Original Proposal 2013

The initial proposal was as follows:

This study addresses what are arguably the two most radical elements entering higher education music curricula – technology and improvisation. I will make a contribution to the shared understanding of pedagogical practices through a case study that specifically addresses these two aspects of music education in two of the top ranked Brazilian Universities – the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the University of São Paulo (USP). The study seeks to identify practices that reflect the use of digital technologies and improvisation as embedded in undergraduate and postgraduate taught curricula in Brazilian higher education music systems, and I aim to bring to the UK processes of flexible learning as well as challenging and innovative learning and teaching practices.

As such the project aims to:

–      Observe and document teaching practices in music in two key institutions in Brazil (UFRJ and USP: http://www.musica.ufrj.br/ and www5.usp.br/en)

–      Gather the views of 5 staff and 20 students in each institution on how improvisation and new technologies impact on their work

–      Identify common practices between the Brazilian institutions and the UK (using Queen’s University Belfast as an example)

–      Put forward a framework that facilitates pedagogical exchange in areas of the curricula that are informed by improvisation and digital technologies

–      Disseminate results of the project in Brazil and the UK


Musical improvisation has been investigated as a model for social change (Bailes, Dean, 2010). In combination with digital technologies, improvisation represents a new interdisciplinary research area to shape political, cultural, and ethical dialogue for our students. I see improvisation and digital technologies as driving factors for engaging students in flexible learning processes, especially as both elements have been at the core of recent research, pedagogical and artistic enquiry and have established themselves as thematic backbones both at a disciplinary and interdisciplinary level (Conferences that attest to this include the ICMC, DRHA, ISEA and NIME; also the Canadian Consortium of universities, and the recent AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice’s 2011 exploration of musical improvisation in Cambridge).

My practice as a performing musician/improvisor alongside my theoretical research concentrates on improvisation and digital technologies. As such I am committed to embedding these in curriculum development that reflect international practices and trends.

[See Schroeder (eds) (2013, a volume on Music Improvisation, forthcoming. I have recently published a chapter on digital technologies: Schroeder, F. (2012) with Palgrave Macmillan, and released several recordings of improvised music using digital technologies (www.somasa.qub.ac.uk/~fschroeder/Publications.htm)

The UK has been a leader in embedding technology in education (dedicated music technology programmes began in British Universities in the early 90’s). More recently, the use of improvisation has become widespread in a number of creative art disciplines. In contrast, the burgeoning Brazilian education system (http://www.brazil.org.uk/press/pressreleases_files/20120720.html and http://www.brazil.org.uk/press/pressreleases_files/20120929.html) has only recently embraced these topics. Given the speed of growth in the Brazilian economy and education system, institutions such as the UFRJ and USP are currently engaged in large-scale initiatives, curriculum reform and expansion. At UFRJ a large interdisciplinary centre embracing new technologies and the creative arts is being established. At USP, the music department has recently received significant funds to expand its technology component. Both of these initiatives have internationalisation at its core and count on Queen’s University’s Sonic Arts Research Centre (SARC: http://www.sarc.qub.ac.uk) as an institutional partner. Given the current government links between the UK and Brazil (e.g. Olympics handover, British Council “Transform” programme, Science without Borders etc.), we need to ensure that we increase our understanding of Brazilian pedagogical practices in the context of the current economic growth and its implications for the UK education system.

Queen’s University Belfast has for the last five years been developing an increased presence in Brazil through student exchange, research partnerships and institutional level agreement (USP, UFRJ). As a member of Santander Universities, Queen’s has been proactive in targeting Brazil as a key destination for outgoing students (on average 10 PG students per year visit Brazilian institutions for a period of up to 3 months). The University has recently established a Brazil Strategy Group that ensures the effective management of partnerships and funded opportunities for exchange, including the ‘Science without Borders programme’, set up by the Brazilian government to fund over 10,000 Brazilians to study in the UK over the next 4 years. 

With the increased urgency for internationalisation, mobility and collaborative networks, academic institutions must creatively address and strengthen the links between universities and their people in Brazil and the UK (Knobel (2011).

As suggested in the Bologna Process, HEIs need to acquire a world-wide degree of attraction that can equal cultural and scientific traditions. With this study I hope to make a vital contribution in furthering links between the UK and Brazil, and thus draw attention to the UK education system.

The benefits of this study is the exchange of expertise between UK and Brazil staff and students, and the gain of essential skills that allow us to face future pedagogical challenges. The outcomes will influence the way we shape an international curriculum – informed by a broader world-view and which includes flexibility for various teaching approaches. I hope to strengthen links between the UK and Brazil and in this way provide opportunities for study and work in different environments and countries, where students can learn about themselves and their discipline in a global context.

It is worth noting that I have already well-established links with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, having visited and performed there in 2010 and 2011. I have an excellent grasp of the Portuguese language, having spoken it for over 10 years. I am confident in having a fluent conversation and in understanding the language to a proficient level for this proposed study.

I am aware that challenges lie ahead, in terms of politics and policies, being a female lecturer in the minority culture and in overcoming cultural norms and bureaucracy: some of these issues have been discussed by Dunn and Wallace (2008), Slethaug (2007) and Tudor (2011)... (excerpt, HEA Proposal 2012)

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