BASILIA SAM: “It is my hope that the new premises will become a home for music”

Marco Carvalho

New opportunities, but also new responsibilities. The Saint Pius X Music Academy has started the new academic year in its new premises, at Rua da Praia do Bom Parto. The change, says the institution’s director, allowed the recruitment of new teachers and opened the doors to new development perspectives, but also to greater challenges and obligations. The institution currently teaches nearly two hundred students. Ms. Basilia Sam spoke with O Clarim about the road ahead. 

One year ago, you told O Clarim that this move to new venues is a very meaningful one for Saint Pius X Music Academy. What do these new premises mean for the Academy?

This is a very significant milestone and marks an exciting new chapter in the development of the Academy. Father Áureo Castro, founder of the Academy in 1962, dreamt of having a spacious, well-equipped school, and through the years there have been changes and improvement, but today’s new school building is truly magnificent, allowing our students to flourish within a stimulating learning environment with outstanding facilities. I’m grateful to Bishop Stephen Lee and Father João Lau, the Supervisor of the Academy, for their trust in me to undertake the renovation of the historic Matteo Ricci College and turning it into the new Academy building. I’ve learnt a great deal in the process, and am glad to have this opportunity to contribute to the Academy especially since I was once an Academy student myself! Next year will be the 60th anniversary of the Academy, and we’re very much looking forward to a joyful celebration at our new address. The Academy’s relocation will enable us to expand in all areas, accommodating more students, more teachers, more courses and more possibilities for future development. There are also two recital halls for concerts and musical activities. It is my hope that the new premises will become a “home for music.”

Will this move favor the growth of the Academy, both in terms of students and in terms of the courses offered?

Definitely! Before, when we were still at the old location at the Rua de Santa Clara, space was very limited which restricted the number of students we could accept, as well as the number of teachers. Moving to the new site means we have better resources and facilities, and could increase the number of teachers. For this new academic year, we have recruited eight new teachers. In the future, we can provide a wider range of music courses to cater for different needs. Students will also benefit from additional resources, such as library facilities, new instruments and rehearsal spaces. The additional space has enabled us to house four beautiful new organs bequeathed by a generous donor. Plans are in place for courses to train organists and promote an appreciation for organ music.

How many students does the Academy currently teach?

Now we have approximately 190 students, nine of which are learning more than one musical instrument. This number includes our new students. 

Last year you told O Clarim that financial difficulties were also an issue. Have things changed ever since?

The financial implications are even greater because bigger spaces, classrooms, more equipment, pianos, organs and so on require a corresponding higher amount of maintenance fees, not to mention water and electricity bills, costs for cleaning, security, repairs and others, which have also increased many times. From maintenance and operational costs to human resource management and general administration, we have to contend with constant challenges and solve a myriad of problems. But we’re confident that every teacher and staff member at the Academy will work together to face these challenges and build a stronger, brighter future.

Now that the Academy is already working on its new premises, what would you say are the biggest challenges or priorities of the Academy?

Well, besides the challenges that I’ve mentioned, of equal importance is to review the academic program, refine course content, assure quality of teaching, identify areas for development, and optimize administrative procedures and systems. The transformation of a 153-year old heritage building into a music school was an enormous challenge. Thanks be to God, to Fr Áureo and Fr Lancelot for their blessings, and to the Diocese for its support. This mammoth task could not have been accomplished otherwise. Now it would be another challenge to keep it going for the next 150 years!