About the event:

Last May 28th, the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation (IYMF) and the Associação Yehudi Menuhin Portugal (AYMP), in collaboration with the Oeiras City Council (CMO), hosted a roundtable on “Transforming Education through the Arts” in Oeiras, Portugal, in the theatre located in the beautiful setting of the Parque dos Poetas.

The event held in Portuguese and English was a significant milestone in celebrating and advancing the integration of arts into education, a vision championed by Yehudi Menuhin.

The evening began at 18:30 with an auditorium filled with eager attendees. Pedro Patacho, the Education Councilor of Câmara Municipal de Oeiras, delivered the opening speech, emphasising Oeiras’ support for the MUS-E® Programme from the outset.

Following his address, Marianne Poncelet, the Executive Vice-President of IYMF, greeted the audience, thanked the Councilor, and introduced a short documentary on the MUS-E® Programme in Portugal.

The fifteen-minute documentary set the stage for a panel debate, highlighting the profound impact of the MUS-E® Programme on education and social inclusion. Marianne Poncelet congratulated Leonor Cambournac and the AYMP team for their exceptional work on the documentary, and highlighted recent achievements of the MUS-E® Programme, hinting at upcoming announcements.

Insights from Distinguished Speakers

From Portugal to Germany to France, Belgium, and Switzerland, Portuguese and international speakers from the educational, cultural, and policy sectors emphasised the power of art in developing social inclusion, intercultural understanding, self-esteem, and tolerance.

Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, the President of AYMP and a member of IYMF, was the first speaker. With a distinguished background as the former Minister of Education, Minister of Finance, and Minister of the Presidency in Portugal, and currently the Executive Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, he brought a wealth of experience to the discussion. He reflected on how Yehudi Menuhin’s vision of integrating the arts into education has shaped educational policies and practices in Portugal. He quoted Yehudi Menuhin “I can only think of music as something inherent in every human being – a birthright. Music coordinates mind, body and spirit.” He emphasised the transformative power of the arts in learning and interpersonal skills development, fostering creativity, critical thinking, and social cohesion.

Following Guilherme d’Oliveira Martins, Werner Schmitt, the co-founder of the MUS-E® Programme and Vice-President of IYMF, took the stage. Schmitt, also a former Director of the Bern Conservatory and recipient of numerous awards, provided an in-depth look at the evolution and global impact of the MUS-E® Programme. He recalled the beginning of the MUS-E® Programme in 1993. He highlighted the Programme’s success in promoting cognitive, social, and emotional development among children, especially in disadvantaged areas. He highlighted the artistic diversity, interculturality and social inclusion aspects, also initiatives in green swareness and environmental consciousness.

The next speaker, Alexandra Paatsch, the General Director of MUS-E Deutschland, discussed the significance of the MUS-E® Programme in Germany, where it operates in about 50 schools and reaches over 4,000 children. She mentioned some of the challenges in German schools: educational deficits, delays in the educational, cognitive, social and emotional development of children, stressed and traumatised children due to flight and violence experiences or natural disaster, child poverty, bullying and violence, lack of motivation, media addiction, …shortage of teachers. She shared examples of inspiring initiatives, such as a football thriller music project in Kassel Another and an architecture project in a small village in the Black Forest, which encouraged democratic decision-making and broadened the students’ horizons. Both initiatives were examples of pupils’ empowerment and social inclusion.

Jorge Chaminé, the President of the Centre Européen de Musique and a member of IYMF, shared his insights as a musician and advocate for arts education. Chaminé discussed the role of arts and culture in society. He emphasised the importance of integrating arts into education to promote a more holistic and inclusive approach. recalled the 200th anniversary of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as an opportunity to reflect on the unifying power of music. He reflected on Yehudi Menuhin’s vision and approach. Chaminé insisted that music is hybridity, dialogue, métissage, that the future of humanity lies in its capacity of creativity, dialogue, growing as a human being.

On this occasion, Marianne Poncelet  announced a closer collaboration of Centre Européen de Musique with IYMF for the development of MUS-E® Programme in France. Chaminé publicly signed a declaration of intention with the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation.

José Bagulho, a kindergarten teacher at the MUS-E school in Oeiras, provided a local perspective on the Programme’s impact. With over two decades of experience in early childhood education, Bagulho shared moving stories of how the MUS-E® Programme has enriched the lives of young children in Oeiras, fostering through artistic activities creativity and social skills. He told of positive experiences of children with autism and other experiences of simultaneous dance and theatre.

The final speaker, Elisabete Monteiro, a coordinator and researcher at the Faculty of Human Motricity, University of Lisbon, focused on the role of dance and active learning methods in education. Monteiro argued that the arts, particularly dance, enable students to make meaningful connections with their experiences, enhancing both cognitive and emotional development. She emphasised the need for arts to become an intrinsic part of education, aiding in the consolidation of knowledge across various disciplines, going from STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). She quoted Pina Baush “Dance, dance, dance … otherwise we’re lost”.

Exchange and networking drinks

The event concluded with a Q&A session, allowing the audience to engage directly with the speakers. This interactive segment provided deeper insights into the discussed topics and highlighted the community’s interest in arts-based education.

Following the roundtable, attendees enjoyed a networking session with drinks, fostering further discussion and collaboration among educators, policymakers, and artists.