Meet the Team - Anita

We are in the midst of a series introducing you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Next up it’s the Director of our Prep Course and Pro Corda West!

Meet Anita

Who are you?

“I am Anita Strevens, Director of Pro Corda Preparatory course and Pro Corda West.” 

What do you do?

“Audition prospective students, create the chamber music groups, decide on the music they will play and book a wonderful team of staff to inspire the students.

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“About 25 years!

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“The speed with which a group of like-minded youngsters become a cohesive and creative set of musicians.”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“Seeing a small group of 8-year olds singing the Macarena with actions on the grass outside Guesten Hall, then gradually, the entire course joining in with huge enthusiasm!

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“Two…one of my sons playing Saint-Saens cello concerto at university, the other son playing keyboard in a band in a pub!”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Natalia

We are in the midst of a series introducing you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Next up it’s our superstar chef, baker, and creator of all the wonderful treats across the Pro Corda and Piano Sanctuary courses!

Meet Natalia

Who are you?

“I am Natalia Harvey, mum to four children and a military wife” 

What do you do?

“I am the new Director of Events and Catering and master baker of theatrical and unusual cakes!

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“I’m a newbie and the latest addition to the team as I’ve only been here 10 months

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“Well the food I make is pretty good but, in all honesty, my job in general is just a dream to do and I love the work Pro Corda do with our outreach programmes. And I suppose I should say I love working with Amanda too as she mentioned me ;o)”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“As I’ve only been here a short while I don’t have memories as such, but I love being involved with our Activities Unlimited weekends and the work we do with special needs children and young adults. I have an autistic son so the work Pro Corda do for these incredibly special individuals is something very close to my heart

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“‘BEYONCE!! Always! I’m a superfan and would leave my husband in a heartbeat to marry her instead!!”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Katy

We are in the midst of a series introducing you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Next up it’s someone who organises so much of all the brilliant things that Pro Corda does.

Meet Katy

Who are you?

“I am Katy Osborne-Palmer, Schools and Educational Programmes Administrator and PA to the CEO. And this is Ted!” 

What do you do?

“I work in the main office and oversee the administration for schools and educational programmes. This includes admin for AU weekends and the National Chamber Music Festival for Schools and our concert box office. I also oversee the admin for our Piano Sanctuary weekends and am Andrew Quartermain’s PA.

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“8 years.

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“The fact that it is so inclusive.”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“The Pro Corda 50th Anniversary Gala at The Southbank Centre in London. Our Activities Unlimited students performed and then we went out on the street, and they gave another, impromptu, performance and people stopped to watch and cheered them on. It was magical.

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“‘Gong’ at Premises in Norwich. They are a progressive space rock and jazz band and the soundtrack to my youth. It was the last tour their lead singer Daevid Allen did before he died, and it was very special.”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Sarah

We are in the midst of a series introducing you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Next up it’s someone who started helping on the SEND course 12 years ago and is now our brilliant Primary Course Director.

Meet Sarah

Who are you?

“I am Sarah Carvalho-Dubost, musician, wife and mum of two daughters.”

What do you do?

“I play a lot of chamber music, mostly with Ensemble Reza and Trio Salona. I also teach the cello and chamber music.”

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“I was working at Pro Corda about 12 years ago on the SEND courses. I am so happy to be back for the last four years teaching on the cello course, and this year directing the Primary Chamber music course.😀”

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“Only one thing? I love seeing the children enjoying their time making music together and socialising in such a stunning setting that Leiston Abbey is.”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“We just finished the Primary Course and I think it will be my favourite memory from now because the children got on so well! And they completely embraced all the music and the teaching we gave them with such enthusiasm!”

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“Difficult to single one out because it is always a special treat to listen to live music and I am quite sensitive to beautiful music. But I do have a soft spot for some incredible World music concerts like Pink Martini or Buena Vista Social Club!”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Dominic

We are in the midst of a series introducing you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Next up it’s someone who started at Pro Corda as an eight year old, and has never looked back!

Meet Dominic

Who are you?

“Dominic Moore. I am director of the Senior Course, and I also coach for Piano Sanctuary and adjudicate for the Chamber Music Festival”

What do you do?

“I play the violin, viola and piano, and direct my own chamber ensemble ‘St George’s Chamber Orchestra’, based in Beckenham. I also lead Buckinghamshire based Alina Orchestra, I am a violinist in the orchestra for the West End production of Phantom of the Opera, and teach violin and viola at New Hall School, Chelmsford”

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“I first came to Pro Corda as a student 40 years ago. My violin teacher was one of the founders, Pamela Spofforth; lessons took place in the home of Pro Corda’s other founder, Elizabeth Hewlins. In fact, I came to Pro Corda from the age of 8 to 18. On one particularly memorable course, aged about 13, I met another student who you may have heard of – Andrew Quartermain!!”

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“The Pro Corda spirit is inspiring and grounding. Pro Corda has changed in many ways over the 40 years I have been involved, but the spirit has not!”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“A recent favourite memory is spending my daughter’s first ever New Year’s Eve at Leiston Abbey. We all stood outside the chapel (I was carrying my daughter!), we waved sparklers and watched the fireworks projected onto the chapel wall. After Big Ben chimed we went inside the chapel where the students gave a stunning performance of the Allegri Miserere. It was the most magical New Year’s and was such an extraordinary experience for our young daughter.”

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“The concerts I enjoy the most are those given by our wonderful Pro Corda students!”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Jodie

We are in the midst of a series introducing you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Next up it’s someone who works tirelessly in the background supporting all our Course Directors and plans and programmes on-site.

Meet Jodie

Who are you?

“Jodie Squirrell, Administrator”

What do you do?

“I provide administrative support to the Course Directors and oversee the general admin for the courses as well as private hire bookings.”

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“14 years”

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“The view from my office. Leiston Abbey is truly beautiful. It’s such a peaceful place to work.”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“I have lots of special memories. It’s hard to pick just one. My husband and I lived on site for about 5 years and we started a family here. Both my sister and my best friend got married at the abbey. It’s a very special place.”

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“Rudimental in Thetford Forest in 2016 was amazing!”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Pro Corda Festival 2022

Sunday saw the conclusion of a truly extraordinary Pro Corda National Chamber Music Festival for Schools.

There has possibly never been a more important time for our National Festival (the only festival of its kind celebrating chamber music in schools across UK) to make a come back. In terms of the full festival, it was the first since 2019. In 2020 we so nearly got there, but with the pandemic’s seriousness becoming ever more apparent in early March that year we didn’t quite make it to the national finals. In January to March 2021 we were mid lockdown. A few schools had managed to get enough groups together for masterclass days but the Festival didn’t really operate beyond that.

Some of the amazing performers at the 2022 festival

This year covid was no less apparent with upwards of 60% of the participating ensembles impacted by absences due to the virus (not to mention most of the adjudicators!) But through multiple reschedules we all found our way through qualifying and semi-final rounds full of excitement and anticipation – and arriving at a Finals day like no other at Millfield School on Sunday. It seemed fitting that the perfect chamber acoustic of Millfield’s Hall and the inspirational surrounding countryside formed the backdrop to a Finals that seemed to speak so powerfully about why chamber music’s come back in schools is so crucial right now.

The incredible standard from such a diverse range of ensembles was a joy to witness in itself. But chamber music in schools performs two critical functions beyond just high standard music making right now – both functions on such moving display at this year’s finals.

It was science not music that got society through the pandemic, but for our festival participant students across the country it was the ever-nurturing togetherness of chamber music which formed such social nourishment after such prolonged periods of remote learning and loneliness.

But further to that, we couldn’t have predicted when planning the Festival’s post-pandemic return that its first full Finals for three years would coincide with a new international crisis – this time a manmade one. And here, the wider social remits of chamber music and its powerful educational resonances have more compelling voice than ever. For, surely, it is education which will, long-term, be our weapon against evil and conflict in this world. And within education could there not be a better lesson in the values of human togetherness and diversity, of social responsible leadership and compassionate team work in equal measure, than chamber music.

Our Chamber Champions 2022

As we witnessed such high standard on Sunday, it was these wider educational resonances that truly echoed. With this it must always be our shared mission to ensure chamber music thrives in every school music department, including the many where it does not yet. This is where our new Pro Corda Academy scheme comes in – lots more of that to come. And it was thrilling to witness the winners of this year’s Chamber Music Festival Finals trophy collect their award – a new partner school for Pro Corda… the City Foundation Boys School – a state school serving 51% pupil premium students and just starting their chamber music journey. They, like all our participants this year, showed us on Sunday that there is truly hope for the future.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Annabel

Last week we began a new series on Pro Corda socials. Over the next few weeks we are going to introduce you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

This week it is the turn of our Director of Core Chamber Music Courses whom many of you will know. Read on to discover more…

Meet Annabel

Who are you?

“Annabel Thwaite, Director of Core Courses”

What do you do?

“I direct the Junior course and oversee all the wonderful talent that comes onto our core courses.”

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“12 years”

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“The magic! I met my husband here!”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“Waking up on New Year’s day and seeing the most beautiful sunrise stream across the Abbey”

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“Every LIVE concert I could go to after theatres and concert halls opened again post-lockdown.”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

Meet the Team - Mandy

Over the next few weeks we are going to introduce you to some of our amazing team. These are the wonderful people who make Pro Corda the magical institution that it is.

Below you can read their mini-interviews, ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one!

Let’s start with the person who has the LONGEST association with Pro Corda, with family ties going back over 80 years!

Meet Mandy

Who are you?

“Amanda Miller, I’m a mum to 5 grown up boys, I’ve got 2 grandchildren and 2 more on the way due within days of each other”

What do you do?

“I do cooking and I’m also head of gardening (not at the same time!)”

How long have you been involved with Pro Corda?

“I’ve worked here over 20 years but Pro Corda is in my blood. My Auntie worked here over 40 years ago, and my mum worked here over 80 years ago when the Abbey was run by nuns. My mum was only 14 at the time!”

Tell us one thing you love about Pro Corda?

“Working with Natalia, and she didn’t pay me to say that! She brought in so many positive changes to the kitchen and our menus, and I’m so happy to be working with her. We have so much fun!”

What’s your favourite memory about your time with Pro Corda?

“I loved it when we had the team from Dig Ventures here. They were all camped out on site and I loved making them their bacon butties in the morning”

What’s the best concert you have ever been to?

“MUD! I was 17 and I went and saw them in Felixstowe. Luckily, I was dating someone who had a car which was handy because I got to see them twice!”

We hope you have enjoyed learning something about our incredible team.

If you would like to ask them a question, or tell them how they made your experience of Pro Corda such a special one then please leave your comment below. We will try and get back to you as soon as we can.

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey

A Sanctuary born in lockdown

Early April 2020 was a strange time for us all. The greatest challenges of the pandemic were yet to come for many of us of course. Then it was more about the shock. The suddenness of the recently announced lockdown. Would it be a fortnight, a month, 2 months? Would this thing still be with us by the summer? Christmas even? (I doubt many of us were thinking then of whether covid Plan B regulations would or wouldn’t be in place for Christmas 2021!)

For me personally, and the Pro Corda team, that strange period was about working up a plan to make sure Pro Corda courses could come back in as soon as possible, and meanwhile putting as much of Pro Corda online as we could. Our Outreach students by then were already “dialling in” several times per week and “Pro Corda@Home” was about to launch for our chamber course students. I often found myself in the Guesten Hall alone recording material for those various weekly sessions and, as I sat at the Guesten Yamaha grand during those long days and evenings, it just seemed natural to start putting out some piano podcasts. Initially these were designed to be for our community concert audiences (whose regular concerts with us were on pause along with everything else in person at that time.) Some wider members of the Pro Corda community started to tune in, and we even got listeners from as far as Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the States. It was also very touching that many of them wrote in wanting to know more about the Abbey and the ancient place they were tuning into each week.

I had to come up with a name for the podcasts and “Piano Sanctuary” literally just popped into a slightly cluttered mind at that stage. But then I thought of another Pro Corda group whose programme with us had been put on hold by the pandemic. Twice a year, since 2006, we have hosted two “Adult Piano” weekends each year. Initially often the parents of Pro Corda students, the weekends began to gather their own pace – each a combination of music course and weekend break in the country (washed down with house wine and great Abbey homely cuisine!) “Adult Piano” was another title which popped into the mind at the time – and not a great one… It always seemed overly functional!

Somehow the concept of “Sanctuary” seemed to chime with what those weekends had always been about, but what those who came on them (together with many of those now tuning into the podcasts) wanted from the piano, what they wanted from music in general, and what they wanted from Leiston Abbey.

As the constant twists and turns of the pandemic and its lockdowns rolled on, Piano Sanctuary seemed to grow in a natural and organic way. When we restarted courses, and although it wasn’t the month when we would usually host one of the twice yearly “Adult Piano” weekends, it seemed only natural to schedule a long weekend for adult pianists – and call it the Piano Sanctuary Retreat. Word got around, with more new people enquiring about “The Sanctuary” and so why not schedule one the next month too… and so on. Meanwhile, some of those overseas listeners wrote about their own piano journeys, and so the Sanctuary online courses were born.

18 months on we now have over 100 Pro Corda Piano Sanctuary online participants (taking either the “Starter” or “Adventure” five lesson course) and from 12 different countries including the UK. The Retreats are monthly (but for August) and we’re about to launch the “Piano Sanctuary Secrets” events regionally – part piano recital, part social gathering – but all with a twist!

It truly became one of those journeys born out of the bleakness of lockdown that led to a colourful kaleidoscope of different possibilities and as ever it’s the people that make these things. I am so grateful for the incredible range of human beings I’ve met on the monthly retreats and on the online courses. Now a fully fledged subsidiary of Pro Corda, there is so much going on at Piano Sanctuary and it can all be found at www.pianosanctuary.co.uk

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Chamber Music Courses
Leiston Abbey