2020 has certainly been a challenging year for the region, with arts and cultural activities suffering significantly at the hands of COVID-19 restrictions. The Coffs Conservatorium has continued its education and performance programs, though the way these have been delivered has changed throughout the year. From online lessons to live streamed online concerts, the continued service provision to the Coffs Coast community by the Con has been something to be proud of as our region deals with the Pandemic.
As the year draws to a close, I look back on the past 12 months, how we have negotiated the challenges, our commitment to exceptional music education and performances, and I look forward to a fresh new start in 2021.
The year started off on a positive note with Annabelle Swainston, violin, and Georgie Ostenfeld, cello, moving to Coffs Harbour to join the teaching staff at the Con. We had a stunning visit from the Partridge Quartet for the first and only Sunday Series Concert for 2020 and we had exciting plans to secure funding for the Renovation Project. This all changed in an instant with COVID-19 taking hold across the country, devastating many, particularly in the arts and culture sector.
The following months were filled with uncertainty and angst, with the Coffs Con team not knowing if we’d have to limit the classes offered or even go to a full shutdown. Thankfully we were able to move our entire teaching program online and continue to deliver single study lessons. This was mainly due to the extraordinary work put in by the Board of Directors to ensure a COVID-19 crisis response plan was developed and implemented as quickly as possible. All ensembles and choirs were put on hold as the country came to grips with the situation, and we all became familiar with Zoom, audio interface units and lag and pixels as the online period began.
Fast forward a few months and we’ve been able to welcome our students back into the building and return the ensembles in a limited capacity. It’s certainly a nice change to have the corridors of the Coffs Con filled with chatter and music once again. We missed the buzz and excitement that our students bring to the Con every day!
The Coffs Con has an exciting concert series planned for 2021, with some of the country’s finest professional musicians visiting the Coffs Coast to perform to our audiences and work with students from the region.
We’re in the process of launching a fundraising campaign to begin the refit and renovation of the adjacent building. This will become new teaching facilities once completed and will feature a state of the art drum room, dedicated Early Childhood Music room and extra teaching studios to accommodate the ever growing education programs at the Con. If you would like to contribute to the project, please either go to the ‘Support Us’ page on our website (www.coffscon.org.au), call 6652 1592, or come in and chat with me, Patrick Brearley, to see the existing space to be renovated and plans for the future.
I’m proud of the organisation the Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium is today and how we have overcome some extremely challenging situations throughout the year. Thank you for your continued support and I look forward to 2021 as we aim to enrich the cultural life of the Coffs Coast communities, through the provision of quality music education, opportunities and experiences, accessible to all.
Patrick Brearley – Artistic Director