From freelance tuba player fresh out of college to head of music service for Services For Education – Stuart Birnie is bringing music into the lives of 38,000 children every week in Birmingham.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
I graduated from Birmingham School of Music in 1991 and became a freelance tuba player working with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Big Band, British Tuba Quartet and Royal Ballet Sinfonia. I started a teaching career with Birmingham Music Service and various other Midlands music services. I went on to teach tuba at Birmingham Conservatoire for 12 years and teaching then took over my life – I became an advanced skills teacher followed by head of whole class instrumental teaching for the Music Service. I became head of the Music Service in 2018. I’m passionate about the children of Birmingham having access to the best musical opportunities.
IT’S WHAT I DO
I am in a very lucky position to meet regularly with many of our fantastic head teachers from around the city. We have 218 instrumental and vocal staff teaching 38,000 children every week and offer more than 60 ensembles/choirs for children to access completely free of charge. We aim to offer all pupils the opportunity to perform in authentic venues and work closely with Symphony Hall, Elgar Hall (University of Birmingham), Bradshaw Hall (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) and other local venues. We have a fund-raising and marketing department and a lot of my time is taken up with meetings and writing bids for specific work in settings across Birmingham. We fund raise to help deliver work in lots of new areas – special schools, community outreach choirs and nursery schools with our fantastic Soundtots programme. I sit on many boards including the Cultural Education Partnership with other arts leads from around the city. We have a vibrant working group of hub partners in Birmingham – CBSO, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Quench Arts, MAC Makes Music, BCMG, Ex Cathedra and the BCU. We are also part of West Midlands Music, a collective of all 14 of the region’s Music Services and together we’re about to deliver our first major project, Big Month of Music in March. It will celebrate children’s musical achievements through region-wide events like the Big Sing at Symphony Hall and a virtual celebration called Big Play, as well as concerts and gigs locally.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE
To reach an even wider population and provide music education for those who are not lucky enough to have it. One area that the Music Service is developing is inclusion and working with those who have additional needs – both children and adults.
Starting my teaching career as a brass teacher for Birmingham Music Service fresh out of college and now heading up the service under its current name, Services For Education. A personal success was performing at the Musikverein concert hall in Vienna with the CBSO under Sir Simon Rattle in the Towards the Millennium tour.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
To never expect that everyone in my team knows what I know. Therefore I should share my thoughts more and communicate clearly my vision.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM
Its people and communities along with the wealth of performance spaces.
Walking in the countryside with those who are close to me.