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Canterbury University leads way in music education

22 February 2006

Canterbury University leads the way in music education

Music education in New Zealand is to receive a major boost with the opening this week of the country’s first dedicated research centre at the University of Canterbury.

The Te Puna Puoru National Centre for Research in Music Education and Sound Arts will be based at UC’s School of Music. Operating under the name the Music Education Research Centre (MERC), the centre will act as a national hub for the coordination of research in music education.

Heading the centre are co-directors Merryn Dunmill, former national facilitator of music with the Ministry of Education and past president of Music Education New Zealand Aotearoa (MENZA), and Adjunct Associate Professor David Sell, former head of the University School of Music and past member of the MENZA Board.

The idea for a centre was first raised in 2004 by the Board of MENZA which recognised the need for a national centre to further strengthen music education in New Zealand.

Mr Sell said it was fitting that Canterbury hosted the national centre as in 1966 the University became the first in the country to offer a degree majoring in music education.

“The position of the University of Canterbury as a leader in music education in this country is recognised through the selection of this University as the most appropriate institution to host the research centre.”

Ms Dunmill said MERC’s goal was to establish networks between researchers, groups and institutions, and to act as a home for current and recently completed research and data collection in New Zealand.

“We will also gather and disseminate research information and data from overseas.”

MERC will also undertake research projects for stakeholders and will work with institutions and individuals to identify, plan and refine research projects.

The centre’s first major project is to look into ICT and the arts, examining how technology and e-learning impacts on music, dance, drama and visual arts. The project is being supported, in an advisory capacity, by Associate Professor Tim Bell (Computer Science and Software Engineering).

Ms Dunmill said the Ministry of Education-funded project was an example of how the centre could provide interdisciplinary research.

She said while music was typically thought of as arts, it also had strong connections with science through the areas of technology, acoustics, health science, as well as other disciplines such as literacy, languages and sociology.

Mr Sell noted that there was currently no specialised professional research organisation specifically targeting the arts industry and community in New Zealand.

“This centre has great potential to provide an organisational structure for funded research projects across a great range of activities.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Town said the University was very pleased to be hosting the new research centre and had provided a $20,000 establishment grant.

“This centre is an excellent example of a collaborative venture building on the longstanding contributions of UC to the field of music education. The support of the wider music community and the engagement with Maori and Pacific sound arts is particularly pleasing.”

The centre was officially launched at a function on Tuesday 21 February. The centre will be governed by a nine-member board headed by Dr Roger Buckton, Head of the Centre for Music and Theatre and Film Studies at the University.


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