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27th Jun, 2022

Rent rise forces Startford Music Centre to shut

A MUSIC centre which has inspired budding musicians for nearly 50 years will close its doors for the final time this month.

Stratford Music Centre (SMC), based at Stratford School, is being forced to close due to rent increases by the school and a lack of students.

It is run by several tutors, some who were taught at the centre themselves, who coach individuals during the week and run various activities at the weekend.

The centre, which opened in 1973, is also renowned locally for its ‘SMC Rock School’ which helps fledgling bands to play a set at a music venue by the end of each term.

A post on the centre’s Facebook page reads: “It is with great regret and sadness that we are closing the centre after 46 years. There have been thousands of students who have learnt to play an instrument, sang in a choir, played in an orchestra, danced for fun and taken part in West End shows.

“The closure has been forced on us by a proposed high rent increase and a lack of students which seems to be endemic across the country as recent media reports have highlighted.

“Music tuition is expensive but we have always insisted that our tutors are fully qualified and able to teach to an exceptionally high standard as this is shown in the exam results achieved over the years.

“Many students have gone on to take a degree in music then come back to teach at the centre or gone on to teach in schools across the country.

“We would like to take this opportunity to wish all tutors, students and parents good luck with music making in the future.”

Among the centre’s highlights have been taking productions of West Side Story and Chorus Line to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and seeing students play at the community performance at the opening of the refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The post has been met by a flood of response from people voicing their sadness and also their happy memories of the centre.

One wrote: “You have played such a key part in so many of our kids’ musical lives. All the best for whatever you do next. And thank you for everything.”

While another said: “So sad spent many years at Stratford music centre on Saturday mornings, so sad it’s come to an end.”

A centre spokeswoman said they had been unable to find a new venue due to special criteria required for music sessions but tutors would continue to teach independently.

The Observer was still waiting a response from the school as we went to press.

Some of the centre’s student rock bands are preparing a swan song at the upcoming River Festival on Sunday at 1pm, before a final gig at town centre bar No1 Shakespeare Street the following Sunday at 7pm.

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