Composition Schools in the 20th Century: the Institution and the Context

45th Baltic musicological conference dedicated to the centennial anniversary of Julius Juzeliūnas

19–22 October 2016

Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Vilnius

Keynote speakers are dr. Algirdas Ambrazas (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre), dr. Gražina Daunoravičienė (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre), dr. Marina Frolova-Walker (University of Cambridge), and dr. Melita Milin (Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts).

Secondary themes:
The idea of a composition school and the guidelines for its theoretical conceptualisation
The core of composition schools: traditions, programs, and pedagogical directions
Composition schools vs. individual tutors: differentiation and value criteria
Teachers of composition: pedagogic innovations and ties with traditions
Pedagogy of composition and the idea of writing national music: paths and crossroads
Active pedagogy in composition: ideas and realisation
Teaching the art of sounds in the 21st century
The phenomenon of Julius Juzeliūnas as teacher of composition
Exploring Julius Juzeliūnas’ personality and works
Traditions, directions and identity dimensions of the composition schools in the Baltic States
Ties between national schools of composition and traditions within the world’s largest centres of composition training
The micro-stories from different composition schools that capture imagination

There is no conference fee.

English and German are the two working languages of the conference. Participants who wish to speak during the conference or want to offer topics for round-table discussions and study group sessions should submit their proposals by 18 April 2016 to Zita Abramavičiūtė, coordinator of the conference ( Individual speakers are expected to provide an abstract of up to 300 words for a 20-minute report and a CV of up to 150 words. Those intended to speak during round table discussions and study group sessions should send a general summary of their topic. The information about the selected themes is to be announced by the end of April 2016. More details regarding the programme and accommodation are due in May 2016 online. Please check the websites of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre ( and the Lithuanian Composers’ Union (

The idea of national schools of composition which emerged in the leading European centres of culture in the 19th century was later gradually adopted by smaller nations seeking statehood and cultural identity. The three Baltic States and the neighbouring countries with similar cultural traditions saw the idea of national music coming into fruition in the early 20th century, the development that prompted their national composition schools to begin taking shape between the two world wars. The latter is an undeniable sign of maturity of a national musical culture. Evidently enough, scientific papers dedicated to the development of professional music often overlook the phenomenon of national composition schools the concept of which usually exists as a non-binding general category although no one has ever tried to play down its importance. Whenever we are trying to describe a national school of composition which, according to Algirdas Ambrazas, is “the commonness of self-awareness of a national culture, aspirations, and artistic images inspired by ethnic consciousness“, the term refers to the equivalent of a national culture of music.

The formation and development of pedagogic schools of composition plays a particularly important role within the structure of the phenomenon of a composition school. They bring together teachers, students, programs, classes, and creative efforts of both students and their tutors. Pedagogic schools of composition offer knowledge and expertise, orientation and technological principles vital in the process of developing skills the craft requires and, quite often, help to define one’s creative stance. As far as their concept is concerned, pedagogic schools of composition are based on several commonly accepted components, such as programme, teachers, students, and particular location, time and tradition. This level of the phenomenon reveals the ways alongside which a teacher’s oeuvre together with his or her stylistic and technological mindset, ideals and pedagogic traits inspire their students and, through their artistic endeavours, eventually influence the advance of a particular musical culture.

Artur Kapp, Heino Eller, Jāzeps Vītols and Juozas Gruodis – the four composers behind the emergence of national pedagogic schools of composition in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have set the first milestones for the development of professional music in their native countries. Spanning over more than one hundred years, its history provides a wealth of material for anyone eager to learn more about its birth and evolution. This conference aims first and foremost at exploring the concept of national schools of composition in small nations and at examining their role in the processes of musical culture of the 20th century and early 21st century.

The conference offers a ground for discussions on a number of provoking subjects: What is the role of a traditional institution, a school for composers, within the contemporary culture given the ever increasing volume of exchanges in musical information? What is key in making a centre for composition studies attractive and productive? What are the priorities and methodical tools in developing a composer’s creativity and skill of his craft? Should the contemporary knowledge about making music be limited by a national tradition? Is teaching composition the exclusive privilege of the most famous composers? What are the ways of transforming experience and creativity in teaching composition? What famous schools of composition have emerged in the 20th century outside the world’s leading centres of musical education?

These are just a few intriguing questions that have inspired the organisers of the Conference dedicated to the centennial anniversary of Julius Juzeliūnas (1916–2001), one of the outstanding representatives of the Lithuanian school of composition. In Lithuania, Stasys Šimkus was the first to offer a course in composition in 1923 while working as a teacher for Klaipėda Music School, or Memeler Konservatorium der Musik as its was officially known at the time. It took another several years for a more systemic approach to develop after Juozas Gruodis began tutoring composition at Kaunas Music School which eventually grew into a conservatory. As one of the most famous and influential teachers of composition, Julius Juzeliūnas has ensured the continuity of the national tradition in professional music as well as its rejuvenation in the second half of the 20th century.