Kenneth Taylor: St Mary’s should mvoe to old Royal High

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JUNE is always among the busiest in the St Mary’s Music School calendar. With end-of-year examinations behind them, pupils are working hard to put
 finishing touches to preparation
 for a short season of public concerts that allow them to showcase the full range of musical talent at the school, including orchestra, choirs, jazz, traditional, brass and strings.

This year we are particularly excited that the occasion of our Summer Concert – Ancient Airs and Dances – at the Queen’s Hall last night afforded an opportunity to learn more about the Royal High School Preservation Trust’s (RHSPT) plans to enable St Mary’s Music School to move into the former Royal High School building on Calton Hill.

We are working closely with the RHSPT to explore the opportunities that the iconic Thomas Hamilton building affords to provide a new home for the school, and these will be a feature of displays to audience members after the concert. The proposal is immensely exciting, not only for St Mary’s Music School, but for music and culture across Edinburgh and further afield.

St Mary’s Music School is one of the UK’s leading music schools. It is the only independent specialist music school in Scotland and also educates the choristers of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. Thanks to the Aided Places support that pupils receive from the Scottish Government, young musicians from all parts of Scotland and further afield have access to a world-class full-time music and academic education here in the heart of Scotland’s beautiful capital city.

Pupils, aged nine to 19 gain a place based on musical ability, aptitude and potential, regardless of their personal circumstances. Parents pay a contribution according to their means, making for an inclusive, successful, vibrant and supportive community. There are currently 80 pupils and demand for places is high. Alumni include the international artists, pianist Steven Osborne, conductor Garry Walker, composers Helen Grime and David Horne and well-known comedian and television presenter Alexander Armstrong, to name just a few.

Moving to the old Royal High building would enable the school to continue to sustain and grow the range of opportunities it provides – including our vital local and national outreach programme – to many more young musicians. It would also give us the performance space we have always aspired to, while providing a welcome addition to Edinburgh’s existing range of rehearsal and concert venues. The prospect of this fitting new home for St Mary’s Music School is truly inspiring. Please visit www.rhspt.org to find out more.

Dr Kenneth Taylor is headteacher at St Mary’s Music School