New national music centre plan for Royal High

The Royal High School Preservation Trust (RHSPT) announced it has put forward detailed proposals to City of Edinburgh Council for the restoration of the Thomas Hamilton building on Calton Hill as a “world-class centre for music education and public performance for the benefit of the whole of Scotland.”

The RHSPT said its ambitions have evolved into a vision for a new National Centre for Music with clearly defined spaces for classical music education, community access and engagement and performance.

The trust said the plans are backed by a £55 million gift from American philanthropist and former concert pianist Carol Colburn Grigor and her family trust the Dunard Fund.

“St Mary’s Music School, Scotland’s national music school, remains at the heart of the proposal, which received unanimous planning approval by Edinburgh councillors in 2016 …” said the RHSPT.

“Critically, the updated proposal 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 new platform for musical collaborations, both within the building, online and out in the wider community …

“Backed by an expanded gift from philanthropist Carol Colburn Grigor and Dunard Fund totalling £55 million to cover the capital costs and support the future maintenance of the Thomas Hamilton building, the proposals have also been tested for economic sustainability by BOP Consulting, an international consultancy specialising in culture and the creative economy.”

William Gray Muir, chairman of The Royal High School Preservation Trust said: “The restoration of the old Royal High remains one of the most exciting and important cultural developments in Edinburgh and indeed the whole of Scotland.

“Our goal is that as well as providing an exemplary use for the building, excellence in accessibility and inclusion will be absolutely central to the ethos of how the Royal High School is used.

“The passage of time from 2016 to 2021 has allowed us to consult on and revise some aspects of our design proposal and to evolve our ambitions for the building to create a vision for a new National Centre for Music.

“In doing so we have brought in new partners in IMPACT Scotland and the Benedetti Foundation, who with us and St Mary’s Music School see this project as a means to create an entirely new way for everyone to engage with and enjoy classical music and the arts.

“It has the potential to show Scotland and Edinburgh at a new vanguard of classical music education and cultural inclusion …

“To facilitate this expanded vision and lock in the economic sustainability of the plans, the Trust has received increased funding now totalling £55 million.

“We are enormously grateful to Dunard Fund and Carol Colburn Grigor for their unfailing generosity toward not just the RHSPT but other arts projects across Scotland.

“Their positive legacy will leave an indelible mark in Scotland’s cultural and economic landscape for generations to come.”

St Mary’s Music School headteacher Kenneth Taylor said: “As partners of the project for the past six years, we have worked closely with the RHSPT to help evolve the vision for a National Centre for Music which will build strongly on our expertise for music education for the widest number of young people in Scotland.

“To be at the heart of the Trust’s proposals, with a specially designed school building, performance and rehearsal spaces, as well as new opportunities for our pupils to engage with the wider community is simply exhilarating.

“The school is energised by the prospect of a new centre for music on Calton Hill.”

Benedetti Foundation director Laura Gardiner said: “By harnessing each organisation’s specialisms and enabling true partnership working, the National Centre for Music has the potential to be a game-changer for music education in Scotland”.

The design team on the project include Richard Murphy Architects, architects, design and accessibility; Simpson and Brown, conservation architects; Optimised Environments (OP-EN), landscaping and environment; and David Narro Associates, civil engineers.