‘Staff are in shock’: Newpark Academy of Music in south Dublin to close

Music centre with 42 staff and almost 600 students due to cease trading on June 1st

Newpark Academy of Music, which has provided music education for children and adults in the south Dublin area for more than 40 years, is to close at the end of this month.

The academy’s board informed the company’s 42 staff members earlier this week that it has decided to close in light of its “unsustainable trading and financial position”.

“After a period of considered reflection and evaluation and having taken financial, accounting and legal advice, the board wishes to inform you of its decision to cease trading and to close the Newpark Academy of Music at the end of the academic year on June 1st, 2024,” it said in an email on Wednesday.

Almost 600 students are enrolled on courses at the college, according to staff members. The academy provides jazz education programmes and instrumental tuition, and is home to a number of choirs and ensembles.

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While remaining lessons will be taught until the end of term, there is uncertainty over whether summer courses due to take place at the premises at Newtownpark Avenue in Blackrock will go ahead.

Hilda Chan, the academy’s director, said staff were upset and in shock. While she said the centre had been asked by the board last February to pause the re-enrolment of students, the next communication she said they received was an email on Wednesday stating that the academy is to close.

“There is shock, stress and anxiety,” she said. “During Covid, it was hard to get back to live music and one-to-one lessons, but we’ve been on a good track, increasing our student numbers. We have massive waiting lists for lessons and courses. We think it is a healthy, sustainable business. If student numbers were dropping, no, but that’s not the case.”

Ms Chan said staff felt hurt at what she said was a lack of consultation, and said she will seek to do everything possible to continue the work of the academy in a different premises.

Lisa Tierney-Keogh whose 11-year-old daughter is currently learning to play the drums at the school said parents are “devastated” by the closure which will be a “huge blow” to the local and wider Dublin community.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, I don’t know where I’m going to send my daughter for lessons because I don’t know if her teacher will have a place to teach,” she said adding: “She’s really sad, she was really upset when I told her last night.”

Ms Tierney-Keogh, who attended music classes at the school as a child, said: “There’s nothing else in Dublin like it. It is the gold standard of musical education in Ireland and if we want to be a country that’s exporting and excelling in musical culture and tradition, then what are we doing closing down musical schools?”

Barbara Schmidt-Abbey, who currently plays the viola at the school as part of an ensemble said the news has resulted in “a lot of anger”, adding she is “amazed at the decision and the way it was communicated.”

The 60-year-old first studied at the school in the 1990s, and has taken lessons since then on and off. She is now part of the Newpark Chamber Group which meets weekly and plays under a conductor.

“Everybody I’ve spoken to is shocked and angry. I feel like I’m being robbed of a community amenity,” she said.

“It’s not just a school,” she said adding: “It’s an intergenerational ecosystem, there’s been outreach to people of all ages and abilities.”

Kevin Brady, head of the jazz department, said staff had just nine days’ notice of the closure, adding that they felt there has been a lack of transparency over the decision.

He said it was his understanding that consultations must take place at least 30 days before a first notice of dismissal is made and that employment law requires employers to engage in a consultation process.

The academy’s board of directors have been contacted for comment.

Newpark Academy of Music is based in Melfield House, a 200-year-old building which was purchased by Michael and Joyce Classon in 1968. They then signed it into a charitable trust.

It was used to house Avoca & Kingstown Junior School until it closed in 1986. Newpark Academy of Music has since occupied the building.

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