EWU’s Sheila Woodward Named President of International Music Council

December 1, 2023

Sheila Woodward, a professor of music education at EWU, was recently named president of the International Music Council in Morocco at the group’s general assembly, held on Nov. 22.

The IMC is the world’s largest network of music organizations, with more than 600 million associated individuals. Its primary focus, Woodward says, is to act as an advocate for artists’ right to engage in musical activities. 

One such endeavor involved the successful relocation of Afghan music students to Portugal, after their school, the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, was closed by the Taliban. The IMC played a valuable role in promoting awareness of the situation, as the global music community negotiated on behalf of the institute’s students and faculty. Their efforts eventually paid off, winning diplomatic approval for them to continue their work outside of the country. 

“This is one example of many where we fight for the rights of individuals,” Woodward says. The IMC advocates, specifically, for people whose rights have been restricted, especially artists denied access to their craft and those imprisoned for their musical activities.

“Music is a powerful force for healing and bridging gaps,” Woodward says, emphasizing how music unites people across cultures and serves as a means of connection for global collaboration. As IMC president, Woodward says she will continue to promote global communication by working with staff at the UNESCO office in Paris and facilitating discussion amongst musical organizations. The goal, she adds, is to provide practical leadership with a vision to advocate for greater inclusion within the international music community.

“It’s a service,” she says. “It’s collaborating with individuals within the organization and the broader public to be a source of social change.”

This focus on diversity and inclusion, overlapping with social change, has been paramount in Woodward’s own career. She began her teaching career in an historically black community in Cape Town, South Africa, before relocating to the U.S. and teaching in several states. At Eastern, Woodward serves as the director of music education and teaches courses in the sociology of music — which involve social justice issues pertaining to music. 

“My new role as president of the IMC will reinforce the role that I play at Eastern in motivating for diversity and inclusion,” Woodward says. “The goal is to promote access for music to all.”

Woodward works with both graduate and undergraduate students in the Fine and Performing Arts Department, developing students’ teaching skills and, most importantly, helping them to expand their thinking. 

“I’m proud to work with such an exceptional music faculty at Eastern that is internationally recognized,” Woodward says. “My success in this IMC election is a success for the department and the entire university.”

Woodward’s international achievements highlight the global reach of work happening in the EWU Music Program. She says that she plans to continue teaching locally while working internationally to advocate for both the individual rights of artists and the right of everyone to musical access.

Woodward says, “I view music as a source of connection between us all.”