The NMSM is an independent body, governed by Constitution, and consists of professional and amateur musicians from all walks of life.
It was founded in 1992 from the former Lancashire School of Music, started by entertainment organist Reginald Dixon (Tower Ballroom, Blackpool) to encourage young people to perform in public and enjoy keyboard music.
Following the principles established by Reginald Dixon, the School grew and diversified into all areas of music and now has its own independent assessment scheme, which was researched and developed as part of a higher degree programme at the University of Leeds Education Department.
Performance-based assessment, offered at Associate, Licentiate, and Fellowship levels, are the main focus of the School. Two pre-diploma grades and four post-fellowship diplomas are also offered, which combine both practical and theory assessment.
In addition to musical assessments, the school has pioneered an Associate diploma course (by correspondence) for clergy and lay readers. This course deals with the human issues and management of music in worship.
Membership is open to anyone interested in music, performers, composers, or researchers. As the School receives no external funding, an annual membership fee is payable and it is a pre-requisite to register as a subscribing member, prior to applying to be assessed at Associate level and above.
Members of the School are entitled to wear academic regalia and those gaining diplomas can wear one of the distinctive Cambridge-shaped black hoods, fully lined in scarlet silk. Fellows hoods have an additional two inches of high quality imitation fur to the cowel. Advanced diploma hoods are of the Aberdeen full shape, fully lined with scarlet taffeta and bound with half and inch of coloured ribbon to denote the award discipline.