8th World Congress of Music Therapy, 2nd International Congress of the World Federation of Music Therapy, Hamburg, Germany, July 14-20, 1996 - Interview with Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt

By Barbara L. Wheeler

Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt at the opening
Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt welcoming the 2000 participants at the opening ceremony. (Photo by Bernd Schabbing, Dorothea and Friederike Decker-Voigt, and Gesa Birnkraut. Photo-Documentation/Foto-Dokumentation, Eres Edition, Lilienthal/Bremen. Used with permission).
 
Burgerhaus meeting
Henk Smeijsters, Cheryl Dileo, Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt at the Bürgerhaus Meeting. (Photo by Bernd Schabbing, Dorothea and Friederike Decker-Voigt, and Gesa Birnkraut. Photo-Documentation/Foto-Dokumentation, Eres Edition, Lilienthal/Bremen. Used with permission).
 
Rathaus meeting
Rathaus Reception – Henk Smeijsters, Franz Mecklenbeck, Cheryl Dileo, Johannes Th. Eschen, Protokollchef Senatskanzlei, and Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt at the reception at the Rathaus. (Photo by Bernd Schabbing, Dorothea and Friederike Decker-Voigt, and Gesa Birnkraut. Photo-Documentation/Foto-Dokumentation, Eres Edition, Lilienthal/Bremen. Used with permission).
 
Press meeting
Franz Mecklenbeck, Henk Smeijsters, Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt, Juliane Papendorf, Cheryl Dilero, and Till Florschütz at the Press Meeting. (Photo by Bernd Schabbing, Dorothea and Friederike Decker-Voigt, and Gesa Birnkraut. Photo-Documentation/Foto-Dokumentation, Eres Edition, Lilienthal/Bremen. Used with permission).

How was it decided to have the World Congress in Germany and in Hamburg?

Between 1991 and 1993 the Congress Center Hamburg (CCH) and the provincial as well as the city governments wrote me repeatedly – in my function as Head of the Institute for Music Therapy of the Music and Theater University in Hamburg – to liaise with the Chairman of the World Federation for Music Therapy (WFMT). The purpose of those requests was to organize a world congress.

With those letters at hand I attended the world congress in Vitoria (Spain) in 1993. There I was happily welcomed and surprised by Pr. Dr. Cheryl Maranto (now Cheryl Dileo), the president of that time, when she announced me that the executive committee had already approved that the 8th World Congress would take place in Hamburg.

How was the planning of the congress organized? How did you become Chair of the congress? Who else helped? How was the German music therapy organization involved?

As General Chairman of the WFMT I spent three years organizing the world congress. Then as President of the congress I created a task force with Dr. Till Florschütz (at that time president of the German Association of Professional Music Therapist) and Franz Mecklenbeck (board member of the German Association for Music Therapy). We founded then the so called “National Committee” where I invited all people, associations and groups I knew or had heard of and that were dealing with music therapy. 42 people were appointed as permanent members and we met three times a year in Hamburg during the three years preceding the congress in order to set up the program and to coordinate the content of the different contributions.

How was the congress itself organized? Were there plenary sessions and also smaller sessions? Were some sessions in several languages and others only in German?

The whole program took place on the premises of the Congress Center Hamburg, which contracted professional translators for 4 languages both for the large plenary sessions (700 seats) and for the intermediate ones (totaling 2000 participants).

Beside those events there were many activities - such as spontaneous workshops and discussion groups along posters - where participants volunteered to translate successively.

What kind of social activities were planned? How many people attended and from what countries?

Several dinners were organized for the contributors, both from Germany and from abroad. 52 nations were represented, including for the first time Eastern European countries and Eastern Germany.

From the opening ceremony until the end of the congress about 25 concerts were performed in the center of Hamburg as well, among others by the talented organist and music therapist Dr. Christoph Schwabe in the St. Michel church.

What were some of the highlights for you, both of the formal congress and informally/socially?

  • The people I met, especially the informal encounters
  • The trustful and reliable cooperation with the executives of the Congress Center, the Hamburg authorities, the colleagues among all music organizations and all members of my family who worked as assistants of my assistants during the congress week
  • The music instrument exhibition that took place then and with the presence of different craftsmen from the music therapy area
  • The concert in the St. Michel church
  • The keynote lecture with Professor Dr. Daniel Stern
  • The integration of musical medicine (straight after the congress I appointed Dr. Spintge to the first professorship for musical medicine worldwide)
  • The high level of interest by the press: virtually all TV channels and main newspapers covered this event (the congress took place during a difficult time for the German media, which were all the more eager to report the event and greatly contributed to making music therapy a popular topic)

Please see also an interview with Prof. Dr. Hans-Helmut Decker-Voigt by Volker Bernius of the Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt/Main, previously published and republished here with permission. An overview of the speakers and the activities published in the Book of Abstracts is attached as a PDF file

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Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy (ISSN 1504-1611)