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David Scott
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The University of Melbourne has welcomed this morning’s State Government announcement that will pave the way for the construction of a state-of-the-art building for the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM). 

Acting Premier James Merlino and Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley confirmed that the University would be given a $3 million capital grant and provided with an extended lease for the site at 33 Sturt Street in Southbank, allowing the University to proceed with development of a purpose-built facility in the heart of the Melbourne Arts Precinct.

To be designed by John Wardle Architects, the new $105.5 million building will help consolidate existing MCM staff and students on the Southbank campus. The project will include a 443-seat auditorium, as well as a public square that will contribute to the community space plan for the Melbourne Arts Precinct Blueprint.

One of the Conservatorium's proposed new studios. Image courtesy of John Wardle Architects.

Construction is slated to begin in 2017, with first classes to commence in the building in 2019.  The existing Conservatorium Building, including the renowned Melba Hall, will be retained on the Parkville campus.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said the agreement with the State Government was a welcome next step in the University’s engagement in the Arts Precinct.

“Thanks to the generosity of our many donors and partners, in the last two years we’ve committed to a redevelopment of the former Police Stables in Dodds Street, as well as the establishment of Buxton Contemporary, both located in the centre of the Southbank Arts Precinct.”

“This latest development will further strengthen the relationships we have with our neighbour and partner organisations, helping to boost the Arts Precinct’s international reputation as a vibrant creative hub, while also creating a dynamic new environment for music education and collaboration.”

“This will be a truly world-class Conservatorium, one that will deliver enormous benefits to Victoria,” concluded Professor Davis. 

Martyn Myer, who alongside The Myer Foundation and The Ian Potter Foundation, have made contributions to the Conservatorium project, said philanthropy has been critical in bringing the project into existence.  “Philanthropy has played a foundational role in leveraging available resources to enable the complete transformation of the Southbank Campus into one of the world's very best arts education precincts.”

“The Conservatorium will be a new jewel in the crown of Melbourne’s legendary musical landscape, and one that demonstrates the profound effect of philanthropy on the cultural fabric of our city.”

Dean of the Faculty of VCA & MCM, Professor Barry Conyngham, said the new Conservatorium building would be a valuable asset for students and the wider community alike. “The MCM is recognised as a key contributor in the Melbourne Arts Precinct, and working in partnership and collaboration with some of Australia’s leading arts organisations, we want to continue to inspire the next generation of musicians and teachers and help grow Australia’s vibrant arts and music sector.”

“The new Conservatorium building will help us reach this goal. This presents a once in a generation opportunity to consolidate the MCM teaching and research facilities and student experience in the heart of the local arts industry, including close proximity to the Melbourne Recital Centre, Australian Ballet, Arts Centre and Melbourne Theatre Company, along with approximately 20 other arts organisations in the vicinity.”

Part of the Faculty of the VCA and MCM, the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, is one of Australia’s oldest and largest tertiary music institutions, established in 1894. The Faculty teaches more than 7000 students and attracts more than 31,000 visitors per year. Notable graduates of the Faculty include Dame Nellie Melba, Peter Sculthorpe, Andrea Keller and Don Banks.