Queen awards new £57million centre of excellence her highest honour – as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire sets global benchmark for music and drama education and performance
Birmingham’s role as a national centre for excellence in performing arts has been taken to a new level with the opening of a £57million complex which has been labeled one world’s greatest music colleges and concert centres.
The awesome new Birmingham Conservatoire – part of Birmingham City University –boasts five public performance spaces, including a 500-seat concert hall, a 150-seat recital hall and a 100-seat organ studio. There’s also The Lab, a cutting edge, flexible black-box studio and the first permanent jazz space in any UK conservatoire – the 80-seat Eastside Jazz Club. Alongside private rehearsal rooms and dedicated teaching spaces for musicians, the five-storey high building has more than 70 teaching practice rooms.
Led by its principal, Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, the new Conservatoire has also been recognised by the Queen who has granted it a Royal title – which means the music and drama academy is being renamed the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, joining a select list of performing arts institutions bearing the Royal name.
Internationally renowned cellist and conductor Prof Lloyd Webber said: “With our new name and suitably magnificent new home we intend to set the global benchmark for music and drama education and performance.
“This is a hugely significant moment for music and drama education in the UK. The Royal title bears testimony to the value the Conservatoire rightly places on the importance of the performing arts in all our lives.”
Birmingham City University vice-chancellor, Professor Philip Plowden, added: “The Royal title not only indicates the Birmingham Conservatoire’s national and international repute but also its transformative impact on people’s lives.
“The Royal title has been achieved as a result of substantial efforts from Prof Lloyd Webber and his dedicated team over the past year and we are all extremely proud of this extraordinary accolade that will be celebrated within the university, across the city and beyond.”
The protected Royal titles are conferred sparingly, and all applicants must satisfy several strict conditions. The bestowment follows the Earl of Wessex becoming the Conservatoire’s first Royal Patron in March 2016.
The historic Conservatoire’s new state-of-the-art home – which sits proudly and confidently next to Millennium Point – is the first purpose-built music college to be constructed in the UK since 1987 and the only one in the country which has been specifically designed to cater for the demands of the digital age.
Prof Lloyd Webber said: “The new Conservatoire emerges during a difficult time for arts funding and music education, meaning our role in training the world’s next great musicians and actors is more vital than ever. Personally, I don’t think there will be another built in the UK. Of course, a building is only as effective as the people inside it and my team and I will continue our work to ensure that the future arts industry is not dominated by the wealthy elite.”
Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and constructed by Galliford Try using 400,000 bricks, the main performance venues are comprised of independent ‘box in box’ structures and built on dedicated acoustic foundation bearings for optimum noise control. Double and triple-glazed windows have been used to achieve the high level of acoustic requirements, supported by bespoke timber panelling throughout the building.
The new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s inaugural season will begin on Sunday 11 March 2018 when the new concert hall will host a Royal Gala concert performed by the Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.
Professor Plowden said: “The Conservatoire has nurtured the talent of many household names, including singer-songwriter Laura Mvula, conductor Mike Seal and actor Nicol Williamson. Our fantastic new facility will ensure we can equip future performers with the skills they need to meet the demands of today’s fast-paced creative economy.
“However, this is not just a state-of-the-art home for developing the next generation of talented and versatile performers, but it will also enrich and deepen the university experience for all our students, who will be able to make full use of its facilities and enjoy the rich programme of events planned.
“The new Birmingham Conservatoire is a significant investment for the University, the city and, indeed, the country as a whole, and one in which will certainly set a new global benchmark for music and drama education and performance.”
The Conservatoire has nearly 70 formal partnerships with some of the world’s most prestigious performing arts institutions, including the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, National Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Paris and Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
The new building is a joint project by Millennium Point and Birmingham City Council.