An Erasmus teaching visit to the Högskolan för Scen och Musik (Academy of Music and Drama) in Gothenburg, Sweden, from 23 to 26 May 2022
At the invitation of Tobias Granmo, professor of violin and director of the Chamber Music Institute at the academy, I held a three-day workshop in non-idiomatic improvisation for students studying various instruments in the bachelor’s and master’s programmes.
In the music academy’s very pleasant and sunny building, the three days passed in a flash. The groups of students interested in making music in a spontaneous manner grew larger every day. I worked with groups of various sizes and with a mixture of instruments, and in some cases with existing ensembles from the chamber music classes. The atmosphere among the students is very friendly and supportive, and I perceived that the relationship between teachers and students was also one of learning together as equals.
I had the opportunity to listen to a chamber music matinee concert, and the level of playing was very high – as it was among the students I worked with in my workshops. The classes were held for the most part in English, which did not present any problems for me – no one expected me to be able to speak Swedish.
Something that made a very positive impression on me was that for the teachers at the academy, there is a wonderfully inviting lounge with a small kitchen, where the instructors can discuss current topics, student concerns, etc. In the coming years, major renovation work will be undertaken at the Högskolan för Scen och Musik: in addition to new instruction rooms, a new, superbly equipped concert hall will be built and a new streetcar stop will be installed from which one can directly access the university.
I took advantage of my free evenings to go on small excursions. For example, I took the streetcar to the end of the line, directly on the open sea, and went on a short walk to the island of Aspholmen. This skerry coast is amazingly beautiful, with an icy breeze blowing (fortunately I had the foresight to bring along a hat and gloves). In the mornings, I had time to take small walks in the countless parks – some of which are wildly overgrown – near the university.
I can heartily recommend a teaching visit to the Högskolan för Scen och Musik in Gothenburg. The atmosphere is very pleasant, relaxed, and familiar. For example, when I disembarked from the airport bus with my bassoon backpack on my back and was looking a bit lost, a young man – a clarinet student from the university – approached me and asked if I was the Austrian bassoonist who was to give an improvisation workshop at his school. With a laugh, I said yes, and he showed me the way to the university and to my hotel.
One thing I learned is that free improvisation is important and “healthy” for music students not only in Vienna but also in Gothenburg; it is very beneficial to them, as this is an unusual way of making music in most areas of musical studies in Northern Europe as well. And I hope very much that this partnership will continue to be successful and that additional projects will result from these encounters.