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‘Cementing high quality audio into the curriculum’: New Birmingham Conservatoire welcomes SSL consoles

The new £57 million Birmingham Conservatoire building has officially opened its doors, with four SSL Live consoles and five SSL SuperAnalogue consoles, connected with a facility-wide Dante network, at the heart of the facility.

Since 1859, Birmingham Conservatoire has been one of the UK’s leading music and drama academies. Part of Birmingham City University, the centre has been developed to feature five new public performance spaces, which include a 500-seat concert hall, a 150-seat recital hall, and a 100-seat organ studio. It also includes The Lab, a state-of-the-art black-box studio, the first permanent jazz space in any UK conservatoire (the 80-seat Eastside Jazz Club), private rehearsal rooms, dedicated teaching spaces for musicians, and more than 70 teaching practice rooms.

Music Technology was introduced to the Conservatoire in 2001 and now the department offers BMus (Bachelor of Music), BSc (Bachelor of Science) degrees as well as postgraduate courses.

There are four main live performance spaces in the Conservatoire: The 500-seat Concert Hall is equipped with an SSL L500 live console, while the small Recital Hall, Eastside Jazz Club, and The Lab each have SSL L300 live consoles. From the stages and performance spaces, the consoles are fed by SSL ML32.32 Stageboxes and redundant Blacklight II connections via the SSL Blacklight II MADI Concentrator, with additional connections to the facility-wide Dante network, and MADI, Optocore, and analogue infrastructures.

The Conservatoire’s new Studioplex is a group of recording and production facilities that fulfil several functions, from turning the Concert Hall into an ensemble recording space, to contemporary production, and Music Technology course training.

A 48-channel SSL Duality δelta console takes pride of place in the Concert Hall control room, 24 channel Duality δelta consoles feature in the Recital Hall and Studio 1 control rooms, plus SSL AWS 948 δelta consoles can be found in the Studio 2 and Studio 3 control rooms. The Studio 1 control room has its own live recording space, and the two AWS control rooms both address an additional shared live recording space, allowing both control rooms to be in use at the same time, either on different projects or in ‘tandem’ teaching sessions, for example.

Dr Simon Hall, head of music technology at the Conservatoire, has been an integral part of the decision making for the recording and live production facilities.

“We had a good look around in the commercial world and realised that, unless there’s a real passion for a particular brand, pretty much every serious room has an SSL console in it – especially in the UK and Europe. Of course, the fact that SSL HQ is only an hour’s drive from the Conservatoire was also a big selling point for us – but in any case, SSL has an extremely responsive, reliable support team, which is important.”

“What we’re really trying to do is cement very high quality audio into the curriculum – into everything we do. The partnership with SSL is helping us achieve that.”

Ahead of the official opening, Professor Philip Plowden, vice-chancellor, Birmingham City University, said: “Birmingham has always been proud of its role as a national centre for excellence in performing arts, and the creative industries are growing faster here than anywhere else in the country – employing around 34,000 local people – and our new facility will bolster this further.

“The new Birmingham Conservatoire is a significant investment for the University, the city and, indeed, the country as a whole, and one in which will certainly set a new global benchmark for music and drama education and performance.”