Exploring the spiritual in music

A blog from Nordoff Robbins researcher, Katie Rose Sanfilippo:

This weekend, the London Centre was host to a major international conference organised by Nordoff Robbins in collaboration with SAME (Spirituality and Music Education). More than a hundred delegates arrived on Saturday morning from all over the world to present and share ideas about music, spirituality, therapy and education.
Saturday began with Sara Mackian’s fascinating keynote about the role that music can play in sparking moments where the spiritual is realised in everyday life, with Sara underlining the importance of leaving space for mystery in our engagements with spirituality, wellbeing and learning in music. Lars Ole Bonde then responded with some carefully considered remarks, with the two speakers setting the tone of the conference to include diverse, respectful conversations in the spirit of curious investigation and inquiry.

Following this there were three parallel sessions on Saturday and Sunday, with a total of thirty presentations on topics as diverse as music in hospice care, ideas about sexuality in shakuhachi music, Guided Imagery Meditation, ways of approaching music and spirituality in the national curriculum, representations of theology in music, and more. 

On Saturday night delegates were treated to a musical extravaganza which included the Nordoff Robbins Community Choir and some great solos, ending the first day in Nordoff Robbins style with everyone participating in music-making. Sunday morning brought large amounts of unexpected snow and all kinds of travel delays for delegates, but some festive tunes on the piano kept attendees warm while the day got started. Most were able to make it in sooner or later for another informative and interesting day of talks and discussion, starting off with a launch in the morning for two books that displayed quite different approaches to the topics of the conference, while in the end showing the rich diversity of perspectives on the chosen theme of our event.

Finally, a roundtable discussion brought everyone together again to draw out themes from the two days, thinking about ideas and questions contributed throughout by participants. Fresh inspirations, potential collaborations, and just as importantly, new friends had been made as everyone headed back out into the wintry weather on Sunday afternoon. So many attendees remarked on how impressed they were with the space, the event, and with the contributions of Nordoff Robbins people, from research presentations by our music therapists, to the participation of students, volunteers and colleagues in supporting the event and contributing to a lovely atmosphere.

Thanks so much to everyone who helped make the event such a success!

Now to start thinking about how to make next year’s even better…