Kirklees Music School may have lost £300,000 of council funding but it’s still going strong – and has a catchy new name.
From the new academic year the school, which provides music lessons for 9,000 youngsters, is to be known as Musica Kirklees, an umbrella title for the family of music centres and youth ensembles in the area – and taken from the Italian word for music.
Thom Meredith, principal of the school, said: “We’ve gone through a lot of changes.
“We are now quite a different organisation from what we were, and we feel to be leaner. But we are still here, going strong, that’s why we wanted a new name.”
Last year the school, which is a charitable trust, announced it would slash the number of music centres in Kirklees from seven to five, and staff contracts were changed in order to make savings, with teachers, many of whom are part time, paid on an hourly rate.
The turnover of the school, which has a teaching staff of 60, reduced from £1.9m a year to £1.6m. It now operates music centres in Batley, the Holme Valley, Shelley, Colne Valley and Mirfield – after closing the Huddersfield and Cleckheaton centres.
However, funding from Arts Council England means that Musica Kirklees can continue offering whole class instrumental tuition to 6,000 children in Kirklees. It is one of 122 Music Education Hubs to provide such a programme. A further 3,000 pupils receive individual or small group tuition paid for by parents.
The Huddersfield area has a strong musical tradition and Thom believes the school has played – and continues to play – a major part in this.
“We still get a lot of children going on to study music at conservatoires and universities. People look at us as a school that is doing well,” he said.
And funding cuts won’t stop future developments, including a project that aims to show the benefits of music education to children’s social and academic development.
Thom added: “We have just got some funding for an Arts Council project called In Tune, which will provide tuition and experience of composition and electronic music, using iPads, in a primary school.
“We want to see if we can chart the progress of the young people, both academically and socially, as well as musically. The year-long project will record the benefits of putting music tuition into schools. We want something close to home to say there is proof.”
Thom is keen to continue breaking down barriers to music education. He said: “We’ve got a lot more going on now in terms of rock and pop. We are working in schools with ukuleles and samba drumming, trying to provide an entrance into music for as many as possible.”
Musica Kirklees will also be launching a new Kirklees Festival of Music for schoolchildren – a non-competitive week of performance for all ages. The first will take place in late June 2017 but Thom is hoping that it will go on to become an annual event.
Kirklees Music School has weathered many storms over the years. Its very existence was the result of Kirklees Council pulling out of music service provision back in 1992. But it is clearly a survivor and a trailblazer for what music has to offer children.
Thom added: “We all want to invest in our children and give them the best opportunities. Getting them involved with music is about them learning to apply themselves, practice and work with other people. They build up confidence by performing in public, all skills that are beneficial later in life.”