Royal Birmingham Conservatoire shortlisted in the Times Higher Education Awards

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s new state of the art home has made it to the Times Higher Education Awards shortlist, announced today.

RBC competes for the Excellence and Innovation in the Arts award along with University of Central Lancashire, Coventry University, University of Hull, Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities, and University of St Andrews.

The 500-seater Bradshaw Hall at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire – ‘acoustics that make a quiet conversation easily audible from 30 metres away’.

I’m pleased to see yet another credit for the Conservatoire. Over the past 18 months we’ve seen a string of announcements (some of which have featured on Thoroughly Good) that illustrate a significant and positive shift for the Conservatoire.

Moments like this shortlisting reminds me that the Conservatoire’s external PR has been strong, exploiting every opportunity to reinforce the transformation of Birmingham’s higher education provision for the performing arts. It’s not only that the PR is strong; the storytelling underpinning that PR has been strong too.

It’s a strategy which goes further than merely alerting people as to what’s going on. The strategy leaves people like me with a perception of what I will find when I do (finally) get to look around the new facilities – a sense of anticipation and curiosity.

The finalists for each of the THE Awards will be announced in November. 

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: Inspiring Musicians Since 1886

Next week sees the first concerts in Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Concert Hall. Every Tuesday from 9th January, weekly hour-long lunchtime recitals will feature musicians from Radio 3’s New Generation Artists.

This is the latest in a series of big announcements coming from the newly minted Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, announcements that project an air optimism and excitement about a city which has in recent years upped the ante in reasserting itself. The story that’s being told now is one of reinvestment, redevelopment, and in part, preservation.

And since the opening of the newly built Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (replacing the concrete carbuncle in the centre of the city) that same story of transformation can be told about music training in Brum.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, opened on 7th September 2017

A new book by former graduate, professor and Fellow of the Birmingham School of Music Christopher Morley, provides a thorough history of the institution, documenting its various homes, and its present day range of activities.

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire: Inspiring Musicians Since 1886 published by Elliott and Thompson oozes pride in the institution. It also celebrates the talent which has helped power the institution throughout its 121 year history, a history that doesn’t get talked about very often.

Careful picture editing has contributed to a striking sense of drama, helping position the conservatoire as a diverse and inclusive institution.

Amid some of the politically reductive discussions about the value of higher education, Morley’s survey is timely. At the same time as stating relevance of itself, and of specialist music education, the book also illustrates how such conservatoires depend on composers, conductors, and professional orchestral musicians to make up its faculty.

These institutions don’t exist in a vacuum. In places like Birmingham they’re helping reassert a city’s cultural identity. And the effect is surprisingly infectious.

To talk of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire today, must acknowledge the interdependencies with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sir Simon Rattle, pianist Peter Donohoe, and composer Granville Bantock to name a few.

The cultural ecosystem that these connections helped create project Birmingham as an exciting destination, one that has weight and an infectious sense of self-confidence about itself.



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Sowetan musicians to open Aronowitz International Viola Competition

Three teenagers from a deprived township in South Africa are travelling to Birmingham this week to open the prestigious Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition

Kwanda Buthelezi, Mbali Phato, and Njabulo Nxumalo from Soweto will be the focus of the first event in the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival, at Birmingham City University’s new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire starting at the end of this week.

The three students UK visit  is the result of a collaboration between the Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire also rather pleasingly called ARCO.

ARCO supports 24 strings students in South Africa selected in weekly instrumental Skype lessons, given by academics, current students and alumni of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

The second Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition features 26 young violists aged 21 from 20 countries compete for £5,000 in prize money, plus a recording contract with Champs Hill Records and a slate of recitals as part of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Concert Series.

The final of the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition is on Friday 24 November at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Concert Hall.

The Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival runs from Saturday 18 until Friday 24 November at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, Birmingham City University. For more information and tickets, visit the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire website.