Pro Corda featured in Classical Music magazine

Pro Corda employees Andrew Quartermain, Katy Osborne-Palmer and Laura Feeney feature in this month’s Classical Music Magazine in a fantastic article by Coriander Stuttard.

We have reproduced the article with permission below.

Andrew Quartermain

CEO and artistic director

Pianist Andrew Quartermain has been the CEO and artistic director of Pro Corda for 12 years. When he arrived in the job, he had to work fast to expand the organisation in order to sustain the charity year-round – the benefit of this being that it could be opened up to a wider range of music-making children. ‘As a pianist, chamber musician, and educationalist (and with a strong interest in the business side of the arts world), I sometimes think I am in heaven with my job,’ he says. ‘In an average week I will have coached some of the country’s finest young instrumentalists in chamber groups on one Pro Corda programme while working with the incredible creative minds of autistic children on another of our programmes.

“Pro Corda relies on a complex mosaic of grant funding”

I get to programme our community concert series at Leiston Abbey, and see through the constant challenges and demands of making the business side of arts and education work. All these things are my daily tasks and they are all the things that excite me the most. I cannot think of another job on this planet where I would be lucky enough to have all of those things in one. The fact that so much of it takes place in the most stunningly beautiful setting of our site on the Suffolk coast is just a rich icing on an ever-enticing cake!’

Andrew studied music at Cambridge and followed his undergraduate with the advanced soloists’ course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He was originally a member of the coaching staff at Pro Corda, before founding its outreach programme in 2005. He still performs internationally with string players and singers, while running special educational needs outreach projects and developing an international film series course for adult learners. He has also written and edited a variety of music education resources, and adjudicated at many competitions.

As CEO, he is on the ‘coal face of charity running’ and has had to learn everything from accounts to HR, as well as a bit about heritage management, given the Leiston Abbey site where Pro Corda is based. There are many challenges facing charities at the moment, not least a greater demand on grant funding. ‘A charity like Pro Corda, as the national chamber music academy – but also with a cutting edge outreach programme drawing on the core principles of chamber music but serving children with disabilities and additional needs – relies on such a complex mosaic of grant funding,’ he explains. ‘Our score card with grant applications is good but it is my job at all times to ensure we always remain at the top of that game.

Katy Osborne-Palmer


Katy works as Andrew’s PA as well as the administrator for the Pro Corda Chamber Music Festival for Schools, working from the office in Leiston Abbey, where she moved from Essex a few years ago. It is a very small core team, so her role involves answering new enquires about hiring the site and upcoming courses and events, organising the float for events and paying in takings and cheques for the onsite courses.

She also organises the site bookings for anything from family parties to whole site residentials for retreats, produces the Pro Corda course contracts, and oversees the DBS checks for the tutors and staff who come on site with the core courses as well as organising the CEO’s schedule, meetings and general diary.

The Pro Corda Chamber Music Festival for Schools takes place annually across the whole country and usually involves around 35 schools with around 200 different groups taking part. Katy liaises with all the schools involved, working with the information they give in order to produce very detailed timed schedules for all the qualifying and semi-final rounds and then helping to organise the final. Katy has the opportunity to work closely with the performers, helping SEN students and those who stay residentially on site as part of the Next Step and Concert Apprentice schemes.

Katy has always loved music but has not come from a classical music background; although it is helpful to know a bit about it for her job, it is certainly not essential. She started working at Pro Corda as part of the housekeeping team, but before that, gained some valuable administrative experience working as a veterinary nurse and clinic administrator for practices in Norfolk and Essex. From there she worked for education provider Kidscience as a children’s science instructor and party co-ordinator, where she presented after-school clubs, all-day science camps, Saturday Morning Clubs, School Science days and assemblies for children in a school-based environment
all around Essex and London. She was originally working as PA just one day a week but her role has evolved and she now works four days a week.

Laura Feeney

Director of schools and outreach programmes

Laura first visited Leiston Abbey during a viola ‘bootcamp’ in the final year of her undergraduate degree, and as many do, instantly fell in love with it. She soon found a way to return, first as a helper on the preparatory course and then as one of the first Leverhulme Fellows, spending two years developing her chamber music coaching skills on that programme, continuing to help on the pastoral side and also working on the SEND programme. After finishing her Masters, Laura became part of the official team as maternity cover for the outreach coordinator and she regularly coached on both the outreach and core chamber music courses. She has been in her current role since September 2018.

Last year, outside of her Pro Corda appointment, Laura was selected to be a member of the 2019 Global Leader Programme cohort – a course in social entrepreneurship, civic agency and teaching artistry which involved nine months reflecting on the role and social responsibilities musicians have, learning essential business skills and undertaking fieldwork assignments to Chile, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Suriname to experience how powerful socially motivated music programmes are at impacting their local communities.
Laura now combines her role at Pro Corda with teaching violin, viola and coaching chamber music in London, as well as studying for a PhD.

“Watching the development in students is the most rewarding part of my work”

In her role as director of schools and outreach programmes, there is no typical day. ‘This week I am co-ordinating the final logistics for an upcoming SEND school residential course at Leiston Abbey; working on the schedule and artistic planning,’ she explains. ‘The artistic planning includes learning the Makaton signs for a selection of songs from Disney’s Mulan Score, I have a meeting with the BBC to plan future media collaborations for the 2020 Children in Need appeal and I also have a meeting to discuss new workshop collaborations with a SEND School.’ She also adjudicates the Pro Corda Festival. ‘It’s a nice balance of artistic and administrative work.’

When working in a SEND music environment, Laura says that it is essential to be flexible to adapt to the environment
– much of the communication is non- verbal and it is vital to be open and aware of the student’s reactions. ‘Thinking on your feet and being reactive to student-led learning is beyond rewarding but it can be an intense process for the facilitator! The main challenge is that social mobility is such an overlooked issue. Music has such a transformative power, particularly for young people with additional needs, however the disparity between exposure and access to music in society is colossal.’

When talking about the most rewarding aspects of her job, Laura cherishes having opportunities to raise aspirations and help young people to build confidence. ‘Watching the development in students is the most rewarding part of my work. I am so proud that the work I do can help grow the confidence of an individual, allowing their personality to blossom as they develop social skills.’

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