Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Classical violinist unveils school’s new £1.8 million music facilities

Classical violinist unveils school’s new £1.8 million music facilities

A CLASSICAL violinist was invited to Queen Anne’s School in Caversham to officially open its new music facilities.

Tasmin Little joined pupils, staff and parents for the unveiling last Friday, which marked the end of a £3.3 million redevelopment.

She performed in the newly-named Saint Cecilia Music Hall, before leading a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Last year, the school opened The Scott Music Centre, which was named after former headmistress Audrey Scott.

The second phase of the project cost £1.8 million and includes a new recital hall, school entrance, recording studio, practice rooms and computer suite.

Julia Harrington, who has been headmistress at Queen Anne’s since 2006, described it as “one of the most important projects” she had overseen.

She said: “We have gone to great lengths to create this fantastic facility. When we started it was almost unbelievable that we would be able to achieve this. We needed to be able to raise enough money to do it and we realised that it was going to be a big project because we were dealing with aspects of a Victorian building.

“I think this is the best result we could have hoped for. It means the students are able to perform in a state-of-the-art area. Everyone has worked really hard to make this happen.

“I feel ecstatic because I know there are so many more exciting times to come. To be able to bring music to the local community is an enormous privilege.”

The recital hall is a former gymnasium and the historic roof is part of the listed building. Seating can be removed from the hall to make more room while there is also the option to use an online streaming service, allowing parents who live overseas to watch the performances.

The school organises 300 music lessons every week, with 25 visiting teachers to assist the existing staff.

British soloist Mrs Little, who was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s 2012 birthday honours for services to music, spoke about the importance of music for mental wellbeing and cognitive development.

She said: “I am very worried about the state of music education and provision in this country so when I come to somewhere like this and see these fantastic facilities it gladdens my heart more than I could possibly express.

“Music education is so important. I can remember my early days of learning music. It is relentless and important to understand discipline. That is not to put you off because there are many great joys and triumphs along the way.”

She also told about the time she performed in Zimbabwe and came face to face with a hippo, but carried on playing.

The reception area also features a “friendship bench” to commemorate the bond between two former students, Mary Webster and Mary Pearse.

John Padley, the school’s director of music, added: “This project has been 11 years in the making for me, but it has come to fruition over the last two years.

“When I arrived the music provision was in a very sad state and had a lack of investment so this is really significant. It takes lots of time and investment but it is nothing without the girls that we are working with.”

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