Music institute backed by Chris Cronin, CEO of TSG

Music Institute

A multi-million pound music institute offering a world-class education to hundreds of students could be created in Brierley Hill if a feasibility study proves successful.

The £31million project, which will be based in and around The Waterfront, is currently undergoing feasibility work to see which elements will fit best in the different buildings.

If given the go-ahead, the groundbreaking not-for-profit institute, which is being backed by the music industry, will offer places for about 600 degree and 115 postgraduate students.

The campus will include a lecture theatre, classrooms, practice rooms, a library, recording studios, an independent radio station, a sound and light control room, a live music venue, a retail outlet, licenced bar and student accommodation.

The institute’s fully-accredited degrees will specialise in performance, production, education, management and composition, and will give students hands-on, real life experiences.

In addition to its degree students, close links will also be forged with local community groups, further education providers, organisations and charities through various workshops, weekend courses and events.

As a not-for-profit venture, any money made will be reinvested back into the institute and its facilities.

More than 130 jobs are expected to be created at the institute, which could open its doors to students as early as September 2017.

The exciting project is being led by a consortium of music industry experts, educators and key employers, who have recognised the need to fill a skills gap across the sector as whole.

Dudley MBC is backing the project, with the expectation that it will kick-start the regeneration of the whole Waterfront area.

Cllr Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for planning and economic development at Dudley Council said: “This is a very exciting development for Dudley and I am delighted the music institute have chosen to invest in Brierley Hill and create a state of the art venue for some of the country’s top music students.  This will have a huge positive impact on the local economy and will bring hundreds of students to the area.”

The project is seeking funding from the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, with the rest of the money coming from private investment.

David Barnard, who has wide-ranging experience across the music education and music industries sectors, will lead the institute as its principal and chief executive officer.

Mr Barnard, who was previously director of education at Roland UK, said plans for the institute were forged in answer to a ‘cry for help’ from the music industry.

“The sector as whole has a growing skills gap and we’re aiming to rectify it through industry-led, world class higher education,” said Mr Barnard.

“We’re passionate about delivering excellence and we want to make sure that when students leave us, they won’t just have a piece of paper showing they have a degree. They will be highly-employable graduates with the genuine technical skills, knowledge and experience that the music industry is currently crying out for.”

Mr Barnard said Brierley Hill was the perfect venue for the music institute and they were hoping to forge strong local links with the surrounding community.

“We looked at lots of different places across the West Midlands, but Brierley Hill and the Waterfront stood out head and shoulders above the rest,” he said.

“The Black Country and its surrounding regions have a proud and diverse musical legacy and it’s something we’re passionate about reigniting.

“Our long-term vision is to create a music ‘village’ or campus, with the music institute at its heart, driving innovation, enterprise and research that will be recognised globally.

“The feasibility study is the first step in the right direction towards realising this dream and it’s fantastic that we’ve got support from Dudley MBC.”

Chris Cronin, chief executive officer of Birmingham-based Total Solutions Group, is also backing the project as part of the steering group aiming to get the institute up and running.

Total Solutions Group is an industry leader, providing aluminium trussing and specialised stage sets for both permanent installations and touring shows.

Mr Cronin, who has been involved in the entertainment staging industry for years, said: “As a local employer within the sector, I’m acutely aware that those looking for entry-level jobs often don’t have the skills and experience needed.

“I’m passionate about the music business and am incredibly excited about the unique prospects that will be on offer to our students.”