In the first part, Josh Berger CBE reflects on how his personal journey through the music industry has led to The BRIT School, where he was recently made chair of BRIT School Trustees. Here, Berger expands on the vital role the schooal plays in music education and beyond, and appeals to the industry to show its support for an establishment that has produced award-winning talent since it was founded in 1991...
The BRIT School is 30 years old and I am honoured to have joined the board as chair of trustees at this pivotal time in the school’s history.
In some ways, I feel destined to be here. Growing up, I would listen to stories from my father whose own life was changed forever because he went to a free state sponsored performing arts high school in New York City – I still wear his sweatshirt from there to this day. My father has had a long and meaningful career in the entertainment industry and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it wouldn’t have happened without the foundational experience of that school – so this kind of education is something that is very near to my heart.
As producer Paul Epworth recently said in The Telegraph, “youngsters without financial backing or existing connections in the industry are being excluded from a music career”. This is where the school can help open doors to young people from all diverse backgrounds to access careers across the creative industries – because it is free. Founded by the BRIT Trust 30 years ago, the mission was to be able to offer a free music and arts education, training young people for roles in the creative industry and beyond.
97% of graduates in 2021 went into employment, education or training within three months of graduating
I can see in my own career that I’ve been drawn to organisations that train and nurture young talent. Warner Bros, Chickenshed Theatre, the BFI have all somehow led me to The BRIT School, which in my view is without peer in its impact on the students. At my first board meeting I listened to how the school champions neurodiversity and supports students with special educational needs, how core curriculum subjects – maths, english, science and so on – are linked and contextualized to arts subjects – dance, music, production, film and theatre. And how a staggering 97% of graduates in 2021 went into employment, education or training within three months of graduating, which is incredible in itself but especially during a pandemic.
The school is so important. It changes the lives of students, but it also gives the world some of the most valuable creative talent and artists who have gone on to win global recognition including BRIT Awards, Grammys, BAFTAs, Oscars and Olivier Awards. Currently the school has 1,400 students, 40% of whom are from global majority backgrounds and 10% are on free school meals, with that number set to rise with the increase in the cost of living. It is the diverse, inclusive ethos and the high calibre of arts and core education that has led to its success.
This year I was proud to launch BRIT Transforms, our £10 million fundraising campaign to ensure we keep the professional standards and experience for students as high as possible, across their training, mental health support and professional opportunities. I thank the BRIT Trust, the music and entertainment industries and all our stakeholders for supporting this special place.