The More the Merrier

In line with our vision to broaden the scope of the term 'music education', the conference will kick off with a panel discussion that brings together a diverse set of individuals involved in projects which raise people’s appreciation for music. Does this actually have anything to do with music education, and how do they themselves see their role – what works and what doesn’t?

Merlijn Poolman

Since the age of 15 Merlijn Poolman has been involved in cultural entrepreneurism, starting with organising small local underground metal gigs and resulting in a tour through South America with his own band in 2009. After that he founded the Foundation of Dutch Music Export (Stichting Nederlandse Muziek Export) and helped out a wide range of acts in their efforts to bring their music over the globe. This goes from punk-rock bands to techno DJ's and from Peru to China. In 2011 Merlijn finished his studies by starting his own nightclub in Groningen called Subsonic. For 4,5 years Subsonic, despite it's small size, played a big role in developing the nightlife of the north of Holland and even attracted artists like Skrillex, Noisia and Klangkarrussell. In 2014 he was asked to become musical program manager of the Simplon venue, a legendary place in Groningen where pop and dance music have thrived over the last 30 years. Currently Merlijn is aiming to be Groningen's Night Mayor in the election of February 2016 and at the age of 28 it seems like things are just getting started!

Helen Smith

Helen Smith is IMPALA’s Executive Chair. Originally from Scotland, Helen is based in Brussels. She drives the organisation's key strategies with the board on a political, commercial and promotional level. Helping put thousands of independent companies and artists on the map of Europe by leveraging collective strength, IMPALA’s first 15 years in milestones is an impressive read, from Europe's first ever class action court case on a merger and its tough stance on digital platforms who don’t play ball, to its various action plans and awards schemes.

Ellara Wakely

Ellara Wakely is Senior Learning Manager at the BBC Proms and the BBC London Performing Groups.  Ellara oversees the learning, participation, and outreach work of the BBC Proms summer festival, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and BBC Singers – encompassing a family programme, Young Composers scheme and Nurturing Talent programme for young performers.  Ellara has played a key role in the development and delivery of the BBC Ten Pieces programme (, a nationwide initiative that has reached 4.1 million school children in the UK to date, encouraging them to get creative with classical music through feature films, online resources, live performances and most importantly, creating a platform for their own creative responses.