New Business Model Could Save UK’s Under Threat Music Services

Just three months after local government financial constraints caused the closure of Cornwall’s Music Service, a newly formed trust has reached out to over 10,000 young musicians and secured the jobs of 77 of the county’s top music professionals.
Established at the start of 2015, the Cornwall Music Service Trust (CMST) has already formed partnerships with over 81% of Cornwall’s schools and have successfully formed a business model for under-threat music services to follow elsewhere in the country.
In Wiltshire, around 80 jobs are being lost as the music service is to be shut down, making music lessons scarcely available and at an increased cost to parents.
Bromley Council are also proposing to quickly cut their annual grant to Bromley Youth Music Trust from £305,650 last year to £0 in 2016/17.
Further ongoing budget cuts across the country have raised significant questions regarding how The Arts Council, a national development agency for arts and music in England, will be able to continue fairly cascading government and lottery funds.
The new business model set up by the CMST has solved this problem by forming a rich network of schools and a unified body of music teachers to fairly distribute funds at grassroots level whilst keeping lessons affordable to parents.
Speaking on behalf of his senior team, CMST Founder and Head of Service Gareth Churcher said:

“The budget restrictions at local government level forced us to rethink the way in which us music teachers provide our service and help young musicians to develop.”


“At a time where we all could have split up, we stuck together and created something to be proud of. Everyone has pulled together to create a sustainable future for accessible music lessons in Cornwall.”

Cornwall’s music service was formerly run by Cornwall Council as part of the Cornwall Music Education Hub, however budget pressures resulted in the closure of the service on 31 December 2014 putting jobs in danger with the potential to skyrocket the price of extra-curricular music lessons for children.
Cornwall Council made their official decision to close Music Cornwall on September 10th 2014 and the newly formed trust was set up in just three months with the help of Truro School, who continue to provide office space and a home for the CMST.
Working in tandem with the school’s senior management team, Mr Churcher put together a business model with the aim of creating a music service that keeps music at the heart of schools.
The Trust is also designed to be significantly less vulnerable to changes in central and local government budgets.
Truro School’s Headmaster Andrew Gordon-Brown said:

“When I originally heard that Cornwall’s music service was in jeopardy I contacted Gareth and offered our help. The school is delighted to provide a home to the CMST and we look forward to seeing them grow from strength to strength over the coming years.”

Mr Churcher said:

“The CMST has a very efficient management structure that costs the charity less than 4% of its budget. This 4% has resulted in the development of a network of suitable providers that are at the cutting edge of provision whilst ensuring that 96% of funds are committed to music lessons.”


“Operating on a school premises has given us further benefits. Being affiliated with an already established education entity gives the wider community a sense of confidence. The senior team at Truro School have welcomed the CMST and acted as a sounding board throughout the set up process, it has really generated a sense of recognition in the wider community.”

The strength of the new trust has been visible from the start. In January, the CMST ran a community based crowd funding project to raise start-up funds and successfully raised £14,000 within 30 days.
One of the key elements to the trust’s business model is the requirement of an exclusivity clause for all staff meaning that all members of the trust work together, ensuring that there is no undercutting in the market through independent tuition.
Mr Churcher commented:

“Ensuring exclusivity is one of the vital aspects of the model. It ensures a buy-in, builds confidence in the trust and, most importantly, raised everyone’s job security through a more stable form of income. In fact, many schools that we now provide for have explicitly said that they would not risk using external independent teachers due to the liabilities that may arise in safeguarding, contractual and PAYE and national insurance.”

More recently, in February, The CMST held its inaugural event, Thank You for the Music, featuring over 200 young musicians from all over Cornwall and was a resounding success with hundreds flooding into Truro Cathedral helping to raise over £3000.

CMST Truro School Partnership

CMST inaugural event in Truro Cathedral

The funds raised will further fuel the accessibility of music lessons across the county with the board of Trustees having already allocated funds towards setting up The Award Scheme, where students must audition to get one of 50 places for one-to-one tuition for the development of promising young players.
Mr Churcher finished by saying:

“A school without music would be like a school without a heart. It is vital that we preserve the affordability of music lessons for children up and down the country.”

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