Together in Music, International Conference, April 2018 (Student Led Forum)

Nicola Pennill
Department of Music
University of Sheffield



The WRoCAH Expressive Ensemble Performance network explores aspects of how musicians interact and communicate in groups.  To share our research and to provide a forum for students, performers and educators with an interest in ensemble performance, we organised a conference, which took place in April 2018.  ‘Together in Music’ was a two-and-a-half day event, at the National Centre for Early Music in York, and aimed to provide an interdisciplinary perspective on ensemble performance, including theory and practice. The conference was organised by the network team – students Sara D’Amario, Ryan Kirkbride and Nicola Pennill, and academics Freya Bailes, Helena Daffern, Catherine Laws, Renee Timmers and Luke Windsor. Between us, we formed the organising and programme committees, and with support from WRoCAH, through the SLF funding scheme, and SEMPRE (the Society for Education, Music and Psychology Research) we set a date, booked our venue and issued our call for papers.

As the submissions started to come in, it became apparent that we had the makings of a significant international conference on our hands. We had anticipated a mainly UK/Europe audience, of perhaps a more limited range of interests. In fact, our call for papers resulted in submissions from much further afield, and with a much greater variety of perspectives.

The conference was attended by 65 delegates, from 15 countries (Austria, Australia, Belgium, China, Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Lithuania, Philippines, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA). Thanks to WRoCAH and SEMPRE funding we were able to provide support for travel by PGR students and unwaged delegates.  The programme was also very varied, with thirty oral papers, eight posters (plus a speed-poster presentation), three interactive workshops, two keynote presentations, including a ‘virtual’ presentation from Sydney, and a roundtable discussion. There were also two social events and performances. These were a particular highlight, and featured the University of York’s contemporary music ensemble ‘The Assembled’, directed by Catherine Laws, and live coding group The Yorkshire Programming Ensemble (TYPE), brainchild of Ryan Kirkbride.

Hosting this event was a fantastic opportunity for us as WRoCAH students to gain experience of organising a full scale academic conference.  Meeting students and established researchers and practitioners from leading institutions provided the chance to make many useful contacts and extend our personal networks. It also reinforced just how much work goes in to such an event, which we perhaps under-estimated, and at times found challenging. However, the rewards of hosting such a successful event made it extremely worthwhile. Thanks to our wonderful mix of delegates, who were engaged by the topic and prepared to travel, the presentations were of a high standard, and in many cases delivered by leaders in the field. Those who attended especially appreciated the opportunity to join a forum on the topic, and the interdisciplinary nature of the contributions.

​As a follow up, the network members are currently planning a book with the same title as the conference, ‘Together in Music’, by way of giving the contributions further longevity and to provide access to some of the material to those who were unable to attend in person.

Network web site: