BRIT Trust Diaries: Josh Berger CBE, Chair of BRIT School Trustees

22June, 2022

The BRIT Trust is the principal charity of UK recorded music, and aims to improve lives through the power of music and the creative arts. Funded largely by the annual BRIT Awards and Music Industry Trust (MITS) events, the Trust’s work is enabled by a Board of Trustees chaired by Tony Wadsworth CBE.  Since its foundation by record labels and the BPI in 1989, the Trust has donated around £28m to a range of causes that promote education and wellbeing, including The BRIT School, Nordoff Robbins, Mind, Music Support, ELAM, and Key4Life.  To learn more visit www.brittrust.co.uk.

To help explain and promote the work of The BRIT Trust and the charities it supports, the Trust publishes a regular series of BRIT Trust Diaries which we hope will provide interesting insights.  Please allow us to introduce our latest contributor, Josh Berger CBE, who was recently appointed Chair of Trustees to The BRIT School.

Josh Berger CBE, Chair of BRIT School Trustees

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 Paul Epworth in the Telegraph recently cited, “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 all roles in the creative industry and beyond.

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 – all of those have 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 background and 10% are on free school meals, with that number set to rise with the increase to 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.