Councillors on the Finance and Resources Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council have given the go-ahead for the development of the Old Royal High School on Regent Road as a new home for St Mary’s Music School and a public performance venue.
With the decision to grant the Royal School Preservation Trust a long lease on the historic building, the city council has signalled its approval of the plans to develop it as a national centre for music education.
The bid is 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.
Announcing the decision, committee convener Councillor Rob Munn said: “It’s great news that this iconic building, set in the heart of our World Heritage Site, will now be restored and put to good use again, making it accessible for many generations to come.”
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.”
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 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.”
Supporters of the plan include Impact Scotland, which is developing the new Dunard Centre in the city, which will be a home for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Nicola Benedetti’s Benedetti Foundation which has done so much to boost music education in recent years.
The violinist said: “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.”
Picture: Students of St Mary’s Music School in front of the Old Royal High School, credit Mike Wilkinson