Ailbhe Kenny

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline Education
Lecturer in Music Education, Department of Arts Education and Physcial Education, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick,

Research project

Unheard. Exploring the Musical Lives of Children of Asylum Seekers in Germany


This research project explores the musical lives of children of asylum seekers in Germany. There have been increasing concerns about the demand for asylum seeking across Europe but particularly within Germany as the top destination country. The recent Syrian refugee crisis has further added to multifaceted concerns with new commitments made by Germany as well as member state governments within the European Union to provide refuge for these displaced peoples. One quarter of these asylum seekers are currently children (under 18 years of age).


Research in this field predominantly focuses on ‘priority’ areas such as food, accommodation and safety. As a consequence, the cultural needs and rights of asylum seekers have been largely ignored as well as the artistic experiences of children of asylum seekers. This project aims to gain an in-depth understanding of the role of music in the lives of children of asylum seekers (7-11 years) within an urban German context. Questions are asked about how, where, why and in what ways music is made individually and collaboratively amongst these children. This study examines children’s participation within ‘communities of musical practice’ within their communal, temporary accommodation settings.


Novel approaches are taken to this qualitative case study where children’s voices are prioritised. Participatory music workshops capture data through arts-based methods, musical outputs and participant observation. Interviews and observations build on this participatory work to capture distinct and diverse childhood musical experiences. In seeking to understand the multiple musical subcultures and intercultures of children living within communal accommodation settings, children are viewed as active agents in constructing meaning, knowledge and identities from their musical experiences. Musical identities are deemed to be negotiated on individual and collective levels within sociocultural contexts where the relationship between music, children and society are crucial to identity formation. Accordingly, identities are seen to be continually in flux within the contexts of musical experience.


It is envisaged that policymakers, educationalists and academics will learn from the experiences of music examined to influence future directions in their respective fields of policy, practice, and research. The project therefore addresses an urgent need to document and understand the musical values, knowledge and needs of these oft-unheard children in our society.





Ailbhe Kenny is Lecturer in Music Education at the Department of Arts Education and Physical Education at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. She holds a Ph.D in Music Education from the University of Cambridge and is a Fulbright Scholar. Her main research interests lie in 'Communities of musical practice’, musical lives of children of asylum seekers, teacher/artist partnerships, arts education policy and curriculum, teacher education, music and arts governmental policy, music education practices in formal and informal contexts, creativity and the arts, and social processes in music.



Selected publications


'Beginning a journey with music education: Voices from pre-service primary teachers', Music Education Research, vol. 19, no. 2, 2017, pp. 111-122.


Communities of Musical Practice, Routledge, Abingdon, 2016.


'Practice through Partnership: Examining the Theoretical Framework and Development of a 'Community of Musical Practice'', International Journal of Music Education, vol. 32, no. 4, 2014, pp. 396-408. 


''Collaborative Creativity' Within a Jazz Ensemble as a Musical and Social Practice', Thinking Skills and Creativity, vol. 13, 2014, pp. 1-8.


'Sound Connections for Institutional Practice: Cultivating 'Collaborative Creativity' through Group Composition', in P. Burnard (ed.), Developing Creativities in Higher Music Education: International Perspectives and Practices, Routledge, Oxford, 2014, pp. 469-493.




junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Political Science
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Psychology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline History of Science and Technology
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Institute for Advanced Study (HWK)
discipline Social Studies of Science and Technology