Transforming Society through Music Education

27 Apr 2018

This Master’s thesis uses the Relational Paradigm to explore the role music education can play in the development of relationships between individuals and collectives, and how these new relationships transform society.

Isabel Espinel is a student in the University of Navarra’s Master’s in Social Science Research (MICS in its Spanish acronym). She did her undergraduate work in Ecuador in Music and a Master’s in Interdisciplinary Education in the Arts in Barcelona. She was awarded one of the Social Trends Institute’s grants to pursue research in the area of Culture and Lifestyles    


What attracted you to this Master’s program?

The high-caliber education the university offers. I’m looking to integrate what I have learned in the past with studies in the social realm in order to better respond to the challenges of today’s society.  

To quote Emmanuel Todd, “Falling growth, increasing inequality, poverty and incoherent monetary evolution reflect deep cultural and anthropological determinants… The decline of the American education system, generations of low adult population in Europe, the collapse of collective go beyond an economic crisis: it’s a crisis of civilization.” We should be asking ourselves if we have brought this situation on ourselves; how it affects us personally and socially; if anything is everlasting anymore; and what we can do to understand and transform the situation we are in. 

What tools has the Master’s provided you with?

It’s given me a comprehensive view of research, which is a fundamental aspect of the Master’s in Social Science Research - combining untold resources in addition to benefitting from the teaching skills of excellent professors. The master’s provides a solid base in methodology, project design, and analysis and synthesis of results.

What is your research project about?

This research follows an interdisciplinary model between music and society. The aim is to establish a relationship between interventions in music education in contexts of social cohesion and development and Pierpaolo Donati’s relational paradigm. Given that there are many factors that affect a country’s development (context, location, economic and political systems, among others), practices reflect those contexts and histories particular to each region. Currently, music education has given rise to opportunities for interpersonal development oriented toward empowering a collective. International organizations have held music education up an instrument of identity construction to help different generations move forward.

Cultural manifestations like music can be shared, even more so in the educational sphere where students learn not only musical structures but the social product that results from the integration of different cultures. The culture we know now is the result of historical, musical, ethnic and social interchanges that interrelate under one shared concept of identity.  Sharing traditions is a means of social learning, through which cultural expressions can be rescued, maintained and disseminated in order to reflect each region’s multiculturalism.  

Why did you choose this topic?

I’m seeking to question reality from the starting point of a relational paradigm, in which educational, artistic and social roles converge to explain a new social organization. The relational spin favors individual and collective integration, bringing to life new social entities recognized for their personal being and not only their functional role. Further, it creates personal bonds, recovering the reciprocity of forms of personal and social commitment. It identifies social ills and gives rise to more direct social interventions. It directs itself at particular needs and subjects that need active participation and involvement. It recognizes and calls for State support as creator and distributor of citizens’ welfare. Finally, it establishes new networks of relationships, creating a social fabric that favors cohesion and social unity. 

Why is this research important at this particular point in time?

To respond to the crisis of modernity, so that a new form of citizenship arises, highlighting the relationship between different social actors at the individual and collective levels. The relationships that result are transversal and horizontal (collaborative) more than vertical – between public and private, formal and informal, and primary and secondary institutions. These new relationships make up the basis for creating new social groups, which in turn give rise to new social entities with the capacity to create transformation in society.

What projects do you have planned when you finish the Master’s Degree?

I’m going to take up the direction of an Educational institution that takes in low-income students so they can get a quality education. I will endeavor to put into play all the knowledge and skills I have gained in the Education and Psychology concentration of this course and guide future generations. Further on, I plan to continue with my doctoral thesis in the area of education, integration and family.