Alison Macfayden

Alison Macfadyen

The Junior Department of the Royal College of Music is supported by an enthusiastic committee of Friends.

The Chair, Alison Macfadyen, explains the variety of activities they help to organise and support…

Tell us a bit about how you got involved with the Junior Department of the Royal College of Music?

My daughter Claire is 16 and has been at the Junior Department since she was eight years old. She plays cello, piano, harpsichord and sings, and it’s through her that I got involved with the College. Ever since she started coming here on a Saturday she has said it is the best day ofthe week for her – there is a tremendous sense of doing something of value here, but also having fun too!

At what point did you get involved withthe Friends Committee?

I wasn’t initially aware of the Friends, but Peter Hewitt, Director of the Junior Department, approached me at the end of Claire’s first year saying they were looking for a Secretary. So I took on that role for three years and then became Chair in 2006.

Can you give us a brief outline of what the Friends do?

The Friends are a registered charity formed to raise funds to support the work of the Junior Department. We are also there to be ‘friends’ and to keep and nurture its inspiring atmosphere. We try to create links between parents and the teachers – we’re not involved in the teaching – but because of the longevity of the people on the committee, we grow together and build relationships.

Can you tell us about your fund raisingactivities?

We have a rolling programme of activities throughout the year, such as providing refreshments for concerts, competitions and introductory days. Last year we sponsored the Peter Morrison Concerto Competition and kept the adjudicators going with teas, coffees and lunch – it’s important to keep them fresh and happy! At the introductory day we try to make prospective parents and students feel as welcome as possible – it can be quite daunting to turn up at the College for the first time – so we often try to introduce new students and parents with similar interests and instruments to each other.

Our Saturday shop is very popular too. We produce a range of RCM merchandise such as polo shirts, pencils, music folders and manuscript paper, but it’s the hoodies which go down particularly well with students. We also have a music service, which is set up in collaboration with Kensington Chimes. The service enables students to call up and order music from Kensington Chimes, and ask for it to be delivered to the College where they pick it up on a Saturday. I

n addition, from time to time we organise special events. For example, a few years ago we put on an Auction of Promise with Isome fantastic prizes – Richard Dickins donated the chance to conduct the Junior Department Symphony Orchestra, another prize was having a piece written for you!

How do you use the funds you raise?

Over the past few years, we have purchased a number of instruments for the students to use such as a harp and a viola, and contributed to a new set of timpani. The Junior Department often loans out instruments to students too, but many of the cases were in poor repair, so we recently bought quite a few new ones (including about a dozen light weight cello cases – which also helps students move around with more independence!). We have also commissioned a selection of new music from composers such as Gabriel Jackson.

Can you tell us about the committee?

The majority of the committee is made up parents of children who attend or have attended the Junior Department. Others have been involved in the College in different ways, such as teaching or administrative staff. Many have been on the committee for years – one parent’s child left the Junior Department more than two years ago but he still comes in and runs the bar for us. There’s really a sense of camaraderie among us. This year, we’ve signed up more than 70% of the new parents, which is fantastic.

Are there any new developments for the Friends scheme you would like to share with Upbeat?

We have recently started producing a termly newsletter with the aim of being more inclusive with parents, so they can understand what we do as Friends and how our work benefits students.

How do you think the Friends benefit the College?

We’re just there to add something extra. For example, when we do long rehearsals for the Symphony Orchestra, I often bring Richard Dickins (the conductor) and the other orchestral tutors a cup of tea. People are working really hard here on a Saturday and the Friends just try to make it that little bit easier and acknowledge what a great job they do. I’m just jealous I didn’t get the opportunity to come here myself!

If you would like to find out more about the RCM JD Friends please visit

This interview first appeared in Upbeat, the RCM magazine, in spring 2011.

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Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS. Tel: +44(0)20 7591 4300 Royal College of Music, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BS.
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