Supported and encouraged by Lady Aberdeen, Dorothy Hately founded NESMS in 1975 to give young people of musical promise in the North East the opportunity to experience tuition "not otherwise available to them within their existing framework of study", and with the help of the then Director of Education she secured part of the old Academy in Belmont Street for her first students.
Internationally renowned musicians such as Dennis Matthews, John Carol Case initially and later Raimund Herincx, Sofie-Christine Süssman, Ifor James and James Blades amongst others were "persuaded" by Dorothy to travel to Aberdeen on a regular basis to give talented students the benefits of their expertise and experience.
When the old Academy buildings and the surrounding land were sold by the local authority to a developer, NESMS had to find a new home. Fortunately Dorothy was able to persuade the Methodist Church in Crown Terrace to provide a suitable venue until she was able to secure the grant from the Scottish Arts Council Lottery Fund which enabled NESMS to find a permanent home.
The new premises in Huntly Street were officially opened on 14th May 1998 and named in her memory as the Dorothy Hately Music Centre. Sadly, Dorothy herself did not live to see that day, succumbing to cancer in 1996. Her well-deserved MBE for services to music had been awarded earlier, in 1987.
Over four decades NESMS has established a reputation for quality teaching, and has attracted a wide range of fine musicians to Aberdeen including: John Carol Case, Marjorie Blakeston, Neil Mackie, John Shirley Quirk, Sofie-Christine Süssmann, Raimund Herincx and Ruth Black (voice); Donald Hawksworth (organ); David Parkhouse and John Blakely (piano); Peter Mountain and Hugh Bean (violin); Eileen Croxford Parkhouse (cello); Gilbert Biberian (guitar); Paul Anderson (Scottish fiddle); David Nicholson (flute); Simon Milton and Anne Rankin (oboe); Lawrence Gill and Alison Waller (clarinet); Martin Gatt and Janet Bloxwich (bassoon); Ifor James, Lizzie Davis (horn) and Sue Baxendale ; and James Blades (percussion).
Those who have given celebrity workshops or master classes include Emanuel Hurwitz (violin), David Mason (trumpet), Janet Craxton (oboe), Thea King (clarinet), Michael Arno (recorders), Ifor James (horn) and Alan Lumsden (trombone).
Back in 1985, Dorothy Hately telephoned the parents of a 14-year old Aberdeen schoolgirl who had just won a television 'Stars of Tomorrow' competition at His Majestys Theatre and suggested she come to the school for singing lessons. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, with leading roles for Glyndebourne, English National Opera, New York Metropolitan Opera, Dallas Opera Company, Paris Opera de Chatelet and Scottish Opera under her belt, and a tour of Japan with Sir Simon Rattle completed, that girl, Lisa Milne, is indeed a star. And she puts a large part of her success down to the tuition she received at the School in what was a crucially formative part of her education.
"I worked with Jean Webster on my singing technique on a weekly basis and with Neil Mackie on interpretive work when he came up from the Royal College of Music," remembers Lisa. "They did a fantastic job when I went on to audition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Pat McMahon commented on how well I had been taught and prepared. Not only had Jean and Neil taught me a wide range of repertoire, it was the right repertoire for my voice. Their efforts were the lynchpin of my whole career."