"Avis aux Amateurs"
Integrating Artistic Research Output into Elementary Music Education


During the past decades, research into the arts has established a crucial position within the professional musical world.  However, most of the created output stays within a very specialised and often privileged academical environment, and seems of no use for the average music teacher or amateur student out there in the many music schools around the world....or is it?


Can artistic research provide incentives for a new, effective and personality-building style of music teaching? Are researchers necessarily better teachers? What output is useable for our students and how can it help to improve the way we instruct young musicians? Do we have to train young musicians into a research-oriented attitude,  into a new generation of curious researching musicians who one day -hopefully- will go beyond the achievements of their teachers?

Along with providing anwsers to these important questions, this lecture intends to give some real-life examples of how artistic research output can be integrated successfully into the weekly lessons of amateur musicians, coming out of my own teaching practice. The text carries some guidelines, an avis aux amateurs as the ones to be found in 19th century French method books.



Some attendents at the seminar have asked me the music I describe in this lecture. I will publish a list and some public domain files in 2015 and 2016 as part of my project “Horn Playing in the Lyrical Style” at AP institute Antwerp.

Please visit my website www.corecole.be for more information.

Proceedings text



Quite a lot of us researchers tutor amateur musicians on a regular basis. For me it is a personal and deliberate choice to combine my busy carreer as a professional horn player specialised in period instruments with teaching over 40 beginning and intermediate horn students.


During my 15 year-experience as a horn teacher, I noticed that amateur musicians often seem highly interested in what’s happening in the musical world, but do not regularly get access to information or new findings that could be of interest to them. Opening up the minds of music students should be the first concern of any education, and introducing them into Practice Based Research (PBR) can be a great way to achieve this.


One of the great strenghts of a good music teacher should always be his passion for music, his instrument or the subject he's tutoring.


In my opinion, the students have the right of having teachers that know about all recent developments in their study domains. The permanent reschooling and updating of teacher’s knowledge and skills is a necessity, and for this reason we try to pass on the attitude for a research-based carreer in the training of new music teachers at the teaching department of the Royal Antwerp Conservatoire.


Many aspects of our research projects could in some way be of interest to elementary music teachers around the world. I personally received amazing feedback from my students since I first started to implement parts of my own research output into my lessons many years ago.


This happened by coincidence, and mainly on impulse of the students themselves, who were curious to find out what their teacher was up to once he stepped out of the classroom.

In the opposite direction, my research output helped me in many ways to reflect on didactic issues and even gave me incentives for developping new training methods and using uncommon but effective repertoire, leading to new standards in basic music education.

I became convinced of the fact that researchers make beter teachers.




Is it always possible, and under every circomstance to use research output in primary education? Of course not, unless you want to fulfill some very obscure teaching experiment and want to get rid of your students. 2 very important basic conditions should be fullfilled…


1. An open mind


Without the intention to start an off-topic discussion,  I want to point out that using new findings in a pedagogical system is only possible if minds, both from students as from teachers, are open enough.


At the beginning of the current musical training structures, the ‘conservatoire’ was the place for conservation of the grand musical tradition, and -as we all know- one avoids adding new content to a winning recipe.


I think most of you will agree that today’s musical education system should become much more creative, ideally with teachers that master pedagogical skills as well as having great artistry and a large knowledge. At the Antwerp Royal Conservatoire this is the profile of music school teachers we aim for in the future, evidently starting at the beginners level of the musical education system. 


In my opinion, this is in many ways the end of the purely ‘teaching virtuoso’ we have known for a long time, who apart from playing extremely well had to master no other skills to be supposed to be a good teacher. It takes a thorough questioning of our teaching methods and material to be able to implement PBR output into our lessons...


2. The relevance question


We also should ask ourselves permanently: is it really relevant to implement our –often highly academic- research output into the education of young children? It is clear that not all artistic research output is relevant to implement into let’s say, the weekly 20-minute lesson of an average 10 year old clarinet student. We will have to be very creative in choosing the specific content, the transferring methods, instructional behavior, the way content is offered to the student ànd in setting teaching goals in order to achieve interesting results. We should keep in mind that for most children, even those priveledged ones following music courses, our research subjects, or even our performance practice is a sometimes a very abstract thing. Let me explain this with a simple example:


I remember a contemporary music group presenting a cello and live electronics performance to a group of 8-year old school children. This happened without the teachers having been informed or trained into explaining this matter, and more importantly without the possibility to interact (they had to sit down, listen and shut up). It's the way some orchestras nowadays see "musical education" and it is built on a completely receptive. The ensemble tought this was the best way of plunging the children in their soundscapes, but the public for which the performance was intended completely missed the point.  


 It’s a typical example of how artistic output that could intentionally be very relevant, interesting ànd interactive for starting musicians gets lost through plain bad pedagogical thinking.


 A much better option than the receptive approach is to use the principle of active emersion when it is used as an all-comprehensive system. This is the system on which good basic arts education should always be founded and it's the way I've tried to implement during the last 15 years. Of course, this is only possible if training programmes are conceived, planned and evaluated over a long term, and not -as commonly seen- in small workshops or fragmentary lessons without any connection to follow-up courses or lessons.



This is not an easy question. It is clear that it is unlikely, even undesired to teach avant-garde composing systems to 12-year olds, but on the other hand it can be a challenge -and even be a great self-test- to try and find a way of introducing your own research project to people you did not initially intend it for.


In my experience, the most obvious output to introduce to out target group of interested amateur musicians were:


1. new repertoire

2. learning process-based output: analysing methods

3. aspects of playing style and special techniques

4. knowledge about the working of instruments, musical processes etc.


I'll look further into some examples later in this text.




So, imagine now we're intending to introduce the kids in our class to our own research output. Besides using certain forms of output directly in a teaching context, it is of major importance to make music students aware that music is a live arts form, and that the true spirit of music lies miles beyond the content of their instrumental method books.


A next phase could be to invite your amateur students participate in your project, trying out new things, inviting them to respond, interact and comment.  


The ultimate goal should be to trigger a creative attitude, a curiosity for music and the live practice of this beautiful arts form that will inspire some of them to develop a research-based attitude in the future.


This spirit of curiosity, creativity and inspiration is, I believe, one of the most important things a teacher can achieve, and I do hope this will lead to a new generation of curious researching musicians who one day -hopefully- will go beyond the achievements of their teachers.




My personal study subjects are mainly dedicated to playing performance, playing style, development and repertoire of 19th century brass instruments. The vast majority of my students are amateur horn players studying modern valve horn, mainly with the intention to perform in their local wind bands. One can notice easily the huge gap between my own research incentives and the musical world of my students…


Introducing uncommon repertoire was the most direct way of using research findings into the classroom. While researching historical collections present in public and private libraries, I had found a large amount of manuscripts that seemed very interesting for amateur brass players and showed good pedagogical perspectives.


As an example: for the horn, I discovered old and long forgotten methods and piles of solo works. The tattered and stained copies of historical parts or the somewhat strange handwriting of 19th century manuscripts appealed greatly to students of all ages. For the youngest, I introduced the “treasury hunt” into their lessons, which made their discovery a very special experience.


The pedagogical effectiveness for this repertoire truly went beyond my expectations. For the students, it provided a welcome change in their regular menu of modern-day pedagogical repertoire, and some were even so enthusiast about their new repertoire they started digitalizing them with music notation software.


Another way of introducing my research findings was to perform myself between my students during auditions, privileging pieces, instruments and techniques that belong to my research output. It's a great way of introducing your pupils to unknown pieces and pushing them to a next level of understanding music, playing style and the way their musical instruments work. It is also a great contribution to your authority as a teacher.


I now use a repertoire in the classroom that is far more diverse ad helped students to become better players. Quite an amount of other instrumental teachers have taken over repertoire pieces, and through my projects these have reappeared in print after long times of disappearance. It creates interesting creative side-effects as well: this open attitude towards repertoire has inspired composers to write new music for my class, and this triggered students to start arranging and writing music themselves. By using this research-inspired repertoire, using excerpts from old method books or informing your students on different playing styles one can sharpen their critical minds by offering real choices.


Of course, one goes further than merely the introduction of new repertoire: during my research project, one of many methods was to analyse playing techniques and style from old methods, recordings, articles, iconography etc.


I was curious to try out the effects of -for example- embouchure placement, mouthpiece and lead pipe angle, and effects of embouchure size and depth, as these factors affect tonal colour in great extent, and also vary greatly between players -all people are phsysically different.


I wanted to find out if a certain embouchure  placement –sometimes attributed to a certain school of playing- made a certain playing style easier to acquire, and to find out the relation between embouchure placement and the use of a specific kind of horn.


Of course, trying things out only on yourself is not always the most scientific way, and many professional players would refuse this kind of experiments so I used this array of techniques on my students.


Both parties greatly benefited from these experiments, as many students were able to understand and find shortcomings in their embouchures in this way, and I had real and live feedback on my suspicions.


It's only one aspect that appeared to work with students of all ages and abilities, I could equally give examples about playing style development, phrasing solutions or breathing, that were drawn from research conclusions. I can truely say these experiments made me a better teacher and my students better players.


Recently, I tried out a manuscripted daily exercise routine with a group of students, and was amazed to see the long-term results on these players techniques.


But, as said, the biggest advantage is that a curious teacher (I deliberately use the word "curious") trains potentially curious students. Today, it is delightful to see how my 9 year old beginners, intrigued by the beautifully painted historical natural horn that sits in the classroom, beg to be introduced into the world of natural horn handstopping, how a 13 year old student recently came to class having impressively read through the 3rd Mozart horn concerto all by himself during the autumn holiday, or to see their curiosity for recordings, concerts  or musical instruments.

Jeroen Billiet
Koninklijk Conservatorium Antwerpen (Belgium)


Jeroen Billiet (°1977) is a horn player specialised in historical performance. He plays with some of the finest European period ensembles, and is principal horn of le Concert d'Astrée, Insula Orchestra and B'Rock.


In 2008, he graduated from the Orpheus Instituut for his study “200 Years of Belgian Horn School, a comprehensive study of the horn in Belgium, 1789-1960”, a spublication that received worldwide approval.  Since January 2014, he is affiliated as artistic research fellow at the Royal Antwerp Conservatory (AP Hogeschool). Since many years he is teacher at the music schools of Bruges and Tielt, where he established large horn classes.