National centre of music will confirm Wellington as capital of culture

The establishment of a world-class national centre of music in Wellington's Civic Square is a step closer with Victoria University of Wellington's Council unanimously confirming its support for the venture.

The centre, which is a partnership between Victoria University, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and the Wellington City Council, will become a home of musical performance, education, culture and the arts with the Wellington Town Hall as its focal point.

Victoria’s Council has approved initial funding of $10m for its contribution to the first stage of the project, which involves the redevelopment and fit out of the Town Hall’s main auditorium, the Debating Chamber and Ilott Room to provide central city rehearsal and performance spaces for Victoria’s New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) and the NZSO.

The NZSO Board has also confirmed its support for the venture.

Wellington City Council is currently seeking public feedback on the project, which will see ratepayers contributing $89 million to earthquake strengthen the Town Hall ahead of the internal redevelopment. The Council will make a decision on the project in June.

The second stage of the project, which has been approved in principle by Victoria’s Council, would create a nationally significant centre of musical excellence taking in adjoining buildings to provide teaching and administrative space in the existing Municipal Office Building, creating a central city home for the NZSM and NZSO.

Because of the significant costs involved in the second stage of development, Victoria Chancellor Sir Neville Jordan says the University and the NZSO will require a successful fundraising campaign to raise at least 16% of the overall cost of the project through philanthropic and partnership financial support, with the University and the NZSO meeting the remainder of the second stage development costs.

“This is an exciting initiative for Wellington,” says Sir Neville. “A national centre of musical excellence will bring together the burgeoning talent of young musicians in the NZSM with the mastery of the NZSO, and fill the Civic Square with music.

“The Council’s unanimous support for funding the first stage of this project shows the strength of our commitment to the capital city and the Wellington region.

“This centre will bring many benefits to Wellington and New Zealand and we look forward to working with the community and corporate sector to secure the philanthropic and partnership financial support needed to make it a reality.”

Former Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, a Victoria University of Wellington Foundation Trustee, is Fundraising Chair for the joint Victoria/NZSO project.

“I have always been passionate about the capital city’s Town Hall. It has amazing acoustics and to know that it’s going to be strengthened, restored and turned into the focal point of a national centre of musical excellence, with the NZSM and the NZSO as foundation tenants, is really exciting.”

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says the music centre will be another major boost for the city’s arts and culture scene.

“It’s very encouraging to see our partner organisations taking this step and it’s a big vote of confidence in the arts and culture scene in Wellington.”

NZSO Chief Executive Christopher Blake says the NZSO is very pleased that Victoria University has confirmed its support for this groundbreaking venture.

“The concept to bring together the NZSO and NZSM will produce a huge range of opportunities and benefits for musicians, students and audiences.”

Locating the NZSM in the heart of the capital city and alongside another significant national institution (NZSO) and Wellington’s civic administration centre will enliven the civic centre and bring new audiences for musical activities says Professor Jennifer Windsor, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Victoria.

“NZSM is New Zealand’s leading music school, offering the widest range of study options including the only music therapy course in the country. Locating it at the heart of the new national centre of musical excellence will lead to growth in our student numbers and programmes, ensuring a sustainable platform for future artistic and academic development and further building the School’s reputation in New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific region,” says Professor Windsor.

“The new centre will also give the public greater opportunities to enjoy performances by NZSM students in world-class venues and give our students opportunities to work with the NZSO and form other industry connections while they study and after they graduate.”

The total cost of the full project is forecast to be $187 million.