Ian Horsbrugh

Inspiring music educator who excelled as Principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama
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Ian Robert Horsbrugh, music teacher and administrator: born Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire 16 September 1941; Head of Music, St Mary's School, Hendon 1969-72; Head of Music, Villiers High School, Southall 1972-79; Deputy Warden, Ilea Music Centre 1979-84; Vice-Director, Royal College of Music 1985-88; Principal, Guildhall School of Music & Drama 1988-2002; married 1965 Caroline Everett (two sons, two daughters); died London 22 July 2006.

Running a world-renowned conservatoire is a demanding job: students can be both talented and temperamental and many of the professors are only part-time, combining their teaching with their roles as world-famous performers. Yet new courses have to be planned, the timetable has to function and the building has to be maintained - as well as numerous concerts and plays, featuring each year's new student body, having to be rehearsed and performed to a very high standard.

The skills to oversee all these activities, and to stimulate the creative energy of individuals so that they flourish in a vibrant and creative collective atmosphere, are rare. Yet it was exactly these skills which Ian Horsbrugh, Principal of the Guildhall School of Music from 1988 until 2002, possessed in abundance.

Horsbrugh was born in Welwyn Garden City in 1941, the second of two boys. He was educated at St Paul's School, but it was not until he was 17 that he realised his fascination with music. He then undertook piano studies with David Parkhouse and cello studies with Eileen Croxford - two of the distinguished founder members of the Music Group of London. He continued his musical education with three years at the Guildhall and a fourth year at the Royal College of Music, where he added conducting to his studies.

After gaining musical and administrative experience with, amongst others, the Royal Ballet and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Horsbrugh opted for a career in education. Following a postgraduate course at Philippa Fawcett College (a college of London University's Institute of Education) which involved teaching practice in Brixton - where I first met him - he served as head of music at two London secondary schools, St Mary's School, Hendon, and Villiers High School, Southall, for 11 years. It was during these years that he learned the precious art of how to inspire young people to love music of all kinds.

Attracted by the range of opportunities for pupils to learn to perform music to exceptionally high standards, Horsbrugh joined the prestigious Inner London Education Authority's music team in 1979. He worked as the Deputy Warden of its Music Centre for five years, mastering the complex skills of administering the London Schools' Symphony Orchestra, the wind and string groups and the steel band, as well an extensive programme of individual teaching on Saturdays.

In 1985, drawn by the lure of a full-blown conservatoire, Horsbrugh took on the role of vice-director of the Royal College of Music. Here he honed his organisational skills and began to build up a network of international musical educators. Four years later, he was appointed to the role of principal at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, at the Barbican in the City of London.

For the next 14 years, Horsbrugh devoted himself to furthering the success of the school. Outstanding achievements included widening the range of countries from which students were recruited in order to give the school a global catchment area and the development of a variety of international partnerships. New courses in acting and stage management were introduced, as were degrees in instrumental performance and in academic subjects.

In 2000, the school became the first conservatoire to give a televised performance in a BBC Promenade Concert - a thrilling interpretation of Berlioz's Requiem by 700 Guildhall students under the baton of Sir Colin Davis. It was at this time that the critic Andrew Clements wrote that "the school's enterprise continues to put its professional counterparts to shame".

Horsbrugh was fiercely ambitious that the school should rank as one of the world's outstanding conservatoires and he was fully supported in this aim by his colleagues and the City of London. Yet he remained a modest man without a big ego and with a delightfully self-disparaging sense of humour. Here was a principal who could relate as successfully to the maintenance staff as to the famous actors and musicians associated with the school. This, perhaps, was the secret of his popularity with both students and staff which enabled him to stay in such a highly pressured role for so many years.

Horsbrugh was president of the Association of European Conservatoires for eight years from 1996 - during which its membership more than doubled - and chairman of the Heads of Music Colleges for four years. He was the chairman of the New Music Sub-Committee of the Arts Council, 1981-87, and served on numerous committees including those of the British Council and English Touring Opera. He was awarded honorary doctorates from City University and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1981 he published Leos Janácek: the field that prospered - a book which brought to English readers an appreciation of a person hardly recognised in his own lifetime as being one of Czechoslovakia's greatest composers.

Horsbrugh retired from the Guildhall in 2002. His contribution to the life of the school over many years was recognised by a star-studded leaving party, when he was presented with plumbing equipment in preparation for his DIY role refurbishing a large house in the Pyrenees. This project was completed earlier this year and the house was made ready for frequent visits from his four children and 10 grandchildren. His professional skills were rekindled last Christmas when, at the request of the local bishop, he conducted an English carol service for the local French community that filled the cathedral.

Peter Mortimore

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