New Scottish national centre for music confirmed

A new entrance and foyer, with terraces outside

The Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) has welcomed the decision by the City of Edinburgh Council’s Finance and Resources Committee to approve the restoration of the iconic Thomas Hamilton building on Calton Hill as a world-class centre for music education and public performance.  

The RSHPT’s updated proposal, submitted to the city council in September 2021 and confirmed on 7 October, brings together a network of partner organisations, alongside St Mary’s Music School, including the Benedetti Foundation and IMPACT (International Music and Performing Arts Charitable Trust) Scotland with a shared vision of creating a National Centre for Music as a new platform for musical collaborations, both within the building, online and out in the wider community.  

The bid was backed by an expanded gift from philanthropist Carol Colburn Grigor and Dunard Fund totalling £55m to cover the capital costs and support the future maintenance of the Thomas Hamilton building. 

William Gray Muir, Chairman of the Royal High School Preservation Trust, said, ‘We are thrilled that our shared vision for a new world-class centre for music education and public performance can move forward at last.  

‘The project has brought together an unprecedented range of partners, all of whom recognise collaboration as the key to realising Scotland’s potential as a world leader in music education, and creating an entirely new way for the nation to engage with and enjoy classical music.  

‘We remain enormously grateful to the Trustees of Dunard Fund for their unfailing foresight and generosity towards the Royal High School Preservation Trust.’  

Dr Kenneth Taylor, Headteacher at St Mary’s Music School, added, ‘This is a truly exciting day for St Mary’s Music School. Not only does it bring us a huge step closer to having a new home for the school; it also places us at the centre of a project that will deliver and enhance world-class music education for people from all backgrounds across Scotland in a setting that will be second to none. 

‘We would like to congratulate everyone who has made this possible, including the Councillors who have recognised the value that the proposal will deliver for Edinburgh and the whole of Scotland. We are also enormously grateful for the ongoing support of our stakeholders in the world of arts and education, as well as the people of Edinburgh who have backed us warmly over the past five years.’  

Nicola Benedetti, Founder and Artistic Director, Benedetti Foundation said, ‘Music, when created, played and listened to with integrity, allows us to strip away all that separates us and urges us to see and feel what unites us. The National Centre for Music presents us with an unprecedented opportunity to enrich the cultural life of Scotland and to serve as a beacon of true 21st century music education for the world to see.  

‘Thanks to the generosity and vision of Carol Colburn Grigor and Dunard Fund, we have the means, as well as the collective will and dedication from all walks of Scottish life, to realise a revolutionary vision. We are entering a rare and beautiful moment in Scotland’s history, where a phenomenal combination of individuals and organisations are tirelessly working together to achieve the highest possible inclusivity and excellence in music, all equally committed to enriching our national story and legacy.

‘Furthermore, we have a new governmental commitment to free instrumental tuition for Scotland’s young people. We are not working uphill and, when it comes to Arts and Culture, this is not to be taken for granted. We must embrace this moment.’

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