Wiltshire Music Centre: A Programme for All — 2 September

It would have been hard to find a more uplifting talk with which to begin our new season: a verbal behind the scenes tour of the Music Centre, from the initial idea mooted thirty years ago to the present day. Their aim remains the same – to inspire, enrich and transform people’s lives through music.

The emphasis is on excellence, staying ahead, leading the way. And this can mean being opportunistic, like seizing the chance this November to stage “Fast Forward”, a three-day national disability festival, in conjunction with Bristol Music Trust. It is normally held in the Colston Hall, now temporarily closed, so the Music Centre jumped in to stage it themselves. We, the Arts Association, are supporting this financially

Just in the last year, they took both Youth Orchestras on a short working trip to France – and, yes, the skies opened so that, at short notice, an indoor venue had to be found for an outdoor event with an audience of hundreds. The newly launched Behn Quartet of young players has been awarded a residency to broaden their experience, and partnerships have been formed with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and the Bath Festival.

Alongside concerts, there are now talks, live relays, choirs for old and young alike and perhaps in the future weekend tutoring for A-level music students as numbers fall and funding is cut. Who else would do it?

Hearing James’ enthusiasm, it all sounds such fun, until you consider all the work done by staff, supporters, volunteers and young students themselves. The job of Artistic Director is not so romantic at the end of a long day with just a twenty-minute break, when you have spent hours in front of a screen, discussed contract clauses ad nauseam and fielded numerous ‘phone calls.

How lucky we are to have the Music Centre on our doorstep and have James to give up his Sunday evening for us.

One abiding memory for me – a beaming young disabled musician from Zone Club declaring that the Music Centre has changed her life.

Sue Andrew

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