In 2011, I co-founded the MULTICULTURAL ARTS UNIVERSITY: CAMBODIA, forging an artistic and pedagogical collaboration between the University of the Arts Helsinki and two Cambodian NGOs caring for and providing arts education for children who had experienced significant health, economic, familial and other challenges. Together with Professor Heidi Westerlund and lecturer Eeva-Leena Pokela a study programme was developed involving arts education masters students from the University of the Arts Helsinki visiting Cambodia for 3 weeks.


Stepping outside of their musical comfort zones, without a shared language, social background, or musical history, both Finnish and Cambodian students and staff participate in shared workshops – exchanging their knowledge of their own arts traditions and learning new musics, dances and pedagogies – positioning each participant in the roles of both expert, and beginner.


  • Cultural exchange of music, dance and pedagogies between Cambodian children and Finnish students

  • Collaboration and training between Cambodian staff and Finnish students

  • Research into Cambodian artistic traditions and pedagogies by doctoral and post doctoral researchers


Kallio, A.A. & Westerlund, H. (forthcoming). The Discomfort of Intercultural Learning in Music Teacher Education. In H. Westerlund, S. Karlsen & H. Partti (Eds.). Visions for Intercultural Music Teacher Education. Springer.

Recognizing and ethically engaging with the inherent diversity of music education contexts demands a continuous interrogation of the norms and values underpinning policy and practice in music teacher education. In doing so, teachers and students in higher education are challenged to question why and how students are socialized into particular music education systems, traditions, or perspectives and to consider alternatives. In this chapter, we explore such reflexive processes, employing a theoretical reading analysis through Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, and doxa. The data consists of group reflections and interviews with student-teachers that the authors conducted as part of an intercultural arts education project between Finnish masters students and two Cambodian NGOs. Based on our analysis, we argue that stepping outside of one’s cultural, musical, and pedagogical comfort zone is a necessary component of constructing and (re)negotiating teacher visions in music teacher education. However, this renegotiation may be discomforting for student-teachers, unsettling deep-seated visions of what good music education is and ought to be – the taken-for-granted doxa of music teaching and learning. Therefore, for music-teacher education to become transformative and reflexive, there is a need for such educational experiences that engage with processes that are related to the art of living with difference.

Kallio, A.A. & Westerlund, H. (2016).The Ethics of Survival: Teaching the traditional arts to disadvantaged children in post-conflict Cambodia. International Journal of Music Education 34(1): 90-103. DOI: 10.1177/0255761415584298

Cambodia’s recent history of conflict and political instability has resulted in a recognised need to recover, regenerate, preserve and protect the nation’s cultural heritage. Many education programs catering for disadvantaged youth have implemented traditional Khmer music and dance lessons, suggesting that these programs share the responsibility of cultural regeneration, and view the survival of traditional artforms as dependent on their bequeathal to these young children. In this regard, the musical future of the country is, at least in part, dependent on the success of the vulnerable. However, these vulnerable students are living in a rapidly changing Cambodia, with higher levels of education, increasing international communications and influences, developing infrastructure, urbanisation and fundamentally different ways of going about everyday life, work and leisure, to their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Through semi-structured individual interviews conducted with Cambodian staff and music, dance and theatre teachers of three music and dance programs provided by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) catering for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, we explore how the conflicting objectives of conservation, and cosmopolitanism, are negotiated and navigated in the schools. This study explores themes of conservation, coexistence of multiple traditions and education in the wider Cambodian society through performance. These themes are discussed in relation to the ethics of arts teaching, which - whilst intensified in the Cambodian context - are relevant beyond this particular case study.

Kallio, A. & Partti, H. (2013). Music Education for a Nation: Teaching Patriotic Ideas and Ideals in Global Societies. Action, Criticism, and Theory for Music Education 12 (3), 5–30.

Music often features as a tool for the communication and creation of national identity, and has often been included in music education curricula as a means to enculturate students into a unified citizenry. This instrumental multiple case study explores patriotic sentiments as they appear in the music education policies and practices of two countries: Finland and Cambodia. Although very different in many respects, both nations have unique cultural histories that are celebrated within a dynamic of globalized society. Through the thematic analysis of macro level policy decision making seen in educational curricula and policy documents, and micro level policy implementation through semi-structured interview data with teachers, this article explores tensions that exist between the construction of a cohesive national identity and preparing students for participation in a global world. Through this, it may be seen that music educators cannot afford to approach policy nor practice on wholly local, nor global terms. Patriotic sentiments cannot be uncritically imposed upon diverse student populations, but neither should they be regarded as redundant or irrelevant. Rather, through a perspective of cultural cosmopolitanism we may reconsider patriotism in music education in a way that supports both national and global citizenship.

© Alexis Kallio

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