Registration, coffee & live music by students from the Royal College of Music

10.00 – 12.30

Ashish J Thakkar keynote

“How entrepreneurs can prevent future refugee crises and boost integration”

Songlines live
Ehsan Yaghoobi (piano) & Mohammad Zare (spoken word)

Panel: “3 perspectives on new solutions for integration”
Ashish J Thakkar, Emma Rosman, Loreen

Dr Ahmad Sarmast keynote
“How ANIM provides inclusive music education”

Fares Hamed interview
“How to find unexpected talent”

Sophia Bendz interview
“Creativity as a source for value creation”

Panel: “Re-thinking and re-doing the learning landscape”
Sophia Bendz, Joel Hellermark, Fares Hamed

14.00 – 16.30

”Gestrument – lowering the threshold to creativity”

Sophia Alexandersson from ShareMusic & Performing Arts
Jesper Nordin, Peter Larsson, Petra Assio

Josephine Forsman, Alfons Karabuda, Robert Eriksson
Sofia Lilja, Jack Jönsson, Linn Persson, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist

17.00 – 18.30
Two exclusive, on stage interviews with this year’s Laureates

Dr Ahmad Sarmast, founder of The Afghanistan National Institute of Music
interview by Lasse Bengtsson
Lars Ulrich, Metallica
interview by Jan Gradvall

See below for details


Kungl. Musikhögskolan


Valhallavägen 105


Polar Talks is an international series of inspiring talks and lectures on cutting edge topics, coalescing around one central theme – the Power of Music. Polar Talks focus on some of the myriad ways that music can produce powerful outcomes across a range of social, artistic and scientific disciplines. Josephine Forsman (Sahara Hotnights),  Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist (The Hives), Robert Eriksson (The Hellacopters), Sofia Lilja (artistcoach, mental trainer, Idol) and Jesper Nordin (composer and creator of the Gestrument app) will be among the speakers.

This year we are also proud to present a brand new conference under the Polar Music Prize banner:

Polar Tech aims to bridge the emotional and artistic strengths in music with the opportunities brought by technology through an exclusive line up of international speakers, master classes and lectures. The program is curated by Lisa Lindström and Anna Ryott and this first edition is focusing specifically on education and integration in combination with tech and music. Speakers are among others entrepreneur Ashish J Thakkar, Sophia Bendz (Executive in Residence at Atomico and former Global Marketing Manager at Spotify), Fares Hamed (Changers Hub, Pistol Mgmt), Joel Hellermark (Sana Labs).

Meet the Laureates! The day ends with interviews on stage of this year’s Polar Music Prize Laureates. Dr Ahmad Sarmast, founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, and Lars Ulrich from Metallica.

The Polar Talks, Polar Tech and Laureate interviews will all take place in Kungasalen at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. Students from the Royal College of Music will perform Polar Music Prize inspired music live throughout the day.


Tickets are sold separately for each conference, a day pass to access all three of them is also available.

Polar Tech – 200 SEK

Polar Talks – 200 SEK

Meet The Laureates – 230 SEK

Day Pass – 550 SEK


Lisa Lindström is one of Sweden’s strongest voices for the power of business innovation and leadership to impact society. Lisa is a founder of the global design firm Doberman, named one of Sweden’s most innovative companies, as well as best digital agency and best place to work. With unorthodox methods for innovation and a unique perspective on both employee empowerment and customer experience, Lisa has developed completely new ways of addressing change management within companies. Lisa has been appointed one of the future female leaders and received the Royal Patriotic Society’s Enterprise Medal. She has also served as an industry adviser to the government and is today chairman of Utbildningsradion (the Swedish Education Broadcasting Company). Lisa frequently lectures on innovation, digital transformation, design, and leadership for change, sharing her perspectives on daring to meet new challenges in a changing world.


Anna Ryott is Deputy CEO of Norrsken Foundation, which has become the largest hub for social entrepreneurship in Europe. Anna has extensive professional experience from both business and civil society organisations, she spent several years at the head of Swedfund (the Swedish Government’s Development Finance Institution) and prior to that as the Secretary General of SOS Children’s Villages Sweden and Deputy Secretary General of UNICEF Sweden. On the business side, Anna has worked at Storåkers McCann, McKinsey and Hagströmer & Qviberg. Anna Ryott is also on the board of Axel Johnson, the World Childhood Foundation and the UN Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council. In 2014 she was awarded H.M. The King’s Medal for “Significant contributions to Swedish society and industry”. Overall, Anna’s professional aim is to do everything in her power to eradicate poverty and fight climate change through sustainable business.


Ashish is the founder and chairman of Mara Group, and a serial entrepreneur who started his first business at the age of 15 with a $5,000 loan. He has driven the growth of Mara from a small IT business in Uganda to the global multi-sector investment group that it is today, with a presence across 25 African countries in sectors spanning technology, financial services, infrastructure and real estate. In 2012, Ashish was appointed a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in recognition of his success and leadership in driving social and economic change. Ashish advises several heads of state in Sub-Saharan Africa and is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Africa. In 2009 he founded the Mara Foundation to inspire and support young emerging entrepreneurs through mentorship and venture philanthropy.

Loreen had her great breakthrough as the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 with ”Euphoria”, that reached number one in over 20 countries. She is now one of Sweden’s most beloved artists.

She released her critically acclaimed album ”Heal” also in 2012 and has toured Europe several times since, with short breaks for studio work. By the end of 2017 she released the album ”Ride”, an album where her music has taken a new path and where she presents a more sincere and true side of herself and her artistry.

Besides her musical career, Loreen has been committed to human rights projects, among others with UNICEF and the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. Loreen will also perform at the 2018 Polar Music Prize Ceremony to honour both Laureates, Dr Ahmad Sarmast of ANIM, and Metallica.

Songlines is a music project for young refugees by KulturUngdom, Jeunesses Musicales and Sveriges Ensamkommandes Förening with funding from Arvsfonden. In 2017, Polar Music Prize Laureate Sting donated his prize money of 1 million SEK to Songlines. Two artists from the organisation will perform live at Polar Tech, Ehsan Yaghoobi (piano) and Mohammad Zare (spoken word).

Emma is the co-founder and CEO of Welcome – an app that changes the ways newcomers become integrated in the local society. Previous to Welcome, Emma has worked with Business Development at Schibsted and as Operations Manager at Uber.


Dr Ahmad Sarmast is the founder of The Afghanistan National Institute of Music, one of the Polar Music Prize Laureates of 2018. At Polar Tech, Dr Sarmast will give a keynote presentation on how ANIM provides an inclusive music education to the girls, boys and disadvantaged (orphans and street vendors) children of Afghanistan.

Sophia is an Executive in Residence at Atomico. Based in Stockholm, she advises founders on communications and marketing strategy and scaling their brand. As an active player in Stockholm’s startup scene, Sophia also helps with sourcing and the evaluation of new investment opportunities. Sophia was the Global Marketing Director at Spotify from 2007-2014, where she built out a strong consumer brand from scratch, while launching and marketing the service globally. Today she is an active angel investor and advisor to startups, and serves as a Board Director at Avanza, Kindred Group and non-profit organization Race For The Baltic. She is also a co-founder of non-profit foundation and has invested in start up’s such as Tictail, Bokio, DigiExam, Brighten, and Sana Labs. Sophia believes in working with people who share the same set of values and want to improve the world through innovation.

Fares Hamed is a co-founder of Changers Hub and A&R at Pistol Mgmt, a music management & publishing company. Changers Hub democratises success by evening out the odds for young adults of reaching it. Changers Hub is an innovative entrepreneur hub with two locations in Stockholm. The goal is to create a more equal society where all young people have the same chance to succeed with their ideas. Changers Hub offers co-working space, courses, lectures, coaching, networking events and an innovation studio. Changers Hub started late 2015 and has today over 1000 members which makes it one of the biggest hubs in Sweden.

Fares combines his experiences with his passion for music creation as A&R manager at Pistol Mgmt where he strives to reach out to not yet discovered and unexpected talents, and to enable access to knowledge, inspiration and networks that young talents need to develop and grow. This especially in areas lacking of platforms for talent to grow.

Joel is the founder and CEO of Sana Labs, an artificial intelligence company that applies recent breakthroughs in deep learning to personalize education. Using deep neural networks, Sana’s algorithms recommend educational content based on each student’s learning patterns.

The interdisciplinary team at Sana Labs includes leading engineers and scientist with backgrounds ranging from Imperial College and CERN to Google and Spotify. Working with some of the world’s largest education companies, the Sana technology is transforming how millions of people learn.

An enterprising child, Joel taught himself to code in C at age 13 and founded his first company, a video recommendation technology, at 16. Recently, Joel was awarded ”Super- talent of the year” by Veckans Affärer and “Entrepreneur of the Year” by SEB for his work on the Sana technology.

Chairman of Polar Music Prize Award Committee and of SKAP – The Swedish Society of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. Alfons will host the Polar Talks program.


A panel about variation, inclusion and access to performing arts, based on the work of ShareMusic & Performing Arts.

ShareMusic & Performing Arts is an arts organisation, staging cutting edge performances and initiating artistic processes throughout Sweden and internationally. The organisation facilitates and leads courses in performing arts with the fundamental idea to work towards a society where all human beings should have the opportunity to express themselves as artists in a world where difference is seen as valuable. World-renowned artists share the stage equally with people of different abilities.

In 2017 ShareMusic was named as one of Europe’s best practices within inclusive performing arts by the international project Un-Label.

Sophia is the CEO & Artistic Director at ShareMusic & Performing Arts, she will moderate the Variation panel.

Peter is a musician, member of the electroduo Parasonic together with Paul Bothén.

Jesper Nordin is a leading Swedish composer, and one who has garnered considerable international acclaim in recent years. His music, with its powerful emotional impact and traces of traditional Swedish folk music, rock music and improvised music, is broadcast and performed throughout the world, by conductors like Esa-Pekka Salonen, Daniel Harding and Kent Nagano and musicians like Martin Fröst and Diego Tosi. His orchestral pieces have been played and/or commissioned by such orchestras as the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonieorchester Basel and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, to name a few. Jesper will also present his app Gestrument: the technology Gestrument (gesture-instrument) expands the possibilities and lowers the threshold to music interaction. Gestrument is an invitation for anyone to enter the world of music. By allowing for different types of gesture input, users can play directly on the “DNA of music”. This allows new groups to access their own voice and favourite music in completely new ways.

Petra Assio is the president of the student union at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. The union works with educational issues, but it also raises questions about social life and equality for the students it represents, approximately one thousand. Petra has during her 1,5 years as president been most passionate about broader recruitment, diversity and inclusion. Petra finishes her studies to become a music teacher this summer, profiling in music and media production.


A panel about the benefits of both teaching and playing music in a group, how it leads to individual progress from an early age, and to a more compassionate world.

Josephine Forsman is a Swedish drummer, songwriter and instructor. A founding member of rock band Sahara Hotnights, she started playing drums at the age of 10, and has toured around the world since then, releasing albums, gaining fans and earning gold records and Grammy nominations.

In 2012 Josephine hosted the music series Låtarna som Förändrade Musiken (Songs that changed music) where she interviewed and played with performers like Tommy Ramone (The Ramones) and Michelle Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas). In 2017 she produced and hosted the Swedish music radio series P4 Rock. She is currently a music instructor at the Loud Program – a non profit music organization based in Los Angeles providing middle school students with music education – writing music, doing session work and marketing.

Josephine Forsman is using her experience of forming a band at an early age and her work with The Loud Program to highlight the importance of music groups.

Robert Eriksson has played the drums since the age of 13. He is self-taught – ”for better or worse” – as he says. Robert played in several bands in his teens in the 80s, and started touring as a drum technician with Swedish band Entombed at age 21. The year after, 1994, he became one of the founding members of legendary Swedish rock band The Hellacopters. The band played and toured all over the world until 2008 when they first split up. Robert continued though to play as a freelance musician with several Swedish acts such as Lars Winnerbäck, Johan Johansson, Perssons Pack, Sylvain Sylvain. The Hellacopters reunited in 2016 and are playing together again since. Robert combines his musical career with working at Black Sheep in Solna in the north of Stockholm, a house for youth & culture offering recording studios, rehearsing spaces, art, dance and photo studios  to teenagers.

Jack Jönsson is a 13 year old musician, he studies music and singing at musical high school Kulturama in Stockholm. Jack composes, sings, plays the guitar and drums in punk band Jönssonligan. The band will soon release their first single on Wild Kingdom/Sound Pollution.

Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is the lead singer of The Hives. It’s nearly twenty years ago that The Hives released their debut album, Barely Legal, and set the music world on its head. In the two decades since, the band has so far released five albums, sold millions of records, received several awards and toured the world with mind blowing live shows.

“As a kid, I used to have this feeling that you shouldn’t be in a band for more than three records,” Almqvist says with a laugh. “I didn’t think any band had made more than three good records consecutively, but I’ve changed my mind now.”

Sofia Lilja is working as a artistcoach and mental trainer, and used to be the vocal coach on the Swedish Idol on TV4 for nine seasons. She is an inspiring and sought after lecturer in the field of achievement. How we can overcome our fear, and deliver on the top of our ability, with a sustainable lifestyle. Sofia is regularly hired by artists and actors as a stage coach, focusing on overcoming stage frights and to maximise performance.

Sofia also works for organizations and companies to strengthen self-leadership. For both executives and employees, with behavioral focus. Often in processes of change She also uses music as tools to strengthen teamwork and participation in the workplace. An extra popular concept includes a choir workshop, where voice, body and emotions, increased creativity, innovation and motivation.

Saxophonist Linn Persson works mainly with contemporary art music as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral musician. She has been part of Stockholms Saxofonkvartett since 2014, playing the bariton saxophone, the quartet has toured in Iran, Russia, Ukraine and South Africa to name a few. Linn has a bachelor’s degree and a soloist diploma from the Royal College of Music in Stockholm and a master’s degree from the Royal College of Music i London. Linn has been a soloist in several orchestras such as Göteborg Wind Orchestra and Storströms Kammarensemble. She has also played with Kungliga hovkapellet, Gageego!, Blåsarsymfonikerna and Norrköping Symfoniorkester and at the Ung Nordisk Musik festival in Oslo and Malmö. Linn is part of the Unga tankar om Musik network since 2016.

Lars Ulrich from Metallica will be interviewed by Swedish music journalist Jan Gradvall.

Dr Ahmad Sarmast, founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, will be interviewed by journalist Lasse Bengtsson.