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Everything is connected

On October 1st, Morten Qvenild officially assumed the role of the new Vice Principal at the Norwegian Academy of Music. He dreams of creating connections between people. "This is the essence of running an arts education."

It wasn't immediately clear that he would become a musician until after high school.

"I pursued the natural sciences," says pianist, composer, music technologist, producer, researcher, professor - and the incoming Vice Principal - Morten Qvenild. Fortunately, things clicked when he started at Toneheim Folk High School.

"So, we were down in the basement, practising standard songs almost around the clock for a year."

From there, he continued living as an NMH student, with nearly 25 years of touring, 1200 concerts, and 120 releases, working in genres from jazz and pop to classical orchestras and avant-garde.

Dream Scenario

Now, life remains just as intense and complex with work, a partner, and two children, but his focus has naturally shifted towards promoting and facilitating for others. There is a time for everything, and he felt, during his 30s and artistic doctoral work, the need to share knowledge from an active performing career. But even though many experiences from his freelance life can be helpful as a Vice Principal, he believes that the way of thinking is a bit different in the role he is entering now.

"I can't only be a performer's voice but want to think more broadly about what other people need. I have to go out and talk to people differently and more than when I'm working on my own project and generating everything from my own artistic core. Aspects from the field and artistic practice through my work will always be at the core. The performer aspect in the music world, as it is, is crucial for how we shape education."

I have a strong sense of attachment to this school. I will give it my all.

Morten Qvenild Vice Principal

After a long life in various stages at NMH, he almost feels like he can't leave. He adds that this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I have a strong sense of attachment to this school. I will give it my all. And I have seen what has worked and not worked in various parts of my journey here."

Should Have Acted

Politically, these are challenging times with many negative signals for both education and culture, including budget cuts and the introduction of tuition fees for students from outside the EEA. Some predict this won't be a glorious period to serve in the rectorate at NMH. Fortunately, Qvenild says he was born with a good dose of determination when facing challenges.

He draws parallels to the transition from CDs to Spotify:

"We musicians were more or less sitting idly by and watching this happen. We could see the trends, and we should have taken action."

I have promised myself that if dramatic changes occur in a field I am a part of, I will get much more involved.

Morten Qvenild Vice Principal

The opportunity to influence is a significant motivation for taking on the role of Vice Principal.

"I have promised myself that if dramatic changes occur in a field I am a part of, I will get much more involved," he assures.

Qvenild believes that it's essential for NMH's legitimacy to explain what we do, that we have a role as a thought leader and research agent on topics like artificial intelligence and the green shift, and that artists can offer an alternative perspective on significant societal issues.

Creating Connections

Creating connections between people is one of the main motivations for becoming Vice Principal. He highlights Ultima Kompass, the opening day of the Ultima Festival at NMH just a few weeks ago.

"Something happened that, to me, is the essence of running an arts education. There was delightful chaos and many wonderful interactions between students and teachers from different fields. If you can bring people together effectively, you can achieve incredibly positive results. If the goal is to prepare people for life after the Norwegian Academy of Music, a diverse and rich interdisciplinary collaborative culture is one of the most important things we can teach and integrate into our work as an arts education."

According to Qvenild, this mindset isn't specific to genres but is a fundamental way of approaching creative work. He describes his interactions with various teachers and musicians as the foundation for everything.

"I've felt that it works, and I can't just put that aside."

Achieving strong connections is something he describes as a dream scenario for his upcoming term as Vice Principal.

"If we can come together and share, even though I understand it's difficult. It's an extremely narrow path to navigate in a specialist education like ours while being open and receptive. Balancing act is difficult and complex."

Broad Base of Experience

From one jazz pianist in a Vice Principal role to another - what does it mean for the position?

"I have an understanding and deep love for the subjects I base my work on. This work falls within jazz and contemporary fields but relies on tools from composition, instrumentation, live electronics, sound production, and text work. Based on this breadth, my experience can be used in many environments and academic processes.

All elements in an artist's work serve a function in a larger system. Everything is connected to everything.

Morten Qvenild

Qvenild believes that the ability to encounter many issues during a workweek is a strength the jazz community can contribute. He provides a concrete example from his own life to illustrate:

"One day, I'm playing with KORK; the next day, I'm at Hærverk with an improvisation project. Then it's Frode Grytten in the recording studio on the third day and touring with A-ha on the weekend," he laughs. "It might sound a bit happily schizophrenic, but it gives you many thoughts about what makes people excel in different settings."


He will continue to teach despite his new position. He believes that this experience is essential for discussions about the structure of education.

"I must be close to students; I gain much from it. Both on an intellectual and broader level regarding how we should structure education."

Being in touch with the music community, outside and within the institution, alongside his role as Vice Principal, is a good combination, even though it requires a delicate balance.

"Now I'm all-in at NMH, and I use the connections with musicians and all the other cultural workers I talk to out there to ground what I do here. Seeing each individual while also having an eye on the big picture and interaction - that's when this will be at its best," he says.

"All elements in an artist's work serve a function in a larger system. Everything is connected to everything."

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