The Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium has been the dream of a number of community-minded music lovers who commenced teaching music to students in a small rented cottage on Earl Street in the 1980s.
Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium began life in 1984 as Coffs Harbour Community Education Centre, evolving through Coffs Regional Conservatorium Arts Centre to the current not-for-profit organisation Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium Ltd, servicing three local government areas: Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca.
The Con was founded by a steering committee of local personalities, including renowned piano teacher Liz Jamison OAM, Julie Smith and Margaret Cawood.
Two ex-Department of Education teachers, Susan McGowan and Jane Grueneveld were responsible for the development of the organisation from 1984 until 1987. There followed several short-term directors, prior to the appointment of Donn Stockham as Director until 2002, followed by Carol Hellmers from 2003-2012.
Since then, thousands of students of all ages have enrolled for lessons, joined ensembles and been involved in courses, concerts and workshops. Some have progressed to become professional performers and teachers. Most have achieved a level of technical proficiency that has enabled them to enjoy their music making for the rest of their lives.
A huge opportunity
The story of the Con took a wonderful turn in 2009 when, through the generosity of local patron Barbara Hogbin, we were able to purchase our own property. Without Barbara’s help it would not have been possible to realise the dream of building our new Conservatorium here in Bray Street. This extraordinary gift enables us to perpetuate the gift of music for many generations to come.
The Conservatorium moved to its new location in 2010, and two Brisbane-based Australian performer/composers, Grant Collins and Dr Paul Svoboda, were commissioned to write new works for the opening on 12 September 2010.
About the Building: Art and Music Merge
What was once an old nightclub is now the home of Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium.
Local architect Ann Gee drew up the plans and oversaw Stage One of the refurbishment with builder Rick Wilson. The Con now houses twelve acoustically designed rehearsal/teaching studios, a roomy foyer, kitchen facilities, a music library, administration offices and bathrooms.
The design cleverly makes use of all available space, connecting the facility with a secure car park downstairs for staff use. The interior has been transformed with brightly coloured feature walls and energy saving lighting, the work of interior designer Nicolle Foster of Natural Habitat.
Ann Gee and G2 Architects subsequently did the plans for and project-managed Stage Two, the completion of a 158 seat performance space, which was finished in 2018.
Visitors can admire a selection of limited edition prints by senior Australian artists on our wall, all of which relate to music in some way. Have a look next time you come in, and see if you can spot all the links! The prints are a unique donation by Tom Hamilton Foster, formerly GM of Park Beach HomeBase, where the Con was based before it moved into its current home.
We are also lucky enough to have three panels of original artwork by renowned local calligrapher Colleen Little, who was commissioned to create a musical story that greets visitors as they walk in. Inspired by the sounds and textures of music, the panels adorn our reception area.
The demand for music teaching at the Con continues to grow and so, in June 2018, we bought the building next door, previously a café, which will help us expand our studio space.
The story of the Conservatorium history must include those who made it possible for us to move into our permanent home. Without this kind of community support to assist in our cashflow, we would not have been able to complete the teaching studios and building works that we enjoy every day.
We are forever indebted to Barbara, who in 2009, gave us the bulk of the capital necessary to purchase this property.
NSW Dept of Education Regional Conservatoriums Grants Program provides partial annual operating funds. Community Building Partnership grants have helped us renovate and refit the Performance Space.
The Enterprise Training Company (ETC) generously paid our mortgage costs for the first five years of our occupancy in this premises.
Coffs Harbour City Council
We have been generously supported with various grants by Coffs Harbour City Council.
To all of our supporters, benefactors and donors from way back when to today,
we say a heart-felt thank you!