Music Education and Sustainable Development Goals—An Inquiry

Students in the Interdisciplinary Internship “Sustainability Impacts of El Sistema-Motivated Initiatives,” in the Global Studies program of the Karl-Franzens-University, Graz, Austria.

Sustainable development is development that takes into account the world‘s present and future needs from a mostly social and environmental, but also economic, point of view. Recently, scientific as well as economic and political institutions have been using the so-called UN sustainable development goals  (SDGs) to plan, implement, and evaluate sustainability-related  action. The formulation of 17 goals and 169 ojectives is the first comprehensive international attempt to tackle poverty, health and educational issues, peace, and environmental problems.

A positive relationship between music and sustainability seems to be at hand.  During the University of Graz’s summer term 2019, an interdisciplinary practical training (IP) (part of the Interdisciplinary Master’s programme “Global Studies” at the University of Graz) will be dealing with how sustainability effects and contributions to the SDGs of European initiatives are inspired by “El Sistema. The idea of „IP El Sistema“ is to make El Sistema initiatives in Europe recognize their contribution to sustainability, and to make sustainability communities in Graz and beyond aware of the contribution of music to sustainable development. Goals of the  IP El Sistema include:

  • bringing together the El Sistema-inspired community and the sustainability communities,
  • investigating the sustainability and SDG contributions of El Sistema,
  • publicizing these effects using social media
  • promoting integration, inclusion, participation and tolerance through music in a festival of music and integration on June 2019.

In his 2018 master’s  thesis,  University of Graz master’s degree student Alejandro Perdomo, from Venezuela, produced evidence that El Sistema in Venezuela has contributed in a positive way to sustainable development goals.

The „IP El Sistema“ started at the beginning of March, and our students have now developed the name “music4sustainability”, under which all activities of our entire initiative are bundled. These include:

  • the to-public music4sustainability blog and the corresponding Facebook page (both are work in progress and, according to the target groups written partly in German, partly in English, with an integrated Google Translator)
  • the music4sustainability festival on June 26th 2019 where about 800 children and young people from schools and integrative initiatives will have the opportunity to participate in musically-integrative workshops. Furthermore, we will present the results of our research on the SDGs contributions of El Sistema initiatives in Europe will be presented at this festival at 11 am (results of course also on the blog).

Beyond the end of the IP, we will further promote themusic4sustainability initiative in the Future Lectures 2019 co-organized with the FORUM Umweltbildung (Environmental education FORUM). This is a co-operative and interactive event currently in preparation https://www.futurelectures.at/- The focus in Graz will be on disseminating the findings of IP El Sistema, but also on passing on the “spirit” of El Sistema.

Author: Ulrike Gelbmann, Senior Post-Doc, Global Studies Master’s Program, University of Graz, Austria

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