Mirga backs new music school in Brum

Mirga backs new music school in Brum


norman lebrecht

October 04, 2017

Julian Lloyd Webber recently wangled a royal title for his Birmingham Conservatoire. The city orchestra has struck back with a grass-roots school to improve music skills, back by its charismatic music director.

press release:

City Learning Trust, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sandwell Council announce consultation for a new specialist Music School

The City Learning Trust is consulting on its proposal to open a new specialist music school in Sandwell, West Midlands, in association with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, with ambitions to establish a global centre of excellence for music education.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) is one of the world’s great orchestras, renowned internationally for its distinctive combination of artistic excellence and deep engagement with the local community.  The orchestra performs at the most prestigious international concert halls, as well as in its home venue – Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

Reflecting its ambition to offer access to world-class musical opportunities for everyone, the CBSO is working with Sandwell Council and the City Learning Trust – one of the most successful multi-academy trusts in the country – to submit a free school application as part of the next wave of applications to the Department for Education (DfE).

Subject to approval from the DfE, the new school would open in Sandwell in September 2020, coinciding with celebrations marking the CBSO’s centenary.  It would cater for students aged 7 to 19, from primary through to secondary and sixth form. In addition to the normal academic curriculum, the school would specialise in classical, instrumental and choral music.  Every child would have the opportunity to learn at least one musical instrument, and students would also benefit from regular projects with CBSO musicians. The school’s most talented young instrumentalists and singers would have access to opportunities through the CBSO’s extensive talent development programme, which includes youth and training orchestras and two youth choruses.

Stephen Maddock OBE, Chief Executive of the CBSO said: “The CBSO is committed to supporting and developing the musical abilities and interests of children and young people from early years groups to university students. We currently do this through an extensive – and internationally admired – programme of opportunities ranging from workshops by individual musicians in schools, through pathways to support and develop outstanding talent, to orchestral concerts for young audiences at Symphony Hall.  Our partnership with the City Learning Trust is a logical extension of this programme, and the proposed new school would give us the opportunity to further use our musical expertise to support young people’s achievement and aspiration.”

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, the CBSO’s acclaimed Music Director added “This school would give young people in Sandwell the chance to be inspired by our musicians throughout their education. I am thrilled that the CBSO is involved with the project”.


  • Eric says:

    “Struck back” – do you not think that all these groups are all essentially working together for the benefit of local children? It’s not a competition.

    • Halldor says:

      Precisely. The major musical institutions in Birmingham work collaboratively together, have done for years. London-based commentators tend not to comprehend this, which is why they say silly, blinkered things: like implying, for instance, that building a halfway-decent concert hall in the capital would be a backward step.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    What, no carefully sculpted picture of lavishly-coiffed Mirga single-handedly opening the gates of paradise to all those she meets? I am disappointed.

    • Halldor says:

      Have you tried going to any of her concerts yet? Thought not. Still, I’m sure you make equally facetious comments about the standard promotional images used by male music directors? You do, right?

      • Theodore McGuiver says:

        Absolutely. I find both utterly risible.

      • Derek says:


        I realise this is not the forum for reviews and do not wish to impose but I wondered if you attended the CBSO/Mirga concert on 5th October (Mozart/Widmann/Brahms) and if so, what you thought of the performance of the Brahms 1st Symphony in particular?
        I understand that you are very experienced in CBSO performances and would be interested in your view.
        On my part, I have heard a couple of tremendous CBSO performances of the Brahms 1st in recent seasons. Last night it seemed uneven and Mirga slowed the tempo significantly in one or two quiet passages (almost as if to spring into the next big tune) with the result that it ebbed and flowed and lost impact. I felt the ensemble was uncertain on occasion as well and instead of feeling inspired I was disappointed.

        • Anton Bruckner says:

          It is clear that MGT is making her first steps in mainstream repertoire and is extremely overated due to PR hype. She may or may not debelop into a good conductor. We will know in a couple of decades.

          • Derek says:

            Thank you for your observation.
            It is true that she is relatively inexperienced and it is so easy to overlook that. It makes sense to wait and see how she develops.

  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    Firstly, if it is Sandwell, it’s not in Birmingham. The CBSO is of course the orchestra for the whole region, not just BIrmingham.
    Secondly, there has been a music-specialising secondary school in Birmingham for about the last three years. It is a small independent school with music as 20% of the curriculum.

  • Petros Linardos says:

    Does Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s level of involvement in this project justify the headline?

    • Steve P says:

      NL has a particularly soft spot for the underrepresented female conductors, so, yes, a parade and headline are about right.

  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    And I do wish people would treat her like a grown-up and use her full name, instead of infantilising her as a female. Do we talk about Andris, Daniel, Simon, Antonio, Yannick….?

    • Derek says:

      As her full name is not easy to spell or pronounce, for some, and she is readily identified by first name then headlines and commentators are sure to resort to Mirga as shorthand.

    • Derek says:

      This happens with Yannick regularly as well, for similar reasons (identifiable by first name, long surname). If you search the archives on this site you will see several examples.

    • Graeme Hall says:



    • Chris C says:


      I have to confess to being a member of the first-name school – IN SOME CASES – Simon, André, Andris, Sir Mark (Elder), and so on, and even Mirga (and I do have tenuous connections to the CBSO)

    • Chris C says:

      I almost forgot – Sakari