Engaging with new audiences: perspectives of professional musicians’ biographical learning and its innovative potential for Higher Music Education

Rineke Smilde

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Music can touch people deeply, and lead to wellbeing as an all-encompassing word for everything that makes life worth living, or at least can make it liveable. Musicians can play an important role in these processes, not as pseudo-therapists, but from their own artistic identity, with an approach in which they profoundly understand the social contexts to which they respond. In essence this is about connecting as a musician with those who, due to whatever circumstances, are vulnerable, and/or those who do not easily get into contact with live music.
This requires new qualities and skills from such “new audience musicians” who want to engage with people in contexts beyond the concert hall, jazz club or church, like schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, or e.g. the corporate world.
Underpinning engagement with those new audiences is first and foremost a set of values that implies that music can work as a catalyst for communication between various groups of people from different cultural and social contexts, and can bring about social change, no matter how small (Smilde 2018: 673). Point of departure is the idea that artistic processes can have transformative potential which can bring about a sense of community, inclusion and collective identity.
In this chapter, research into musicians’ engagement with new audiences will be explored through examples in the field of music and healthcare. I will do that from a biographical perspective, where the musicians’ personal and professional development is strongly influenced by their experiences in their artistic practice. Here, biographical learning processes are at the core of what we might term, musicians’ “professional performance” (Lombarts 2010).
Two examples are discussed in this light, a research into the project “Music for Life”, on music and dementia, taking place in elderly care homes, and another, termed “Meaningful Music in Healthcare”, which is on music in the hospital. After that the chapter will address what everything learnt means for learning and teaching in higher music education, embracing the idea of engaging with new audiences and the potentials of Musikvermittlung.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTuning up
Subtitle of host publicationinnovative potentials of Musikvermittlung
Editors Sarah Chaker, Axel Petri-Preis
Place of PublicationBielefeld
Publisher Transcript Verlag
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • music
  • higher education
  • musicians
  • well-being
  • audience
  • dementia
  • health care


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