Young RWCMD announces possible closure amid 'significant financial challenges’

Words by Michael Pearce, Edits by Hattie Fisk
Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The conservatoire confirmed it is undergoing a consultation on ending its junior programmes after word spread on social media.

Richard Burton Youth Company in dance rehearsals with Young RWCMD
Richard Burton Youth Company in dance rehearsals with Young RWCMD

Courtesy RWCMD

The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) has said it is consulting on proposals to end some of its Young RWCMD activity amid ‘significant financial challenges’.

Young RWCMD Music, also referred to as Junior Conservatoire, offers a range of Saturday courses for learners aged 4–18. The programme currently involves 182 students.

The announcement
In addition to sector-wide funding issues, a statement from RWCMD said the current model of weekly term-time activity limits its ‘responsibility to offer vibrant experiences into professional training that reach young people from diverse backgrounds, not just from the Cardiff area but throughout Wales, and to embrace the Welsh language’.

Across music and drama, the proposals potentially affect five members of salaried staff and 112 staff working variable hours.

RWCMD’s statement said: ‘Our Young Acting and Young Music work needs a considerable subsidy from the College as we receive no direct funding for pre-College education from the Higher Education Funding Council Wales (now Commission for Tertiary Education and Research) or the Welsh Government. Continuing to subsidise Young RWCMD in this way isn’t sustainable given the serious financial pressures on us.’

The statement came in the wake of a viral post on X/Twitter from Andrew Morris, a classical music writer and blogger, which said: ‘The Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama told its staff today that it is axing its junior department at the end of this term … A lot of the students are on bursaries to help cover the cost of lessons. The RWCMD decision only hastens the death of music education in Wales.’

Public response
The post attracted widespread attention and outcry, viewed by over a half a million people on X/Twitter and shared widely on other social media platforms.

Despite being in a consultation phase, the end of RWCMD’s statement alluded to future plans already in place: ‘In the first instance, we will continue to deliver project work, including a series of weekend immersive music workshops, the National Open Youth Orchestra residency at RWCMD, and our holiday courses in production arts. Alongside these, we will consider how best to develop a new and sustainable future model, collaborating with other arts organisations, and building on the ongoing partnership work; for example, through the National Music Service.’

In September 2023 Young RWCMD Music launched a new curriculum sharing elements with the Curriculum of Wales and RWCMD’s music degrees, aiming to provide ‘a flow of learning that can take you from your first musical steps, all the way through to conservatoire entry and beyond’.