The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, one of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious conservatories, has been added to the NSW heritage register.

The Conservatorium’s Dean and Principal, Professor Kim Walker, described the decision as “a fitting tribue to a wonderful Sydney icon and a living treasure.” Listing in the State Heritage Register also ensures the building’s protection under the NSW Heritage Act and eligibility for financial incentives from the NSW and Commonwealth governments.

“Our beloved Con is a living treasure with close to 3000 students and staff making daily use of the heritage venue and thousands of audience and community members visiting each year,” said Professor Walker. “This listing is very exciting as it further establishes our building as a destination of public importance in its own right.”

The announcement brings a positive start to what will be a busy 2011 for the Conservatorium, with new works being commissioned from Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin and English composer Michael Nyman for the 101 Compositions for 100 Years project – a series of commisions coinciding with the lead up to the Con’s centenary in 2015.

Designed by convict architect Francis Greenway following an 1815 commission, the building that now houses the famous Verbrugghen Hall was originally used as stables for the nearby Government House. In 1915, it was redeveloped into a music school and, on March 6, 1916, the first students entered its halls. From 1997, a major upgrade of the Con was championed by then premier Bob Carr and education minister John Aquilina – both of whose contributions were acknowledged by Professor Walker.