A new music school – the Escola de Música de Lagoa – opened last November to huge relief from parents and music pupils alike in western Algarve after fears that the Lagos school would be closed. There were originally two Portuguese-speaking music schools in western Algarve – one in Lagos, the other in Portimão. Between these schools, there were 170 students and 19 members of staff. The new school in Lagoa currently has 20 pupils learning to play a variety of instruments, including the piano, clarinet, flute, trumpet, violin, accordion and guitar.
In 1986, the director of the Lagos school gave notice that it would be closed, leaving just the Portimão school open. José Viegas Gonçalves was a parent at the first Lagos Music School and refused to accept the decision to close. “I would not accept this announcement,” he explains, “so a group of us set up a fathers’ commission seeking exceptional authorisation to keep the school open. We spoke to the President of the Câmara and the Minister of Education and the result was that the school remained open. We were all overjoyed, as it meant the students could continue to receive the excellent teaching they were getting.”
The Portimão music school (Portimão Conservatório) opened in 1990 and the Lagos Music School underwent a major refurbishment and was reopened in 1999. The final school to be opened, completing the Academy, was the Lagoa music school, at the end of last year.
Tuition is available for children between three and 18 years of age and can complement study in school or can be over and above the ordinary school curriculum. Children are of diverse nationalities – English, German and Dutch as well as Portuguese – and are taught according to the Suzuki violin method, a Japanese system of teaching very young children, similar to the automatic way children learn to talk. This system is now practised all over the world.
Many musical events are staged by the academies throughout the year. Among the more famous ex-pupils of the Academy are Maria João Cerol, who studied the flute at Lagos until she was 18 and then, in 1999, she concluded her studies at Lisbon’s Universidade Nova, winning a degree in Musical Sciences. Cerol has worked alongside Olavo Barroso, Nuno Ivo Cruz and Trevor Wye to name but a few. She has been awarded a place at Cardiff’s Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where, in September, she will continue her post-graduate studies.
During last year, the Academy has staged around 60 concerts as well as eight master classes and nine workshops. Over the course of the last 15 years, the Lagos Music Academy has overseen 574 classical music concerts, 37 seminars, four conferences, nine workshops, eight master classes, five competitions and two exhibitions by pupils. Forthcoming concerts include a Dixieland Jazz performance in August, a trumpet concert in September and a piano recital in October.
• Young people interested in studying at any of the music schools should call 282 082 786 for an application form.