Birmingham receives a big gift for education

Birmingham receives a big gift for education


norman lebrecht

February 01, 2017

It’s the Mirga effect.



press release:

Herefordshire-based philanthropists Clive and Sylvia Richards have made a £250,000 gift to support the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s extensive educational programme over the next five years.

The gift has been made in celebration of the appointment of the orchestra’s new Music Director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla – ‘conducting’s next superstar’ in the words of The Telegraph – whose initial concerts with the orchestra have attracted universal acclaim.  It will enable Mirga to play a leading role in the future development of the orchestra’s educational programme, and will contribute to the cost of around 30 concerts per year for young people, an extensive programme of musical activities in schools, and the orchestra’s work with gifted and talented young musicians which includes the CBSO Youth Orchestra and the CBSO Youth and Children’s Choruses.

The first instalment of the gift was made as Mirga conducted schools’ concerts at Symphony Hall, Birmingham for 8,000 local children on 30 and 31 January. 




  • Barbara Forbes says:

    That donation more than covers the 25% cut in funding which the cash-strapped city council had to make in the last budget round. Even though I would like the arts to be publicly funded rather than be reliant on philanthropy as in the USA, I am very grateful to these donors who have ensured at least the medium-term future of the very valuable education programme. But the concert programmes in Birmingham are struggling – I don’t know so much about the CBSO concerts, but the international series is now performed in front of smaller audiences as the upper two tiers and the choir seats are not on sale, so Symphony Hall now seems rather empty.

    • Stephen Maddock says:

      Thanks Barbara. Just to be clear: This very generous gift from Clive and Sylvia is £250K over five years (i.e. £50K per year) – our cut from BCC was £228K (25%) from our annual grant. So we still have lots of work to do! Luckily though our audiences are excellent at present (our strongest sales for more than 5 years) – this week Mirga will have conducted two sold out subscription concerts plus 4 sold out schools concerts, and we have several more sold out concerts this month and next.

      • Barbara Forbes says:

        Sorry, I didn’t do the arithmetic! But it is something, and that is better than nothing. (And I am not in the business of criticising the Council, as they are really strapped for cash.) However I am sorry about the decision to close off parts of the Hall for the international concerts. In my opinion, the choir box seats are the best in the building!

    • Halldor says:

      Mirga’s concert on Sunday was sold out, from what I could see, and the crowd were extremely enthusiastic. The CBSO’s audiences are traditionally a loyal bunch, who get behind the orchestra’s music directors. The rival International Series, with different artists in every concert, doesn’t have the same kind of following and generally seems to struggle a bit by comparison.

      • Barbara Forbes says:

        Well, I don’t want to risk the wrath of the CBSO followers, but I really love the international series for its variety and the chance to hear different performers.

  • Richard Shrewsbury, Head of Learning and Participation, Birmingham Conservatoire says:

    Great news for the CBSO Learning and Participation team and young people across Birmingham! All enhancing young people’s access to world class music education in the UK’s second city, pleased that my daughter is able to access this too. Birmingham is developing such a great musical offer!