Marina Solarek, Artistic Director and Conductor
Marina’s first professional work was as an extra ballet dancer in the Bremerhaven State Theatre.
After her A levels in Music, Biology, Pedagogy and Sport, she studied Music at the Musik Hochschule Heidelberg/Mannheim and later at the Hamburg Hochschule for Musik und Theatre where she was trained in Violin, Piano, Voice, Choir and Orchestral conducting.
In 1986 she moved to London to study violin with Professor Yfrah Neaman and gained her performance and teaching diplomas at the Guildhall school of Music and Drama in 1988.
Her first job was in the BBC Radio Orchestra and since becoming freelance she has played with most major London Orchestras and Opera Houses, has played in and led numerous West end shows and freelance orchestras and worked for Film and television. As a chamber musician she has recorded for BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM. Her Piano Trio, which specialises in the performance of neglected 19th and 20th century women composers has performed at the Purcell Room, St Johns Smith Square, St David’s Hall Cardiff and has toured in Great Britain and Europe.
Throughout her playing career Marina has taught at many different institutions. She has taught chamber music at the Royal College Junior department, violin at Royal Holloway University and has given masterclasses at Belfast University. She also enjoys leading various amateur orchestras in London and conducting their string rehearsals. Recently she started conducting her own string orchestra in St Albans.
In her spare time Marina goes to ballet classes with Romayne Grigorova at the Royal Opera House.
Catherine Manson, Violin and Chamber Ensembles
Catherine enjoys a versatile performing career as a soloist and chamber musician.
As first violinist of the classical London Haydn Quartet she has performed in venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, London’s Wigmore Hall and the Sydney Opera House. The quartet’s series of recordings of the Haydn quartets on the Hyperion label has met with high critical acclaim internationally.
She was appointed as leader of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra in 2006. Together with the orchestra’s director, Ton Koopman she has recorded the six obbligato sonatas by Bach, Haydn’s concerto for violin and organ and the complete chamber music by Buxtehude. They have given many concerts together throughout Europe.
Teaching has always been an important part of her musical life; in 2001 she co-founded and now directs MusicWorks, an organisation which presents a range of chamber music courses for young musicians. She has given masterclasses and workshops at conservatories in London, Lyon, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and at Juilliard School, Yale and Indiana Universities.
Sheena Mckenzie, Cello and Chamber Ensembles
Sheena began her ‘cello studies in Hong Kong at the age of 11. Three years later, she moved back to her father’s native Scotland where she attended the Douglas Academy music school. At the age of 16, Sheena was invited to perform Prokofiev’s Concertino with the junior orchestra of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she went on to study with William Conway. She was then awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study at the Royal College of Music in London with Amaryllis Fleming.
Sheena has won prizes for ‘cello solo and chamber music playing, as well as piano solo and piano accompaniment prizes. An award from the Countess of Munster Trust enabled her to acquire her beautiful Barak Norman ‘cello, made in 1716.
Sheena has played in master classes with Pierre Fournier (at the age of 13), Paul Tortelier, William Pleeth and Alexander Baillie. She has enjoyed a playing career both as a chamber musician and as a freelance orchestral player but she now dedicates her time mainly to teaching.
Fiona Nisbett, Cello , Double Bass, Orchestra conductor and Chamber Ensembles
Fiona studied cello with Alexander Baillie and William Pleeth. She made her concerto debut at the age of seventeen and since then has performed most of the major concertos with orchestra. At the age of eighteen Fiona was one of five soloists selected to perform in the Youth Makes Music Rotary International Festival at The Royal Albert Hall.
She has given recitals throughout England, France, Holland, Germany, The Czech Republic and Italy including first performances of John McCabe’s Solo Partita for cello in Italy and Keith Beal’s Sonata No1 for cello and piano in Holland. Fiona has also taken part in several recordings and more recently performed in a chamber music concert with Raphael Wallfisch at Burgh House, London. Fiona has been the cellist of The Pentland Trio since its formation in 2010.
Peng Nian, Viola and Chamber Ensembles
Peng was born in Han Dan and brought up in a medium size heavy industry city called Fu Shun in north east China, which has a population of 2.2 million (small for China!).
She started learning the violin at the age of four and a half in Fu Shun. The orchestra she played in as a school student won a number of first prizes and she was selected to appear when the orchestra played on TV over there. She was offered a place as an orchestra member in the only music centre in Fu Shun and was one of two who were accepted without audition.
In 2000, she came to UK to study and, luckily, in 2007 she met Tatjana Goldberg as her violin teacher at Middlesex University. She loved Tatjana’s teaching style from the first lesson and later gave up an unconditional offer to study music at Manhattan college, New York, in 2008, because she felt that Tatjana was the right teacher who would direct her well for the future. Thanks to Tatjana, Peng received a music prize at Middlesex University in 2009. She then continued to study for a MA in Music Performance jointly at City University and Guildhall school of music and drama. During her studies she played one of Vivaldi’s violin concertos with the UK’s longest running chamber ensemble, Allegri String Quartet, and also had masterclass with the leader of the quartet, Rafael, and masterclasses with Sophie Langdon.
Peng started as assistant to both Nigel and Tatjana since studying at Middlesex University and also developed her own teaching practise since that time. In 2008 she started working as a helper at YMC and she has very much enjoyed working as part of the teaching staff with Nigel, Tatjana, Fiona and Greg at YMC. Before working at YMC, she taught Mandarin at Hackney Community for a number of years.
Having taught at primary schools in north London for several years, she is now enjoying a freelance career as chamber musician, orchestral player and choral singer. She has played at Burgh House, St Luke’s, on the South Bank and worked with Kings College. Peng is currently a member of the orchestra at Hertfordshire University. She also sang at St George’s, Hanover Square, and has organised children’s concerts and a musical in China, but she now dedicates her time mainly to teaching youngsters.
Utako Toyama, Junior Musicianship (early years)
Kristina Greally, Recorder and Recorder Ensembles
Kristina read Music at King’s College London and graduated in 2015 with a First Class Honours BMus. She is continuing her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, where she is on the Masters degree in Historical Performance programme under Pamela Thorby. She gained a piano diploma, the DipABRSM, in 2009, and was awarded the FTCL, a Fellowship in recorder performance from Trinity College London, in 2012. Kristina has six years’ teaching experience, and was recently awarded the Cert PTC teaching diploma from EPTA (UK). She places special importance on ear training in young children. Kristina also teaches piano and recorder at Watford Grammar School for Girls, and accompanies singers and instrumentalists.
Alison Smart Fisher, Voice/Aural and Choir conductor
The British soprano, Alison Smart, studied Classics at Clare College, Cambridge, where she was Senior Choral Scholar. She took postgraduate diplomas at the Royal Northern College of Music in 1995 and at Trinity College of Music, London in 1996.
After 22 years in the BBC Singers she is extending her conducting work and is delighted to have been appointed Musical Director of De Mer Chamber Choir.
Alison is an experienced professional singer and also director of Music at St Mary-at-Finchley Parish Church, London N3, with a thriving adult and youth choir. She curates a long-established series of chamber concerts.
An experienced professional singer. Recent solo soprano appearances include: Bastienne (‘Bastien and Bastienne’, by Mozart) for Insieme – Highgate Festival and Islington Proms, June 2019. UK premiere of Graham Waterhouse’s song cycle ‘Emerald Spring’, May 2019.
Graham Bennett BMUS LRAM PGCE, Music Theory and Composition
Graham studied piano, theory and composition at the Yehudi Menuhin School, the Royal Northern College of Music, and the Royal Academy of Music in London where he was awarded the Associated Board Entrance Scholarship. During this time he won many prestigious prizes and performed extensively in the United Kingdom and abroad as a soloist and chamber musician.
In 2001 Graham studied for a PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London to obtain Qualified Teacher Status which enabled him to broaden his teaching experiences working with students in mainstream schools across North London, and he is Head of Theory and Composition at the Youth Music Centre
Graham is also the author, composer and publisher of the ‘Music Master Series’, a collection of fun and easy to follow Educational Music Books specialising in composition, theory and performance.
David Evans, Flute teacher and Wind Ensembles
David studied the flute privately with Peter Lloyd before winning a scholarship to study with Geoffrey Gilbert at the Royal Manchester College of Music.
He has been a member of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra and in England has played with many national orchestras including the Halle and the BBC Northern Orchestras, Royal and Festival Ballets, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Liverpool Philharmonic.
David now freelances and teaches at the City of London School for Girls.
Claudio Leisse, Music Theory
Henry Hargreaves, Conductor of Intro Orchestra and Cello Assistant
Henry started learning aged 6 with Michael Nebe and then Gillian Thoday. Henry has won many prizes, including the May Mukle Prize (Academy cello prize) and an award from the Raphael Sommer Foundation. He has been invited to perform concertos at venues in Spain, France, Italy and around the UK in venues including Fairfield Halls.
He has given numerous solo and chamber recitals at venues and festivals including St James Piccadilly, the Forge Camden, Mozarteum Salzburg, Marylebone Festival, Cambridge University, Charlton House, Academy Russian Chamber Music festival and including a recital raising over £500 for Evelina Children’s Hospital.