Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is a music school, drama school and concert venue in Birmingham, England. It provides professional education in music, acting and related disciplines up to postgraduate level,[1] and is a centre for scholarly research and doctorate-level study in areas such as performance practice, composition, musicology and music history.[2] It is the only one of the nine conservatoires in the United Kingdom that is also a faculty of a university, in this case Birmingham City University. It is a member of the Federation of Drama Schools.[3]

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
General information
TypeSchool of Music and Acting
AddressJennens Road, Birmingham, B4, United Kingdom
Elevation122 m (400 ft) AOD
Construction startedAugust 2015
CompletedAugust 2017
OpenedSeptember 2017
Cost£57 million
OwnerBirmingham City University
Height26.4 metres (87 ft)
Technical details
MaterialPale Buff Brick
Floor count1 (UG) 5(OG)
Floor area10,350 m2 (111,406 sq ft)
Design and construction
Architecture firmFeilden Clegg Bradley
Services engineerHoare Lea
Civil engineerWhite Young Green
Main contractorGalliford Try
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire
Former names
Birmingham School of Music
Birmingham Conservatoire
MottoInspiring Musicians since 1886
Established1886 (as Birmingham School of Music)
1989 (as Birmingham Conservatoire)
2017 (as Royal Birmingham Conservatoire)
PresidentSir Simon Rattle
Vice-presidentPeter Donohoe
PrincipalJulian Lloyd Webber
Administrative staff
AffiliationsBirmingham City University
Conservatoires UK
European Association of Conservatoires
Federation of Drama Schools

The conservatoire houses a 500-seat concert hall and other performance spaces including a recital hall, organ studio and a dedicated jazz club. It was founded in 1886 as the Birmingham School of Music, the first music school to be established in England outside London.[4] Birmingham is also home to two other concert venues – Town Hall and Symphony Hall. As a result, Birmingham Conservatoire experiences a constant stream of distinguished visiting soloists and tutors.

A conservatoire education is heavily weighted towards practical learning and performance, and provides the opportunity for each student to use the specialist professional training on offer to develop a career in music. Students are able to take part in collaborations made available by links with the major concert venues in the city, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO).


The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire was founded in 1886 as the Birmingham School of Music, grouping together into a single entity the various musical education activities of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.[4] The institute had conducted informal musical instruction from its foundation in 1854, and its predecessor organisation the Birmingham Philosophical Institution had held music classes since 1800, but it was in 1859 that music was established as a formal part of the institute's curriculum.[5] In that year singing classes were begun which – after some initial struggles – by 1863 had 110 students and were performing regular concerts.[6] In 1876 a proposal was heard at the institute's council that further classes should be established on the model of the Leipzig Conservatoire, and that year the composer Alfred Gaul began teaching classes in the theory of music.[7] In 1882 instrumental classes were started, attracting 458 students on their first year, and a separate music section created within the institute.[8] This was established as the separate "School of Music" in 1886, with William Stockley as its first principal [9] The school's second principal Granville Bantock was recommended for the position by Edward Elgar

The name 'Birmingham Conservatoire' was adopted in 1989, with its undergraduate diploma and award (GBSM and ABSM) renamed from 'Graduate/Associate of the Birmingham School of Music' to 'Graduate/Associate of the Birmingham Schools of Music', to reflect the internal structure adopted of the Schools of Creative Studies, of Orchestral Studies, of Keyboard Studies, and of Vocal Studies. In 1995, the GBSM degree-equivalent diploma was redesigned and revalidated to become a full Bachelor of Music (BMus) degree. In 2008, as part of the university's reorganisation of faculties, it became a part of the Faculty of Performance, Media and English (PME), which has since merged to become the Faculty of Arts, Design and Media.

As part of the Paradise Circus redevelopment the former site of the Conservatoire was subject to a compulsory purchase by Birmingham City Council. The Conservatoire received £29 million in compensation in a deal agreed in December 2013; this deal included £12.4 million of council expenditure. Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios the new building on Jennens Road contains teaching and performance space including a 500-seat concert hall to replace Adrian Boult Hall. Building work started in August 2015 and was completed in August 2017. Planning application 2014/08615/PA was submitted on 2 December 2014 and approved in February 2015, Adrian Boult Hall was demolished in June 2016. The remaining building on Paradise Circus was demolished by April 2018 as part of Phase I of the scheme.[10] In July 2015, Galliford Try were confirmed as principal contractor on a £46 million contract.[11]

In 2017 the conservatoire merged with the Birmingham School of Acting, which had been founded as a drama school in 1936, bringing music and drama teaching together into a single organisation.[12] Alumni of the school included Julian Sedgwick, Nicol Williamson, Tom Lister, Catherine Tyldesley, Rachel Bright, Barbara Keogh, Luke Mably, James Bradshaw, Stephen Laughton, Jeffrey Holland, David Holt, Anna Brewster, Jimi Mistry, Helen George, Ainsley Howard Nicholas Gledhill and Tania Hales-Richardson.

On 24 September 2017 the conservatoire was granted Royal status by Queen Elizabeth II.

The conservatoire

The great majority of the tutors at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire are active professional musicians. With nearly 250 visiting specialist tutors, there is approximately one member of staff for every two students. The Principal of the Conservatoire is Julian Lloyd Webber.

In 2003, there were around 600 students enrolled in the Conservatoire's undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.[13] Teaching exists in a wide range of options including solo performance, composition, chamber music, orchestral playing, music technology and jazz. Students on the four-year BMus(Hons) are encouraged to spend time studying in Europe or the USA.

In their Junior Department, training for children aged 8 to 18 years takes place weekly on Saturdays during the local school term.[14]

The museum has a notable collection of musical instruments.[15]


  • Brass
  • Chamber Music
  • Composition
  • Conducting (Choral)
  • Conducting (Orchestral)
  • Early music
  • Jazz
  • Keyboard
  • Music Technology
  • Percussion
  • Performing Ensembles
  • Strings
  • Vocal & Operatic
  • Woodwind


Conservatoire students perform regularly in the conservatoire's concert venues, and also nationally often at Symphony Hall Birmingham and Birmingham Town Hall and internationally under such conductors as Sir Simon Rattle, Pierre Boulez, Sakari Oramo, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, Paul Spicer and Jeffrey Skidmore.

The conservatoire collaborates with other schools of music, colleges, academies and conservatoires worldwide, including participating in the Erasmus student and staff exchange programme.[16]

Courses offered

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire offers training from pre-college level (Junior Conservatoire) to PhD.


The CONSERVATOIRE offers a variety of scholarships to undergraduates and postgraduate students. All candidates are automatically considered for financial assistance up to the value of full scholarships. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit (according to audition panel recommendation), with some specifically reserved to assist candidates in financial need or studying in specific areas.

Entrance Scholarships (UK/EU candidates)

A number of Entrance Scholarships are awarded each year to UK and European Union candidates on the recommendation of auditions panels.

Tuition Fees Scholarships (Non-EU candidates)

A number of part-tuition fees scholarships are awarded each year to overseas candidates. These scholarships are normally renewed for each subsequent year of a student's course.

Corton Hyde Early Music Scholarships

Two scholarships are normally available to support talented students wishing to further their studies in Early Music. The Corton Hyde Continuo Scholarship supports a keyboard, cello/viola da gamba, or lute/theorbo player specialising in continuo, while the Corton Hyde Performance Practice Scholarship is open to a variety of musicians, including period violinists, vocalists, early oboe or flute players, recorder players and cellists. Each scholarship is worth £1,000 and may be renewed after one year by negotiation.

Denis Matthews Scholarships

Established in 1989 in memory of the distinguished pianist and scholar, the Denis Matthews Trust offers scholarships through competition to pianists who are studying at Birmingham Conservatoire, and an additional entrance scholarship of £1,000.

Ella Cheshire Scholarship (Soprano)

A scholarship of approximately £1,500 is awarded annually to a nominated postgraduate soprano candidate.

Leverhulme Trust Scholarship (UK candidates)

The Leverhulme Trust scholarships are awarded each year to excellent UK candidates on the recommendation of audition panels.

Symphony Hall Whitlock Organ Scholarship

This scholarship, funded by the Percy Whitlock Trust, offers a talented organ student access to the outstanding four-manual Klais organ in Symphony Hall. The Scholar plays a significant role in Symphony Hall's education programme, presenting the organ to school groups and members of the public. The scholarship includes an annual recital. The successful candidate will be a highly competent player, with excellent presentational skills and the ability to capture the imagination of young people. The appointment is for one year, but may be renewed. The value of the scholarship is £1,000 per annum.

Weingarten Scholarships

These scholarships, established by Joseph and Lilian Weingarten, are available by competition to final-year undergraduate or postgraduate Piano, Violin or Voice students at the Conservatoire. Successful students undertake up to a year of postgraduate study at the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest. Another scholarship is available to enable a student to study the Kodály Method at the Kodály Institute at Kecskemét in Hungary.

Junior Department Scholarships

Applicants to the Junior Conservatoire may be eligible for a DCSF Music and Dance Award, or bursary funding from the Leverhulme Trust or the Wolfson Foundation. The Junior Conservatoire can provide advice and guidance to suitable candidates.



  • William Stockley (1886–1900)
  • Granville Bantock (1900–1934)
  • Allen Blackhall (1934–1945)
  • Christopher Edmunds (1945–1956)
  • (Management Committee) (1956–1957)
  • Sir Steuart Wilson (1957–1960)
  • Gordon Clinton (1960–1973)
  • John Bishop (1973–1975)
  • Louis Carus (1975–1987)
  • Roy Wales (1987–1989)
  • Kevin Thompson (1989–1993)
  • George Caird (1993-2010)
  • David Saint (2010-2015)
  • Julian Lloyd Webber (2015–present)



Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has around 80 full-time members of staff that include active professional musicians, internationally renowned performers, composers, conductors, scholars, and educators.[18] In addition, nearly 250 highly acclaimed specialist tutors, musicians and scholars visit the conservatoire to give master classes and guest lectures or to serve as visiting faculty members.

Notable current and former staff and visiting guest artists include:




  • The Bradshaw Hall, formerly known as The Concert Hall,[20] 500 seats
  • Recital Hall, 150 seats
  • Organ Studio, 100 seats
  • Eastside Jazz Club, 80 seats
  • Experimental Music Lab

See also


  1. "Courses". Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  2. "Research - Clusters and Specialisms". Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  3. Granger, Rachel. "Rapid Scoping Study on Leicester Drama School" (PDF). De Montfort University Leicester. Retrieved 7 September 2019.
  4. Smith 2011, p. 4.
  5. Brock 1986, p. 1.
  6. Brock 1986, pp. 1-2.
  7. Brock 1986, p. 4.
  8. Brock 1986, p. 6.
  9. Brock 1986, p. 9.
  10. Elkes, Neil (5 February 2015). "Planners hail handsome Birmingham Conservatoirel". Birmingham Post. Birmingham. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  11. "Galliford Try confirms £46m arts centre deall". Construction Enquirer. 5 February 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.
  12. Snow, Georgia (2017-03-01). "Birmingham School of Acting merges with Birmingham Conservatoire". The Stage. Retrieved 2017-12-26.
  13. "Birmingham Conservatoire". The Independent. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  14. "Junior Conservatoire: Tuition for Young Musicians". Birmingham Conservatoire. Birmingham City University. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  15. "Musical Instruments Interface for Museums and Collections". MINIM-UK. Higher Education Funding Council for England. Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  16. "International Exchange Schemes". Birmingham Conservatoire. Birmingham City University. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
  17. Smith 2011, p. 11.
  18. "Birmingham Conservatoire Staff". Birmingham Conservatoire. UK: Birmingham City University. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
  19. "Birmingham Conservatoire : Birmingham Conservatoire appoints Gildas String Quartet as Junior Fellows". Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  20. "Conservatoire renames concert hall after £1m donation". Retrieved 2018-06-19.


  • Brock, David (1986). The Birmingham School of Music: its first century. Birmingham: City of Birmingham Polytechnic.
  • Smith, John D. (2011). "Celebrating 125 Years of Birmingham Conservatoire" (pdf). Birmingham Conservatoire. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  • Morley, Christopher. Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, 2017, Elliott & Thompson
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