Research is an important element of every stage of the student’s education at the Royal Conservatoire. First and foremost in the curriculum for the Bachelor’s and Master’s programmes and later in the PhD programme offered jointly with the University of Leiden, but also in the research projects of the teachers.

On completion of the Master’s programme students can proceed to one of the doctoral programmes offered by the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, a collaboration between the University of Leiden and the University of the Arts The Hague. 

As in the Master’s course, the central focus of the PhD programme is the student’s personal artistic practice.

Teachers at the Royal Conservatoire also carry out research. The Royal Conservatoire offers them the possibility of deepening their own artistic practice by conducting research and further developing and disseminating the results of the research within the institute and thus strengthening the interaction between teaching and research at the Royal Conservatoire.

The Royal Conservatoire has two research groups: ‘Research in the Arts’ chaired by Professor Henk Borgdorff and ‘Music, Education & Society’ chaired by Professor Helena Gaunt. The results of all these research activities are of great importance for the practice of music and ultimately help to enhance the education provided at the Royal Conservatoire.

Diverse types of research

In light of developments in society and in the cultural domain, today’s musician must not only possess outstanding musical skills but also a broad intellectual background. To meet the demands this places on musicians of the future, in the last few years a research component has been added to the curriculum for the Bachelor’s programme. In the course entitled Critical Music Studies students are taught elementary research skills, such as learning to read and write critically, giving public presentations, managing information and examining and discussing their own work and the work of others from different perspectives. These skills are then further developed in the Master’s programme. 

The research component in the Master’s curriculum is larger. The student has to carry out an individual research project in his or her specialist field. The nature of the research can vary greatly (for example, making instruments, conducting experiments, historical interpretation (in relation to performance practice, for example), creative research, critical reflection on culture and/or research in the area of didactics or pedagogy. As a rule, the subjects are directly related to the student’s own artistic practice and are therefore relevant for his or her artistic and intellectual development and for the development of the discipline as a whole.

To help them prepare for the individual research project, students follow an introductory course on research in the arts and join a mastercircle.

Students also follow an elective course at the Royal Conservatoire, the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts in Leiden or Codarts in Rotterdam on a subject that assists in the research process. At the end of the second year, students give a presentation on their research project during the Master Research Symposium. After the symposium the best projects are published. A selection from earlier years can be found under Publications. The Master’s research projects are documented and published in the Research Catalogue, an international database of artistic research.

Teachers and students who have successfully completed their Master’s course can apply to follow one of the doctoral programmes for musicians, artists and designers offered by the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts. The PhD programme for musicians is docARTES, which is a joint programme of the Royal Conservatoire, the Conservatory of Amsterdam, the universities of Leiden, Louvain and Antwerp and the Orpheus Institute in Ghent. The defence of the PhD dissertation takes place in the Academy of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Leiden. The PhD programme for artists is called PhDArts and is jointly offered by the University of Leiden and the Royal Academy of Art The Hague.

‘Artistic research’ by artists and musicians at PhD level involves the exploration by musicians or artists of their own artistic practice from a critical and or/theoretical perspective. The purpose of artistic research, as with other types of research conducted in higher education, is to expand or revise existing knowledge, concepts and experiences using methods and techniques from a range of scientific disciplines, including the humanities (e.g., critical theory), social sciences (e.g., field research) and natural sciences (e.g. experiments).

Artistic research is distinguished from other forms of academic research by the key role played by artistic practice. This practice-based approach not only determines the research question, but leads to methods being tested and the results being incorporated in practice. In this way the research not only contributes to artistic practice, but also to the academic knowledge of arts and their practitioners.

Research is not only an important component of the teaching of future musicians, but can also enhance the professional practice of the teachers at the Royal Conservatoire. The institution therefore endeavours to involve as many teachers as possible in research. Some teachers are allowed to devote some of their working hours to research for one of the research groups, while others choose to enrol in the docARTES PhD programme or the Master’s programme that the Royal Conservatoire has started for teachers. The results of the research have a direct impact on their professional practice and their teaching in the Conservatoire so the projects are a valuable source of knowledge and inspiration for teachers and students alike.

The research carried out by teachers encompasses a wide range of topics, including informed performance practice, creative artistic research, making instruments, pedagogic research, music theory and ‘outreach’ projects. The results of studies carried out by teachers are published in the Research Catalogue.