UC academic first woman elected international music society president

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University of Canterbury (UC) Associate Professor Glenda Keam has been elected the first female President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM).

Head of UC’s School of Music, Associate Professor Keam became the first woman and first New Zealander elected as ISCM President at this year’s general assembly in Estonia.

“In this new role I have the opportunity to meet a huge range of music leaders and performers,” she says.

“The connections raise the profile of the University and Aotearoa New Zealand, as both become better known by all member organisations. It puts us on the map of contemporary music practices and facilitates connections with composer organisations as well as other universities in such places as Texas and Beijing. It also enables access to expertise and opportunities for New Zealanders and for our students,” says Associate Professor Keam.

The ISCM was established in Austria in 1922, it has 50 member organisations and is “virtually a United Nations of the new music world”. Its annual festivals present music from its members performed by local musicians, and feature the music of the host country.

“It’s marvellous to be engaged in the music networks participating in the Society and it’s very healthy for Aotearoa New Zealand to be engaged with this organisation. Together we can share similar challenges, compare local issues, and explore ideas across different cultures,” she says.

Associate Professor Keam will be directing the ISCM’s World Music Day 2020 festival, to be held in both Auckland and Christchurch in April next year. The Christchurch dates overlap with the Asian Composers League festival, and the final concert of new music will feature the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in the Christchurch Town hall.

“Contemporary art music is music of ‘now’ and is fresh and exploratory – not yet tried and true. The musical world has changed so much over the past 25 years with the digital revolution. Communication and sharing of music is virtually instantaneous now, so the commercial model for composers has changed, but live music is still the most powerful way to experience it.”

“I’m looking forward to leading the ISCM towards its centenary celebrations in three years, possibly to be held in South Africa. It’s an honour to help the ISCM membership evolve, and move into its next century with more global reach,” she says.

Associate Professor Keam’s compositions have been performed in New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom, and her PhD analytically examined New Zealand music. She was President of the Composers Association of New Zealand from 2007–2017 and earlier served four years as treasurer of the New Zealand Society for Music Education. She has been an enthusiastic chorister and enjoys performing as a piano improviser. At UC she is Head of Music, and lectures in analysis, composition, New Zealand music and music education.

-University of Canterbury

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