groups or products outside of the native country: emphasis on such promotion.

9. Metacognition

Generic skills include metacognition, which can be described as “thinking about one’s own thoughts”. Metacognitive knowledge is factual knowledge about people’s thinking and about strategies, being metastrategies. Metacognitive knowledge is regarded as a condition for the active regulation of thinking (the metacognitive skills). Such regulating activities have a relation with decisions people take before, during and after learning and thinking. Examples of regulating activities are orienting, planning, monitoring, evaluating and reflecting.

10. Mentoring

A reciprocal one-to-one relationship relationship in which the mentor respects the musician’s potential for professional and personal development, and acknowledges her/his motivation for extending themselves and reviewing their work. The mentor has the knowledge and skills to empathise and understand the position of the musician.
The mentor has the skills and insight to act as a sounding board for the musician. This is central to any developmental process aimed at enabling a person to clarify their sense of direction, to identify their strengths and realise their potential.

Source: P.Renshaw: Mentoring Framework (2007).

11. Musical leadership

Central to the educational practice within the context of lifelong learning is the notion of leadership of musicians within personal, artistic, educational and social contexts.
Artistic leadership skills include having the skill and judgement to create and frame a project that will work, knowing how to enable the participants to hear, see, feel and understand the connections that are integral to the creative process.
Generic leadership skills include creating an inspiring, enabling environment that encourages participants to build on their strengths and acquire the confidence and skills to explore new challenges and extend their musical skills. Interpersonal and organisational skills to be able to work collaboratively with others are important generic P. Renshaw leadership skills.

Source: Renshaw, P. (2005). Lifelong Learning for Musicians. Critical issues arising from a case study of Connect.

12. Networking

The act of creating links with other professionals or professional institutions which can both act as a motor to and facilitate professional development.

13. Reflective practice

Reflective practice or ‘reflection-on-action’ entails adopting a critical perspective about the reasons and consequences of what we do in different contexts. By focusing on the why rather than the how, this process of self-observation and self-review enables a person to evaluate where they are coming from and to redefine their future actions. Reflective practice is at the core of lifelong learning modes. Its definition and impact is described by Donald Schön in ‘The Reflective Practitioner’ (1983).

Source: Renshaw, P. 2007, ‘A Framework for Mentoring’.

A Thematic Approach

The Polifonia working group on the Profession, which included representatives of both conservatoires and professional organisations, researched and reflected on current trends in all sectors of the music profession, the (rare and new) competencies they suggest, what this implies for conservatoire training, and the relevance of the AEC learning outcomes and the Dublin descriptors to these competencies. Site visits, examples of innovative practice, alumni policies, qualitative research and analysis nourished this reflexion and provided the basis for portraits of the profession in individual EU countries and Europe-wide. In addition, the group developed a gallery of individual portraits of musicians representative of these new and emerging trends. The group reflected on these results and assessed the way in which these trends suggest new competencies, their relationship to the AEC learning outcomes and Dublin descriptors, and suggested areas of potential development for conservatoires.

A thematic approach helps distinguish the many threads involved: the conservatoire finds itself engaged in a constant three-dimensional dialogue, taking the initiative, relating and responding to societal trends and transformations, real and virtual audiences, and the profession and the artistic community at large.
Thus the conservatoire needs to strike a delicate balance between taking into consideration and adjusting to the realities of the post-modern, multicultural and technological society, and the implications these have both for training the future musician and for the profession as a whole.

The professional musician is part of a larger continuum which begins at the pre-college level and which asks him to anticipate, listen to and communicate with the broader music profession, audiences, and society in an open, ongoing dialogue that puts artistic quality at the heart of all that he creates.