Always hitting the right note

Bryanston School in Dorset has opened a new state-of-the-art music school building complete with a 300-seat concert hall

Costing £8.5m and designed by Hopkins Architects, the innovative designers of the London 2012 Velodrome, the Tom Wheare Music School reaffirms music’s place at the core of Bryanston life. It is named after retired headmaster Tom Wheare and is a much-needed replacement for Bryanston’s old music school, which was built by pupils in the 1950s.

“This is a hugely exciting and ambitious development for the school,” said Bryanston head Sarah Thomas. “Music has always been at the heart of life at Bryanston and, with the completion of the new music school, we now have a facility which meets the requirements of the talents and hard work of our pupils and staff. I am looking forward to seeing how the building will enable us to take our musical scope and ambition to an even higher level.”

The building’s centrepiece is a stunning 300-seat concert hall with a 150 sqm stage designed to hold a large-scale symphony orchestra. The hall features adjustable panels that can change the space’s acoustics to suit a range of performers from soloists to a full orchestra.

The concert hall itself has been named after leading conductor Sir Mark Elder, who was a pupil at Bryanston. Sir Mark said: “Music-making has always been central to the life of Bryanston – and my own experience of this played no small part in what I may have achieved in my subsequent professional life. Every child has a talent and Bryanston believes in discovering and fostering these talents. This wonderful new concert hall is a thrilling testament to these principles and will benefit many generations to come.”

The Tom Wheare Music School also contains 35 teaching or practice rooms and offices, two large academic classrooms, a recital room, a chamber music room, recording studios and a film-music editing suite, two keyboard computer rooms, a large percussion studio, a staff room, specially soundproofed band rooms and a courtyard area for outdoor performances. The abundance of music-making facilities provides pupils with the opportunity to experience a variety of musical genres, reflecting the breadth of a Bryanston education and the school’s ethos of embracing the talents and interests of the individual.

Bryanston’s director of music, Duncan Emerson, has been at the helm of the project throughout. He said: “The new facilities open up some incredible opportunities, one of which is bringing in internationally renowned musicians to perform and give masterclasses. Pianist Paul Lewis is coming to perform on the model D Steinway, the King’s Singers are booked and so is the Liane Carroll Trio, who plan to include the school’s best string players in their concert.”

This is the third time that Hopkins Architects have worked with Bryanston. They designed the school’s RIBA regional award-winning Sanger Centre for Science and Mathematics, which opened in September 2007, and the Bramall building, which houses classics, geography, history and business studies.

The school’s music department moved into their new home in June while the final landscaping work was completed over the summer, ready for the new school year. The building is being officially opened at a celebratory weekend on 11 and 12 October. 

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