Core Staff

Louise Lansdown - Founder

Louise Lansdown was appointed Head of Strings at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2012. Louise is the founder of the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival, launched at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in October 2014, as well as being the founder and President of the British Viola Society. She is on the Council of Management of Lake District Summer Music, a Trustee of the European String Teachers Association, on the board of the Quartet of Peace Trust and directs the Conservatoire based viola course at Pro Corda, Suffolk. Louise, along with her viola students, is the founder of the ARCO Project. She plays on a French Viola c.1750 and 1890 Sartory bow, both previously belonged to the South African violist Cecil Aronowitz.


Peggy Nolan - Cello and Chamber Music teacher

As the cellist of the Eblana String Trio, Peggy has performed at venues including the Wigmore Hall, St Johns Smith Square and Manchester's Bridgewater Hall. In 2015 the trio were selected as Park Lane Young Artists and are currently City Music Foundation Artists. They have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and are record their debut CD of British string trios in 2019.

Peggy has performed as a guest with many chamber groups including the Pleyel Ensemble, Robinson Panoramic Quartet, and contemporary music groups Psappha, Vonnegut Collective and the Crash Ensemble. Peggy is a Cello tutor at the RBC, Yorkshire Young Musicians and ProCorda North, and Course Director of Concorda Chamber Music in Ireland.


Alistair Rutherford - Research Assistant

Born in Liverpool, Alistair is a graduate of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He is now the Research Assistant for the ARCO Project, involved in managing the project and looking for new avenues for development. Alistair enjoys performing and teaching and has been involved with Arco since it was founded in 2015. He currently teaches Akhona violin on the project. In his spare time Alistair enjoys running, especially in his running viola costume and has raised thousands of pounds for ARCO through his prolific fundraising attempts.


Lucy Nolan - Viola and Chamber Music Teacher

Dublin-born Lucy enjoys a busy career as a chamber musician and teacher. She moved to England in 2004 and graduated with highest honours from the Royal Northern College of Music. Lucy is a founding member of the Eblana String Trio and frequently guests with a number of Britain's leading orchestras. Lucy is passionate about her teaching career. As well as her role with Arco, she currently holds positions at the RNCM, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and the University of Manchester.


Chris Bishop - Principal MICM Soweto

Chris is an experienced musician, teacher and ensemble and performance coach. Born in England, he studied at Trinity College of Music, London, and has been Co-Principal Horn with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra since he moved to South Africa in 2007. In 2013 Chris was appointed Principal of the Cape Gate MIAGI Centre for Music in Soweto.


Daliwonga Tshangela - Cello Teacher

Daliwonga started cello lessons at the age of 12 when he joined the African Youth Ensemble. During that time Daliwonga attended the South Africa National Youth Orchestra with whom he performed at the Aberdeen International Festival in 1994. Daliwonga holds a Masters in Performance from Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of the Performing Arts. Whilst studying in the U.S, Daliwonga performed at the Colorado Springs Chamber Music Festival, as well as in Canada, Russia, and Tokyo. Daliwonga teaches at CMCM in Johannesburg and has played with the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra.


Kabelo Monnathebe - Violin Teacher

Kabelo was raised in a musical family with his uncles forming part of the Soweto String Quartet. He started playing the violin in 1999 at ACOSA before his uncles took him to Buskaid where he flourished under the mentorship and guidance of Rosemary Nalden. Rosemary helped him audition at all 4 Colleges in London and he won a scholarship at The Royal Academy of Music. Kabelo now holds a BMus Hons degree and is back in South Africa as a freelance musician, teacher, and a member of the Resonance String Quartet.


Tiisetso Mashisi - Viola Teacher

Tiisetso is a 27 year old violist from Diepkloof, Soweto. He started his musical journey as a young boy by following his Mother and Uncle to classical concerts. In 1999 he joined Buskaid Sowe String Project starting out as an Oboe. In 2000, he was given a viola lesson and “was hooked”. In 2008 he was accepted with a full scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, London. He teaches at Buskaid, MIAGI and the National School of Arts and is the Principle Viola of the Buskaid String Ensemble. He also works as a freelance violist with Johannesburg Orchestras including JPO, JFO, JMI and Mzansi Chamber orchestra.


Olga Maraba - Violin Teacher

Olga has been playing violin for over 20 years, and is still learning to this day. She has an ATCL viola and LTCL.




RBC Student Teachers

Jeffrey Armstrong

South African-born Jeffrey Armstrong studies with Caroline Pether and Oliver Wille at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. He has appeared as a soloist with all major South African orchestras, and has received masterclasses from Leonidas Kavakos, Baiba Skride and Olivier Charlier among others. He has also received coaching from musicians including Jian Wang, Eberhard Feltz, Anthony Spiri and Jonathan Kelly. Jeffrey has a great passion for chamber music, and performed in Wigmore Hall with his quartet in 2017. He has played as an ad hoc for the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen as well as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and is an artist at the Wye Valley Music Festival 2019.


Madelaine Carroll-McArdle

Madelaine is currently in her final year of her studies at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire studying Viola with Robin Ireland and Lucy Nolan. Madelaine is currently a violin teacher with the Services for education in local schools within the Birmingham area and actively working towards her PGCE after graduation. She has received masterclasses from distinguished violists such as Nobuko Imai, Robin Ireland, Thomas Riebl and Vicci Wardman. She joined the Arco project in 2018 and was thrilled to be part of such a wonderful team.


Yue Yu

Chinese born violist Yue Yu moved to the UK in 2015 and started her study with Dr Louise Lansdown at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. As a soloist, she has performed widely internationally and was a major-prize winner at the 2017 Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition. Her stage appearances have included in London Wigmore Hall, Birmingham Town Hall, Bradshaw Hall at RBC, Rotterdam, and Cremona. Most recently, she has been selected as one of the 40 violists from the world to compete in the live rounds at the 2019 Lionel Tertis Viola Competition.


Mahaliah Edwards

Mahaliah is a violinist from Nottingham. In 2013, she was awarded a scholarship to study at the Purcell School. In addition to playing, Mahaliah is passionate about community and outreach work, teaching and being a mentor to younger musicians. She also writes on her blog about musical topics and documents life as a student musician. Mahaliah also enjoys music in all its forms and is a proud member of the Dunev Quartet and the Folk Ensemble. In 2017, she received the ‘Be Inspired Youth Award’ from the Association of Jamaican Nationals, recognising her contribution to the community through music.


Aisling Reilly

Irish Double Bassist Aisling Reilly is a recent graduate of the Orchestral Postgraduate course at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. She has performed professionally with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and the Oxford Philharmonic.

Aisling has also been fortunate enough to have played as a soloist performing Eduard Tubin’s Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra in the Final Year Concerto Showcase Concert at RBC, and in a fundraising concert for the ARCO String Teaching Project with the Co-Orch orchestra in Dublin.


Harry Broom

Cellist Harry Broom is currently in his fourth year of undergraduate study at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire studying under the tutelage of Ulrich Heinen. Born in Birmingham, Harry started playing the cello at the age of 7 and learnt with Emma Capp and Mark Broadhead before receiving a scholarship to study at RBC.

Harry enjoys orchestral playing and is involved with numerous Orchestras. Orchestras include the CBSO Youth Orchestra, Bournville String Orchestra, Ripieno Players, BPO, Ealing Symphony Orchestra, Welsh Musical Theatre Orchestra and Ex Cathedra. Furthermore, Harry is currently participating in the CBSO Scheme for 2018/2019.

Harry is regularly involved in chamber music and is currently a member of The Hanau Quartet. Harry is currently directing and leading Birmingham Cello Collective for up and coming performances.


Nick Fidler

Nick Fidler, born in Pretoria, South Africa, is a viola player. He went to school in Pretoria and studied Law and Music at Rhodes University, finishing an Honours in performance music Cum Laude in 2013. As a performer, Nick has played around South Africa with the Anika trio and the Muñoz quartet. He has played as a soloist with the Nelson Mandela University Orchestra, the Eastern Cape Philharmonic, and the South African National Youth Orchestra.

Nick is passionate about chamber music and viola performance but this is often overshadowed by his passion for, and commitment to instrumental music education, particularly as a means to make a positive impact. Nick has taught at several prestigious schools in the Eastern Cape, most recently and notably, at Alexander Road High School, where he was the head of strings. He has also taught through Upliftment programmers such as the Keiskamma Music Academy, and the Eastern Cape Upliftment organization. He is a fervent advocate for the positive impact music tuition can make in young people’s lives, and as such is committed to the Arco Project.

Currently, Nick is continuing with his studies under Dr Louise Lansdown, reading for his Masters in Music at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.


Maria Antunes

Maria was born in Porto, Portugal in 1994. She accomplished her Bachelor Degree in 2015 at Escola de Música e Artes do Espetáculo in Portugal. Currently, Maria is doing her Postgraduate Masters in Music at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, studying with the head of strings, Dr. Louise Lansdown.

Alongside her studies, Maria has worked in several academies and projects as a violin and viola teacher, and also as a freelance musician performing at several venues including The Royal Concertgebouw, The Konzerthaus Berlin, The Elbphilarmonie, Yehudi Menuhin Hall and Birmingham Symphony Hall. Maria is a founding member of the Impetus Trio.


Benjamin Isaac

Originally from Maesteg, South Wales, Benjamin graduated from Royal Holloway University of London in 2018 after receiving a BA (Hons) in Mathematics & Music, studying with violinists Jeremy Isaac and Anna Cashell. He is currently studying for his MMus in Instrumental Performance in the Violin at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under the tutelage of Zoë Beyers. A keen orchestral and chamber player, Benjamin has performed with numerous ensembles including the National Youth Orchestra of Wales, performing in prestigious concert venues across England and Wales. Benjamin currently teaches Mabatho violin on the project and plays on a 2013 Feng Jiang violin. In his spare time, he enjoys socialising with friends and is a keen and avid sports fan.


Emily Dore

Born in Yorkshire, Emily is in her 3rd year of study at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with Louise Lansdown. She started teaching on the ARCO project in 2016 and currently teaches Malaika and Nontobeko. In her spare time she enjoys playing Folk music and in recent fundraising attempts she has bungee jumped dressed as a cow and organised a charity event at The Loft, Birmingham.


Claudia Dehnke

Claudia Dehnke is in her final year at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and is studying with Jan Repko and Oliver Wille. While living in South Africa, she played in the National Youth Orchestra and MIAGI Youth Orchestra. She has received masterclasses from notable performers such as Tamsin Waley Cohen, Jana Kuss and Philippe Graffin. She has been teaching with the ARCO programme for two years.


Toby Holden

Toby studied music (MusB) and viola with Lucy Nolan at the University of Manchester, before joining the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire last year to study with Louise Lansdown. He joined the ARCO project at the start of October - and is delighted to be teaching Nontobeko (at 7am every Saturday!). He is actively involved with the British Viola Society, and is Festival Coordinator of the 2017 Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition. When not playing viola, Toby enjoys cooking for friends, hiking, and the occasional beer.


Griff Wadkin

Griff originates from Leicester. He is studying for his MMus at RBC and has been teaching on the Arco project since the beginning of 2017. His students are Sifiso and Buhle.




Ursula Miethe Flores

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Ursula Miethe began her cello studies at the Carabobo Conservatory, in Valencia. She was a member of the Carabobo Youth Orchestra, Carabobo Symphony Orchestra and Central Region of Venezuela’s Youth Orchestra under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance from Louisiana State University. Ursula won first prize in the Mississippi Music Teachers Association competition in the spring of 2008 and the Sylvia Cleaver Chamber Music competition in 2016. She has completed her Diploma in Orchestral Performance receiving lessons with Hetty Snell and Eduardo Vasallo. In 2016 she completed her Master’s degree in Performance at RBC under the tutelage of Alexander Baillie and Ulrich Heinen, 


Matthew Johnstone

Matthew Johnstone has is studying for on the PGDip course at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. In 2018 he had a place as part of Southbank Sinfonia. Matt is heavily involved in the ARCO project at Birmingham Conservatoire both as a teacher and fundraiser and has been to Soweto in South Africa twice to give lessons and classes. He currently teaches Kwanda.


Lieva Starker

South African violinist Lieva Starker is studying towards a Masters in Music Performance at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire under Jiafeng Chen, Pavel Fischer and Oliver Wille. She is a keen recital, chamber and orchestral musician and is passionate about teaching. In 2017, she released her debut EP, Weerspieëlings, featuring works for solo violin by contemporary South African composers. Lieva plays on a c.1720 Turin School violin kindly on loan from the Harrison Frank Foundation.


MICM Students

Tshepiso Thusi - Cello

Tshepiso is 11 years old and studies cello with Dali and Harry. She really enjoys playing music and has been studying the cello for a year. She loves playing the cello as it feels natural to her.




Fezeka Manqina - Cello

Fezeka is 11 years old and studies with Dali and Ursula. She started playing cello in 2018. She loves playing the cello, especially the bass sounds she has explored and understands the time and commitment needed to be a successful musician. Fezeka also enjoys singing.



Kamogelo Maraba - Cello

Kamogelo has been playing cello since the age of 7 his two teachers are Wessel Beukes and Daliwonga, and his skype teacher is Peggy Nolan. He’s currently learning grade 8 Trinity cello syllabus and looks up to Daliwonga as he is his role model.




Buhle Nebulane - Cello

Buhle is thirteen years old and has been playing the cello for almost 4 years. The Arco project has helped her in learning more about playing as a quartet. Since the Arco project has begun Buhle has learnt how to play as a quartet. Besides playing the cello she sings at church and at school. Buhle is taught by Dali and Griff.



Sifiso Mbatha - Cello

Sfiso Mbatha is 14 years old and has been playing cello for 2 years. He wants to become a charted accountant when he grows up and start his own businesses. He is an avid amateur chess player and spends most of his free time studying chess moves by great masters. Sifiso is taught by Dali and Griff.



Tshegofatso Mfazi - Cello

Tshegofatso Mfazi is 12 years and has been playing cello for 2 years. She is a born performer and loves performing her cello for other kids. She wants to be a soloist when she grows up. She would love to travel and to visit many countries including England in the near future. Tshegofatso is taught by Dali and Ursula.



Tshiamo Ngozo - Viola

Tshiamo is 13 years old and studies the viola with Tiisetso and Maria. She also enjoys reading and singing and loves the sound of the viola, created from the unique dimensions of the instrument. She heard about ARCO through a friend and really wanted to join in.



Kwanda Buthelezi - Viola

Kwanda is 13 years old. Her role model is her viola teacher Tiisesto Mashishi as she too aspires to become a professional violist and inspire others. She wants to become a forensic anthropologist and a professional violist. Her favourite subject is mathematics. Kwanda enjoys reading and drawing. Kwanda is taught by Tiisetso and Matt.



Lindokuhle Buthelezi - Viola

Lindokuhle is 16 years old. His favourite subject is Arts & Culture. He looks up to his uncle as he has inspired him to become an Architect. He enjoys playing computer games in his spare time. Lindo is taught by Tiisetso and Eileen.



Inam Manqina - Viola

Inam is 12 years old and has been involved in Arco for nearly two years. She has just taken her grade 1 UNISA exam. She enjoys playing chamber music with her string quartet in MICM. Soweto. She is taught by Tiisetso and Nick



Lesedi Radebe - Violin

Lesedi is 17 years old. Music is not just a hobby or an interest for Lesedi, but a passion which she loves doing whole-heartedly. Her interests besides music are; reading, sport, baking and doing her school work and homework. Lesedi is taught by Kabelo and Louise.



Khanyisa Tshangela - Violin

Khanyisa is 12 years old and studies the violin with Olga and Louise. She has been playing the violin since she was 4 and loves playing because of its unique sound; playing the violin has opened her mind to new things about music. She would like to be a professional musician and is also interested in composition.



Amahle Lesele - Violin

Amahle is 11 years old and studies the violin with Jeffrey and Olga.





Akhona Lesele - Violin

Akhona is 11 years old and studies the violin with Alistair and Olga.





Mpilwentle Lesele - Violin

Mpilwentle is 9 years old and studies the violin with Mahaliah and Olga.





Mbali Phato - Violin

Mbali is 14 years old lives with her parents and siblings in Soweto. She began learning the violin 4 years ago at MICM. She was thrilled when she got introduced to Arco, as she gets Skype lessons from a fun teacher and to experience exciting Arco festivals from multiple amazing chamber musicians. Her favourite composer is Bach and her favourite piece is his concerto for two violins in D minor. Mbali is taught by Kabelo and Claudia.


Thoriso Motlhasedi - Violin

Thoriso Motlhasedi is 13 years old and enjoys dancing and playing tennis in her free time. She loves playing in orchestra and singing. She enjoys playing pieces by J.S. Bach and Dvorak. She joined the ARCO program last year and has been learning violin with Kabelo Monnathebe and Claudia Dehnke.



Nontobeko Hlongwane - Violin

Nontebeko is 16 years old. She likes to draw cartoons and make clothes for paper dolls. She also enjoys running. She wants to be a Vet when she is older. She looks up to her Mom and Grandmother as they take good care of her. Nontobeko is taught by Olga and Toby.



Njabulo Nxumalo - Violin

Njabulo is 18 years old and has been learning the Double Bass for half a year. Njabulo previously studied violin with Olga Maraba in Soweto and Alistair Rutherford via ZOOM . He is currently working towards his UNISA Grade 5 exam. He enjoys performing and plays with the MICM Youth String Quartet. Njabulo also loves football and is a huge Liverpool FC fan. He aspires to be a musician in the future. Njabulo is taught by Olga and Aisling.



Mabatho Xulu - Violin

Mabatho is 16 years old and is in grade 8 at Naledi high school. She loves music and the instrument she plays. She also like playing sports like netball. Her hobby is to play violin. Mabatho is taught by Olga and Lieva.



Mpho Mabaso - Violin

Mpho is 16 years old and has been playing the violin for 3 years. She has completed UNISA grade 2. She loves to play netball and her favourite subject is Maths. She loves music a lot and also loves to take pictures. Mpho is taught by Olga and Lieva.



Sinethemba Ngiba - Violin

Sinethemba is 17 years old. She has been attending CMCM since 2013 and since then her love for music has grown. One day she would love to study Accounting Science at Wits University and also further her music in her free time. She loves taking pictures, cooking, baking and watching movies. Sinethemba is taught by Olga and Lieva.



Andiswa Boii - Violin

Andiswa is 12 years old and started learning the violin 2 years ago. In July she took her Grade 1 UNISA violin exam. She enjoys learning to play lots of different pieces of music, one of her favourites is a calypso called Round Trinidad Bay and she also just learnt how to play Beyoncé. Andiswa is taught by Olga and Jack.