Principal's blog: Music education, diversity and citizenship in the time of corona

Henrik Sveidahl's speech at the opening of the semester.
19. Aug 2020

Dear all new students - A warm welcome to RMC!

We have been looking forward for a long time to welcoming you. It is always very inspiring to get to know new people - especially when you know you will be working closely with them for 2 to 3 years.

We have prepared everything for you. Teachers, administrative staff and management are ready. The classrooms and equipment are trimmed. The only thing missing is you.

Today we welcome 84 new students - 43 bachelor students, 34 master students and 7 advance postgraduate students. You have been selected from among 870 applicants. We have made a thorough assessment of your skills, knowledge and competencies and have found that you have the prerequisites to enter the world of music as future professionals who make a difference.

Because that is the goal of RMC - here we provide an education for a long and sustainable life as a professional in the world of music. We have been doing this for many years and we have become quite good at seeing what it takes. So, we fully and firmly believe in you.

It is quite common for new students to be doubtful - about whether one belongs and can live up to the expectations. When at some point you are struck by this feeling - when you wake up one day and think that today might be the day, they come and tell you that: "Oh sorry, I am afraid we made  an unfortunate mistake when we admitted you" - then remember: We believe in you. We know you have the potential to make a difference in the world of music. Whether you succeed in meeting your own expectations depends on your efforts and probably also a ton of other factors, but you have the potential - we are sure of that.

RMC is an educational institution for music as a contemporary art form. This means that we educate the artists and art professionals who develop the music and music experiences of today and tomorrow. It is our vision to be a pioneer in our field and to educate the future artistic innovators. This means that we expect from each other that we contribute with new expressions, insights and solutions in all the areas in which we work – may it be artistic, in the business or in society as such.

But it is always informed by deep knowledge and based upon a foundation of highly developed skills. You cannot claim to have created something new if you do not have an overview of and have studied intensively the field you work in. So, while we are working on developing the new, we spend time studying and creating a strong professional foundation. We will talk to you about this balance throughout your studies: How can we best support your artistic vision and how do you best build the foundation on which it is to stand. It requires hard work - and we expect this from each other at RMC.

But we do it together. We do not subscribe to the classic artist myth of the lonely artist who struggles through life in deep loneliness towards redemption. We know that music is a social art form where working with others is central and where communities create trust and stimulates risk-taking and creativity. Therefore, by far the most teaching at RMC takes place in groups, where peer learning - that is, students learning from each other through collaboration and good conversations - is central. As a school, we support all good initiatives that bring students together. We have a good collaboration with the Student Council (the DSR), which among other things arranges events. We hope you will support DSR and the very important work they do. It's hard in corona time, but I know they do what they can.

But it also means that we expect everyone to show up for classes and projects. Attendance to all classes and all projects at RMC is compulsory. We are a small school with very small learning environments, and if you are not present, you cannot contribute with your perspectives and insights and then the education of the other students will be significantly impaired. We are committed to each other at RMC as everywhere else - otherwise we cannot succeed.

Being an educational institution for contemporary music means that RMC covers a wide range of different forms of expression and traditions. The field is extremely wide and ranges from electronic music, abstract improvisational music to pop, rock, metal and jazz – and everything in between. Therefore, diversity is a key word at RMC. It is our goal to be able to accommodate and be relevant to this endless and diverse landscape of expression forms.

It is a task that is unique to RMC and which obviously is huge. Most other schools that RMC is compared to have genre-based programs (jazz education, rock education, etc.). RMC believes that we create the best conditions for developing new music by letting expressions and traditions meet and exchange aesthetics, perspectives, skills and knowledge. This is how our art form has developed over the past 100 years - through the cultural encounter. But we do not only look at diversity in terms of forms of expression within our field. We believe that a diverse composition of artists and art professionals provides a vibrant, wise and creative development and study environment. The more perspectives and experiences we can bring to the process, the greater the chance we have of becoming skilled and developing new interesting music and solutions.

It is well known that the gender balance in our area is very skewed. The vast majority of professionals on the stages and in the offices are men. A large study conducted in Denmark in 2012 showed that men occupied 80% of the positions in the music industry – both on stage and behind. At RMC, the situation is unfortunately basically the same among students and teaching staff. 25-30% of RMC’s applicants are women. Fortunately, in recent years we have seen a slight upward trend among female applicants, but it is still very vague. In the last few years, the gender balance among those admitted has fortunately improved a little – especially in the bachelor programs. This year we have admitted 45 % women to the bachelor programs. This is off course a positive development but there is still a long way to go.

At the same time, we can see that not all artistic environments within our field are represented at RMC just as the ethnic composition of the students and staff does not reflect society as it actually looks. So, there is a lot of work to be done. Therefore, in the coming semester, we will set up a Diversity Council, which will work with these issues. At the same time the management will introduce new principles for the composition of committees and panels that ensure greater diversity in relation to gender and artistic forms of expression. I hope some of you will be interested in getting involved in this work. If we are to do something about the systematic imbalances in our field of art, we must all work together.

RMC’s vision is to educate graduates who actively enter society and actualize potentials in a wide network of relations, both locally and globally. At RMC, we therefore do not train artists and art professionals who only create and disseminate works of art in the well-known formats. We believe that artists have a place and task as fellow citizens in society. We believe that artists have important contributions to make to the challenges we see in society. We have a dream that the artists of the future will have a place inside society and will be seen as important contributors to the community and that we will not continue to be left as ‘icing on the cake’ – on the outside.

RMC believes that artists holds a special knowledge and a way of working that can make important contributions to other people and communities. Furthermore, RMC wants to train artists who can inspire other people to express themselves through aesthetic practice. It is an integral part of being a human to express oneself artistically and artists have a special task in pointing it out in the contexts in which they work. Therefore, it will be a central element in the programs to carry out projects where students reach out and create results together with others.

RMC has an international study environment. In the coming academic year, 23% of all students at RMC will be international students. We see this as a great strength for the academy. This means that students - Danish and non-Danish - at RMC during their studies have access to a large international network, which we know many will benefit from after graduation - both artistically and career-wise. It also means that I give this speech in English, because we want our non-Danish-speaking students to feel at home at RMC from day one. But the general language of instruction is Danish in all programs - except the advanced postgraduate program, which is provided in English. This means that we expect our international students to make an effort to learn to speak Danish during their studies at RMC. The Conservatory can refer international students to relevant language courses.

As I have mentioned, it can be a big upheaval to start a new education. Most practical questions can be answered by teachers and administrative staff - and I personally would be very happy to help if you have any questions. But there are also questions that can best be answered by other students who have been attending RMC a little longer than you - who have not been here before. Therefore, we offer tutor guidance at RMC, which will be presented later this week. It's all about getting off to a good start and give you the best conditions possible to fulfill your visions for your coming studies at RMC

As you all know, you start your studies at RMC in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. This means that the academy is subject to very strict health restrictions. RMC must be a safe place to study, so we work under the following guidelines in the coming semesters:

  • All teaching and all assessments are conducted with physical attendance
  • If you are in a risk group, you can ask to participate online
  • When you are at RMC, you must keep a distance of at least 1 meter to other people
  • If singing, playing, shouting dancing etc. you must ensure a distance of at least 2 meters to other people
  • To ensure that these regulations in terms of distance are possible to comply with, there are capacity restrictions in all rooms – please see the posters on all doors
  • Furthermore, there are still limited and manned opening hours at RMC, so we can ensure that the guidelines are complied with
  • When you are at RMC, you must maintain high hand hygiene and take care of your fellow students and staff

I encourage you to study the guidelines thoroughly and thereby help to ensure that RMC is a safe place to study and work.

I wish you a very nice intro course and I look forward to learning new things from you and being inspired by your work. You carry the future of music and music experience on your shoulders, and we look forward to supporting you in fulfilling your own and our shared visions.

Welcome to RMC!

Speech by pricipal Henrik Sveidahl at the opening of the semester at Rhythmic Music Conservatory (RMC), 17 august 2020.