The new Birmingham Conservatoire has been officially opened, with its Principal, Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, claiming it will be the “last-ever” performing arts institution of its kind to be built in the UK.
Part of Birmingham City University, the £57 million Birmingham Conservatoire boasts five new public performance spaces, including a 500-seat concert hall, a 150-seat recital hall and a 100-seat organ studio.
Furthermore, the new building includes The Lab, a cutting edge, completely flexible black-box studio, and the first permanent jazz space in any UK conservatoire – the 80-seat Eastside Jazz Club.
The historic Conservatoire’s new state-of-the-art home 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.
At the launch, Birmingham Conservatoire Principal, Professor Julian Lloyd Webber noted: “The new Birmingham 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. Our impressive programme of learning and widening music participation benefits thousands of children, young people and their families from diverse communities across England, and our new home will become the central hub of all of these crucial activities.”
Alongside private rehearsal rooms and dedicated teaching spaces for musicians, the five-storey high building has more than 70 teaching practice rooms.
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.
In addition to this, double and triple-glazed windows have been used to achieve the onerous acoustic requirements, supported by bespoke timber panelling throughout the building.
Internationally renowned cellist and conductor, Professor Julian Lloyd Webber, who took up the position as Birmingham Conservatoire Principal in 2015 said: “We are looking forward to welcoming our new and returning students in the next few weeks, as well as launching our public programme, which will formally commence with our opening season next year. The inaugural season will begin on Sunday 11 March 2018 in our brand new concert hall with a Royal Gala concert performed by the Birmingham Conservatoire Symphony Orchestra and conducted by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s (CBSO) Music Director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.”
With a history dating back to 1859, Birmingham Conservatoire is one of the leading music and drama academies in the country, being the third highest ranked UK conservatoire for music in the Guardian University Guide 2018.
Ahead of the launch, Professor Philip Plowden, Vice-Chancellor, Birmingham City University, said: “Birmingham 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 enrichen 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 also a world class venue for the city, that will strengthen our region’s enviable cultural offering. Birmingham has always been proud of its role as a national centre for excellence in performing arts, and the creative industries are growing faster here than anywhere else in the country – employing around 34,000 local people – and our new facility will bolster this further. 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 new Conservatoire is located alongside Millennium Point, adjacent to Jennens Road in the Eastside region of the Midlands city. The development has been made possible in partnership with Millennium Point and Birmingham City Council.
At the launch, alongside tours of the new building and performances by current Birmingham Conservatoire students, guests were presented with a bottle of Principal’s Ale, a bespoke beer created by Wye Valley Brewery to mark the opening.
Positioned on its parent institution’s City Centre Campus, Birmingham Conservatoire now sits just metres away from Birmingham City University’s wealth of media and recording facilities, including four TV studios and Europe’s largest static green screen.