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Introducing The Glasshouse

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Abigail's blog

A new era

19 years ago this autumn, Sage Gateshead flung its doors open. A ‘dawn of the century’ vision – a national project, with international ambition and an identity bedded into the North East. Our country and the world around us have changed so much in the intervening years and our charity has evolved in response. But the fundamentals remain unchanged.

We’re a home for live music lovers. A place where anyone can create and celebrate outstanding music.

Sage Gateshead is changing its name to The Glasshouse International Centre for Music. Soon The Sage Arena and Conference Centre will be built next door to us, completing a cultural, entertainment, education and business campus on the banks of the Tyne. It will be a unique cluster and will be the completion of a 25-year masterplan which started with the Millenium Bridge and the opening of Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.

We need to make sure that our charity and our identity are distinctive from the commercial facilities next door, so we’re changing our name to make this clear.

Our new name has been created by listening to people – we asked what is important about music and what it means to each of us. We used this to find a way of naming and describing us that embodies your sentiments, and reflects the growth and nurture which happens inside a glasshouse, as well as the glassmaking origins of our site.  Music lives and grows here is the way people described us. We are, as so many people said, a uniquely musical region and The Glasshouse exists to nurture, feed and celebrate that.

But really a change of name is just a shift of words. We’ll still be doing all of the things we’ve done over the past 20 years and the charity will remain true to its roots and ambitions. And we hope, as we approach our 20th birthday, to reaffirm our ambitions for young people, for bringing great music to audiences across the region, for supporting the North East’s musicians and for bringing down financial barriers so that access to listening to and playing music is available as widely as possible.

As we launch our new identity, we’re also launching a Music Pass which makes vouchers available for music activity to every child born in the North East and Cumbria in the coming year. As we enter a new era, we want the next generation to have the opportunity to become music lovers and will open as many doors as we can to make that happen.

The hope of a new century runs as vibrantly through our charity and through our region as it did in 2004. We know that the complexities and challenges which lie ahead for all of us will be better dealt with if we have the joy and creativity which music and culture bring to people, their communities, and their places. Our charity, The Glasshouse International Centre for Music, will renew its efforts to make this a reality for everyone.

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Jamilah performing at Open House 2023

Music lives and grows here

In 19 years almost five million people have attended a gig here. We’ve given nearly two million lessons to young people. Royal Northern Sinfonia has toured the region many times and four continents. Over 1000 musicians have worked their way from starting out to sell-out performances and are now reaching a global market with our support.

This summer the BBC Proms came to Gateshead for its first weekend residency outside of London. Our halls were filled with regulars and first-timers experiencing live music together. A huge range of music from traditional orchestral music to Self Esteem to CBeebies filled every nook and cranny. The Proms weekend highlighted what is increasingly apparent – that live music is for everyone and enjoyed by all.

As we change our name, we will remain the same great place for music lovers – of all kinds of music. Around the world, we’re known as a unique music centre and a national organisation based here in the North East. In promoting amazing gigs in all genres of music AND having a huge programme for young people and adults AND supporting the next generation of musicians, Sage Gateshead was really ground-breaking when created.

Now lots of other music charities around the world use the same model, pioneered here in Gateshead.  An artist appearing on our main stage might give a workshop for our young musicians or advice for one or more of the emerging musicians we support. A hip-hop musician might work with our orchestra or our young people’s bands and ensembles play support for main acts. Music lives and grows here. It is a place of nurture and growth not just for music, but for people.

And we are for everyone regardless of money. We’re free to come in to, we are a Warm Space, bursaries are on offer across our classes and activities, ticket discounts are intrinsic,  young people’s tickets are very popular, and now our Music Pass for children born across the region ensures every child, regardless of their background, can get early access to music.

As we talked to people about their experiences in music, so many people had their own story of how making music had changed their lives.

As a teenager, Chris took tenor horn and double bass lessons at The Glasshouse. He was really, really good at music and he loved it. Chris was also really good at science and was advised by lots of people that he should make his career there, because. that’s the sensible option, right?

But then Marion, his tutor and Royal Northern Sinfonia Trumpeter, had some encouraging words for Chris. He says her advice changed his life. He went off to study at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, and he’s now back at The Glasshouse. He’s loving teaching the next generation, and inspiring them, just like Marion.

“One conversation turned my passion for music into a career. Without Marion, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now. Chris

Mum of three, Matti, a local choir leader, grew up surrounded by music and wanted the same for her own children. It seemed out of reach for her family until she discovered how The Glasshouse bursaries can help. Now Isaiah plays the trombone, Elianna the clarinet and Etania the euphonium. Imagine this combo for a house band …

“My favourite thing is watching them play in an orchestra. They have developed qualities like leadership and communication. Beyond music, it’s opened their world up to new things.”  Matti

Ceitidh Mac first came to the North East to study folk music at Newcastle University, just over 10 years ago. Through her degree, she got involved with The Glasshouse, and the support we offer artists. Ceitidh performed at a gig spotlighting local artists, and then got involved as a year-long Artist in Residence, working on a new radio ballad.

“I really think a residency like this will have a big impact on music being made here because it gives people the time to actually work on projects. I really want to make it possible to have a career in music and not have to move away from the region.” 

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Ceitidh Mac playing at Open House 2023

Looking to the future

Despite all of the challenges of the world in 2023, music is alive in the North East. And that’s not just to do with us. The scene is really exciting right now.

Our founders wanted to build a brilliant space, so that people from the North East could create music that was good enough to reach across the world. And so that the best music from across the world would be drawn to the North East. They were also adamant that those opportunities should be for everyone – no matter where you’re from, how old you are, how much money you have, or what challenges you face.

And those amazing ambitions are still driving us today. We’ve got big plans for the next five years – and beyond – that will see our community leading the charge for creativity, diversity, and sustainability in music. And all in a way that’s full of passion, imagination, and deep care for the people who find a home with us.

As we start our new chapter our ambitions for music in the region are sky high. The North East can shine as a music hot-spot.

We want to be the most financially accessible venue in the UK. Music should be for everyone.

And we will be net zero by 2030, because we are for the future, not just the present.

We will create a new academy for young artists, supporting the next generation of musicians from our region to thrive.

And Royal Northern Sinfonia plans to have its most artistically ambitious chapter yet – directly involving more people across our region in orchestral music.

We stand ready and proud to play a role in ensuring the North East is a great place for everyone who lives here and a great place to visit. Music supports the growth of our region’s economy, supports our young people through their education and personal development, supports our older generation through social activities and networks, and supports all of our health and wellbeing.

It is part of making us who we are and The Glasshouse is here to help make it true for everyone.

This article was first published in The Journal on 15 September 2023.

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The name reveal on BBC Look North news