Dublin music school to play final notes after 45 years

Evelyn O'Rourke Evelyn O'Rourke | 06-20 08:15

A popular music school in south county Dublin will close for the last time later today.

Newpark Academy of Music has welcomed generations of students through its doors for 45 years and the community is fighting to keep it open.

Based in Melfield House - a 200-year-old building in Blackrock - it has been home to the music school since 1986.

Purchased by Michael and Joyce Classon in 1968, it was then signed into a charitable trust, which is a company limited by guarantee that has charitable status, and the music school has been based there for over 30 years.

With 600 students ranging in age from infants to the Musical Memories singing group for older people, the school prides itself on its outreach programme and unique relationship with its students.

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Alongside instrumental tuition, Newpark is home to orchestras, choirs, ensembles and jazz music groups.

In a statement, the academy's board said it has taken the difficult decision "to cease the trading of the academy from today".

Adding that the academy has had "significant financial issues for a very long time" and "has recorded operating losses for many years and that the business is not sustainable".

The statement adds that while they explored many other options, they were not realistic and that "ceasing trading now allows for an orderly wind-down".

This afternoon, the newly formed 'Save Newpark Music' working group has issued a statement signed by its members.

They say their campaign group is focused on keeping the centre operational, and that they do not accept the Board's contention that the financial situation is precarious leading to its closure.

"Since 2022 student numbers and fees have risen by approximately 37%, costs are stable, and the company is solvent with significant cash reserves and a positive bank balance. It has suffered some losses in 2022 and 2023 but the trend indicates that it is returning to generating a surplus in 2024," they said.

They conclude their statement saying they "will continue our efforts to engage with the Board of Directors."

Hilda Chan, the academy’s director, said staff were upset and in shock at the news of the closure and she believes that there is huge demand for their school’s services.

She said that as well as the 600 students on their books, they have a waiting list with over 200 names and she urges politicians to support their campaign.

High-profile supporter conductor David Brophy said that the school is an innovative and unique place that offers important musical training and education to its students.

Speaking as both a parent of a child in the music school and as a professional musician, Mr Brophy said that "the school represents the best of the fragile infrastructure that supports music education in Ireland".

"We pride ourselves on our musical abilities and talent here in Ireland, but then we have to support schools like this. Without lessons, and talented tutors, musicians can’t flourish," he said.

He also said: "People like me, I didn’t fall out of the sky, I had to be trained and thanks to teachers who took care and taught me well, I was able to develop my career and we want that for all the young musicians here."

Many other parents said that they had been students themselves at the school.

Thomas, 9, said that his mother and father were both students there and that he really loves his music class.

He described Newpark as his "home" and is upset that it is due to close its doors.

The students and their supporters at Newpark Academy say they will fight to keep the school open for generations to come.

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