Our staff

Marina Solarek

Artistic Director and Conductor



Marina’s first professional work was as an extra ballet dancer in the Bremerhaven State Theatre.

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.

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Catherine Manson

Chamber ensembles



Catherine Manson 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. 

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Sheena McKenzie

Cello and 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. (more…)

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Tristan Weymes

Choir Director and Voice/aural Teacher

Tristan photo for web


Tristan is a conductor, singer, and accompanist based in South London, currently studying towards an MA in Choral Conducting at the Royal Academy of Music and studies under Patrick Russill. At Trinity College, Oxford, he was Conductor of the Trinity College Chapel Choir, Oxford University Chorus, Turl Street Arts Festival Orchestra, and during this time also took up a Young Conducting Scholarship with Sing for Pleasure in 2019. He is currently Director of Music at St Mary the Virgin, Merton Park, an Assistant Leader at the London Youth Choirs, and is delighted to be taking up the post of Voice and Aural Teacher, and Choir Director, with Youth Music Service from September 2023. Alongside this, he is Deputy Artistic Director of Elysium, an organisation which aims to provide musical opportunities to young people who don’t have access to them and has held singing workshops across the UK and abroad. His professional singing work has involved solo performances at venues such as St Martin in the Fields and St Paul’s Knightsbridge, and as a backing singer onstage with London Youth Choirs.

He has worked with a variety of choirs, including a position as Associate Conductor of the North Cotswolds Chamber Choir last year, and runs the Elysium Consort and Chorus, towards termly concerts of both chamber and large-scale choral repertoire. He has led several youth choirs, including at Bloxham School, and recently became an Assistant Leader with the London Youth Cambiata Boys’ Choir. He was recently Conducting Fellow of Hertford Choral Society. Tristan is determined to provide opportunities to musicians of all backgrounds. He recently set up a Children’s Choir at St Luke’s, Woodside, where he was Director of Music until December 2022, and has led singing workshops in the UK and abroad for children and adults alike.

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Fiona Nisbett

Cello and conductor of Preparatory and lower strings Orchestra

Fiona Nisbitt


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. (more…)

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Iona McDonald

Violin and Ensembles



Iona McDonald is a violinist currently in the 2nd year of her 2 year Master of Arts degree studying with Maureen Smith and Michael Foyle at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Born in Dumfries, and with her early education in Moffat, Iona is a well-known young musician around Dumfries and Galloway. She has been a member of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester since 2019. Highlights of her time working with the GMJO include performing on the opening night of the Salzburg Festspiele in July 2021 and a collaboration with the GMJO and the Dresden Staatskapelle in March 2020.

Iona is a member of the Asaka Quartet, formed at the Royal Academy of Music in October 2021. After just 6 months of working together, they are delighted to have been appointed Chamber Music Fellows at the Royal Academy for 2022/23. Currently they are mentored by Martin Outram and also receive coaching from the Doric Quartet and the London Haydn Quartet. Recently, they received an invitation to the prestigious Music Coll 2022 by Jonathan Tunnell, Artistic Director of the Tunnell Trust, where they will work, study and perform on the beautiful Isle of Coll in June later this year.

Iona is also a keen orchestral player and the Royal Academy has presented many wonderful performance opportunities, including performing at the Wigmore Hall with the String and Wind Soloists ensemble in May 2019 and tour of Japan in Summer 2018. She regularly performs with the RAM Symphony Orchestra which she recently lead for their Midsummer NightsDream project in January 2022. She is delighted to have been invited to lead the RAM Symphony Orchestra for their performance of Mahler 3 at the Royal Festival Hall conducted by Semyon Bychkov for the Academy’s 200th Anniversary Concert in June 2022. She was also leader of the Opera Orchestra for the performances of Gianni Schicchi & L’heureEspagnol in November 2021 and lead the Manson Ensemble in November 2020. Iona has been a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland ensembles since the age of 8, touring China in 2015, performing at the Proms in 2016 and leading the Symphony Orchestra in the 2017 season. She is delighted to be joining them again in July 2022 as a soloist with the NYOS Junior orchestra.

Iona has performed as soloist with Buxton Music Society, Musicale, Halifax Symphony Orchestra, Glasgow Chamber Orchestra and High Peak Orchestra whom she will be joining again in July 2022 to perform Chausson Poeme in the Buxton Festival Fringe.

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Graham Bennett

Theory and Composition

Graham Bennett


Graham Bennett BMUS LRAM PGCE 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 Educational Music Books specialising in composition, theory and performance.

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