A Conference hosted and convened by Guildhall School of Music & Drama in association with the Association of European Conservatoires, Conservatoires UK, and SEMPRE

 16 December 2021, 9am – 5pm, Silk Street Music Hall, Guildhall School, London

Strengthening Music in Society is a conference taking place on 16 December 2021, hosted and convened by the Institute for Social Impact Research in the Performing Arts at Guildhall School of Music & Drama in association with Conservatoires UK (CUK), the Association Européenne des Conservatoires, Académies de Musique et Musikhochschulen (AEC)and SEMPRE.

Presented by Jess Gillam, MBE, award-winning saxophonist, broadcaster and Guildhall School alumna, this will be the first opportunity for those working in the music sector across the UK to collaboratively unpack and respond to a major AEC report that marks the culmination of their four-year project “Strengthening Music in Society” (2017-21). It will bring together a diverse range of key stakeholders from across the sector concerned to bring about positive change. 

Professor John Sloboda, Guildhall School of Music & Drama and Professor Helena Gaunt, Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama said “This will be an important opportunity, in what we hope will be the wake of the pandemic, for key representatives from UK conservatoires and the wider music industry to meet in person and work on current and future directions. Many challenges facing the sector are longstanding, and the last 18 months has increased the urgency to resolve them. We feel privileged to be able to contribute an internationally informed stimulus for the sharpest collaborative thinking and problem-solving that our sector can muster.”

Jess Gillam said, ‘The past 18 months have been a dark time for the music industry. I am really looking forward to presenting this important event which will bring together people from the UK conservatoires and the music industry to discuss the many challenges that lie ahead as we hopefully start to emerge from the pandemic. More than ever, we need to work together to be bold, creative and innovative to ensure we move forward – in a world deeply affected by COVID-19 and Brexit – towards inclusivity and openness with a welcoming attitude. Bringing individuals from across the music industry together after so many months of working in isolation offers a first step to collectively start to tackle the big issues we face and to work towards a brighter future for us all.’  

This is a crucial moment for the sector to come together in the context of the social changes occurring as a result of COVID-19, and Brexit, and in response to global social justice movements such as the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements, to ask fundamental questions about its purpose and identity, to take stock and to set new progressive and inclusive directions which support performance excellence and the relevance and impact of the sector’s work within 21st century society.  

The AEC report was co-written by Professor Helena Gaunt, Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and Professor Celia Duffy of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Over the course of the day, a set of projects or initiatives to be taken forward will be identified, addressing key issues drawn from the report. The conference also aims to ensure a broad cross-section of the sector is present and able to network on the day, something that has not happened in recent times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst the main constituents for the conference are UK conservatoires, the invited guests will include representatives from key organisations within the UK classical music industry, the UK music education sector, research organisations and special interest groups.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Professor Helena Gaunt, Principal of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama –Helena will give a keynote presentation highlighting key issues and questions that are raised in the AEC report.

The following will respond to the report offering perspectives from across the sector:

  • Ankna Arockiam,PhD candidate at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and founder of Shared Narratives – the student perspective
  • Diana Salazar,Director of Programmes at the Royal College of Music – the pedagogic perspective
  • Professor Graham Welch,UCL Institute of Education Established Chair of Music Education – the research perspective
  • Linda Begbie (Development Director) Manchester Collective – the employer perspective
  • Gillian Moore, CBE,Director of Music, Southbank Centre, London – the Industry perspective
  • James Njoku-Goodwin, CEO, UK Music – the Government & Policy perspective


In addition to an invited in-person audience, Guildhall School, CUK, AEC and SEMPRE are committed to making Strengthening Music in Society conference accessible to everyone, with a public livestream available for key sections of the day. Sign up is required, more information here.