Grieg Research School in Interdisciplinary Music Studies
Invited Speaker

Tuulikki Laes

The transformative possibilities of musical life-course: Rethinking, re-storying, and reclaiming narratives of aging in music education research

Main content

As individuals and social groups with marginalized identities have been a primary consideration for contemporary music education research, this keynote addresses how ‘old people’ are one of the most neglected, stereotyped, and critically underdiscussed groups. This erasure is manifested in how the narrative forms available to older individuals are usually severely limited, and are too often focused on the representation of their age over other dynamics of intersectional identities. If music participation does feature in the experiences of older adults, it is frequently narrated in wholly positive and paternalistic terms, without giving voice to their possible uncertainty or discomfort. This uncritical narration of aging in music education perpetuates a number of complex exclusions and impedes the transformative possibilities of musical life-courses. By means of examples drawn from multiple studies, the concept of systems stories is proposed as a tool for connecting narrative inquiry with complex systemic conditions, offering possibilities to challenge these oppressive old-age master narratives when linked with the political, ethical, and societal issues of aging and changing life-courses.

Key Questions

  1. How do we story later life-course in music education research?

  2. What expectations are implied in the dominating narratives of aging and music education?

  3. And how do those master narratives operate intersectionally to shape what or who is voiced or silenced both on systemic and individual levels?

Recommended Reading

  • Laes, T., & Schmidt, P. (2021). Promoting a musical lifecourse towards sustainable ageing: A call for policy congruence. International Journal of Community Music, 14(1), 103-119. https://doi.org/10.1386/ijcm_00040_1


Tuulikki Laes is a post-doctoral researcher at the Center for Educational Research and Academic Development in the Arts, University of the Arts Helsinki. Her current project (2019-2022) focuses on the transformative politics of music education in an aging society. Previously Laes worked in a strategic research project ArtsEqual that examined the arts as public service from a systems perspective. Her research interests include socially engaged forms of music education related to societal challenges such as inequity, ableism, and agism, with a particular focus on higher education and policy perspectives. Laes has worked as a lecturer at the Sibelius Academy with inclusive/special education and adult education as her main expertise areas. She has presented and published her work internationally and served as an invited keynote speaker in Finland, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and Germany.