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Faculty of Music


The University of Cambridge announces the appointments of Simon Fairclough as Director and Sonita Alleyne OBE as Chair of the new Centre for Music Performance (CMP), which has been established to enable students, staff and the wider community to make music in all its forms a core part of life at Cambridge.

Simon will join the University on 1 December from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), where he is currently Director of Development; he will also be an Official Fellow at Girton College.  Sonita is Master of Jesus College.

Musical performance has thrived at Cambridge for centuries, and provision today ranges from world-renowned choirs to flourishing student-led jazz and musical theatre.  Sonita, Simon and the CMP team will work with partners across the University and beyond to shape the future of this vibrant scene. 

In addition to securing and enhancing Cambridge’s traditional musical strengths the CMP will over time develop provision and facilities for rock and pop, electronic music and other genres which have historically been less well served, and will launch programmes for those wishing to get involved with music for the first time.  Fostering an environment in which excellence and inclusivity sit side by side, it will support performance at all levels, in all genres, for the most diverse possible cross-section of students, as well as for staff and local residents.

Commenting on his appointment, Simon said ‘I was thrilled when at the height of the pandemic the University signalled its commitment to musical performance by creating the CMP.  It is a huge honour to have been invited to become the Centre’s inaugural Director, and also to be joining Girton as a Fellow.  Cambridge has launched many of the biggest careers in music, and I am committed to maintaining its long tradition of musical excellence.  At the same time the wellbeing and social benefits of music-making are well known, and I look forward to working with colleagues to extend them even further across the University.’

Simon has a track record of strengthening cultural organisations’ financial health, artistic ambition and societal impact.  At the CBSO he has overseen a fourfold increase in annual philanthropic income while also championing initiatives to broaden the orchestra’s contribution to society including the establishment of the music-specialist Shireland CBSO School in Sandwell.  He was previously Head of External Relations at the Academy of Ancient Music, where he helped establish the orchestra’s concert series at the Barbican Centre and its record label and education programme.  He has been involved with music at Cambridge on a voluntary basis for almost 20 years, including eight as chair of the Cambridge University Musical Society.

Sonita Alleyne will chair the University’s new Music Performance Committee, which has been formed to oversee the CMP.  A journalist, businesswoman and entrepreneur, she founded the production company Somethin' Else and led it as Chief Executive from 1991 until 2009.  She brings a wealth of governance experience from non-executive roles ranging from DCMS to the disability arts charity Artsline to newspaper group Archant.  In her five-year tenure on the BBC Trust, Sonita championed diversity, inclusivity and the Corporation’s strategies to represent all communities of the UK.  She became Master of Jesus College in 2019.  Sonita has a broad-ranging and eclectic taste in music.

Sonita commented: ‘I’m delighted to be working with Simon and the CMP team as we establish the Centre for Music Performance. The CMP will sit at the heart of the University to support, teach and mentor students from the beginner to the very highest levels of excellence. By supporting a broad range of musical genres the CMP will create a creative environment in which the widest possible range of musical endeavours can flourish.’

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope, said: ‘At a time of unprecedented stress for the performing arts, I am proud that Cambridge is creating a new Centre for Music Performance. A step-change in the visibility, breadth, reach and role of music performance, it will nurture the highest aspirations of the very best performers, besides offering a wonderful array of opportunities to those with previously limited experience. In the long run the Centre will be a stimulus for interdisciplinarity, research excellence and all-round personal development. I am thrilled to see the CMP go ahead at Cambridge.’

For more information about the Centre for Music Performance please contact Chloe Davidson at