The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) has announced that Michael Plaut OBE has joined the college’s Board of Directors as chair. He takes over from John Derrick, who stepped down after fulfilling his full term of three years in summer 2023.

Plaut is managing director of Northmace & Hendon, a leading hospitality company founded by his father. He was awarded an OBE for services to business and entrepreneurship in 2020. He was formerly chair of CBI Wales, representing Welsh businesses.

He is described by RWCMD as a “passionate arts supporter with wide-ranging global experience”. He started his career in London as an investment banker, and has extensive knowledge of commercial and non-profit organisations.

By invitation of the secretary of state for Wales, Plaut chaired Building a More Prosperous Wales, a report for the UK Government on the Welsh economy. He is influential in shaping public policy and his business advice is sought after by governments in both Westminster and Cardiff.

“The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama has a clear and compelling vision for its future, and a powerful ethos of empowering excellence,” Plaut commented. “As a creative industries powerhouse, Wales – small but mighty – is an international magnet with immense natural resources of talent.”

“I believe this is an organisation with the potential to truly make change, to transform lives and connect communities, and I am looking forward to leading it into its 75th birthday year and beyond.”

Plaut is joined on the board by two newly appointed directors: Sarah Alexander OBE and Helen Sanderson, who both took up their roles in August. They follow the appointments of April Koyejo-Audiger, Ian Lewis, Tianyi Lu, David Ruebain and Nitin Sawhney CBE as board members in January 2023.

As chief executive and artistic director of the National Youth Orchestra, Sarah Alexander has grown the institution from working with 164 young people to one that reaches 10,000 teenagers, opening access to music for young people from all backgrounds. It is now widely celebrated as the world’s greatest orchestra for teenagers.

Alexander spent many years in Wales leading the education department at Welsh National Opera and has won prestigious awards from the Association of British Orchestras and the Royal Philharmonic Society among others. She became an honorary fellow of the college in 2022.

Helen Sanderson joins the board as the representative elected by RWCMD colleagues. A performer, educator, arranger, composer and creative entrepreneur she is head of guitar performance at the college. With an international performing career centred on chamber music, she founded the music education charity, Guitar Circus, home of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble, and the World Youth Guitar Festival of which she is artistic director.

RWCMD principal professor Helena Gaunt said: “As we count down to our 75th birthday in 2024, I’m very much looking forward to working with Michael and the whole RWCMD board. These new appointments will stretch and challenge us in exciting new ways.

“Michael brings a strategic, global view along with a sharp focus on creating meaningful change for Wales as a nation. Sarah and Helen will each add fresh and dynamic artistic and educational perspectives.

“As we say goodbye to John Derrick in his role as chair, we extend our heartfelt thanks to him for steering us so well through these past six years, and I look forward to the next chapter when we know that he will stay close to us.”

Former chair John Derrick added : “I am delighted after six years to be passing on the role of chair to Michael Plaut, who is well placed to capitalise on the significant opportunity that the college has to expand and grow its world-class education and the arts from Wales.

“This is an exciting new chapter with a major new building in Cardiff to develop, and Michael is well placed given his experience at the CBI and in business to assist with the next stage of growth, embracing the inclusivity and focus on life-long learning that the conservatoire embodies.

“Sarah Alexander and Helen Sanderson will further reinforce the depth and experience of this first-class and experienced board to work under Helena’s leadership to be ambitious and reach new heights.”



New board members Sarah Alexander, Michael Plaut and Sarah Alexander joined the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in August 2023.