Monthly Archives: February 2019

10 Minutes with Madeleine Mitchell

The second of our series of short interviews with visiting music staff at City features leading international violinist Madeleine Mitchell.

Many thanks for joining us, Madeleine. Could you start by telling us about your current performance projects.

I’ve just completed a 3-week tour of the USA which included three performances of the Brahms Double Concerto and two concerts in San Francisco – a trio concert and my recital programme ‘A Century of British Music’ ranging from Elgar and John Ireland to Grace Williams (1906-77) and a piece written for me in 1993 by Michael Nyman. In coming weeks, I’m focusing on Grace Williams’  Violin Sonata in several concerts, coinciding with the release by Naxos of my latest album of her chamber music, all premiere recordings, with my London Chamber Ensemble, recorded here in the Performance Space at City. In fact, the album release is this coming Friday at City:


What is the most exciting place you’ve performed in?

I’ve played in over 50 countries so there are many exciting places to choose from, including the extraordinary German Cultural Centre in Madagascar (at the invitation of the British Ambassador), the Sydney Opera House and representing the UK at a festival of British Culture in the Lincoln Center, New York just after 9/11. New York is particularly dear to my heart since I was Fulbright/ITT Fellow there years ago.


What is the most memorable concert or other musical event that you have attended?

I love opera, and Mozart in particular, so probably it has to be hearing Le Nozze Di Figaro for the first time, with Kiri te Kanawa’s beautiful soprano voice as the Countess, at the Royal Opera House.


What is the highlight of your music teaching career so far?

Devising and running Performance Seminars at the Royal College of Music, mentoring the graduate cohort of solo/ensemble instrumentalists for the last 10 years.


What were the most important things you learned from your own teachers?

(a) that to be a complete musician, you have to be open to the other arts

(b) that your body is your instrument

(c) as the great Jascha Heifetz put it: ‘to be a great artist you need the nerves of a bullfighter and the concentration of a buddhist monk’


What is the most important advice you would offer music students?

To make the most of all opportunities.


What was the best thing about your own course when you were a student?

I particularly enjoyed studying for a Master’s degree in Performance and Literature at the Eastman School, New York, where there were choices beyond the 1/3 in violin performance. I was able to study courses in the history of American architecture, as well as music history, chamber music, and so on.


What are your other major interests beyond music?

Art, poetry and travelling,


What would you most recommend that music students do beyond practising their instrument/voice and rehearsing?

Physical exercise, for instance, swimming, cycling, pilates, walking in the park, dancing (with earplugs!), going to museums and art galleries and other cultural events.


How has the music world changed your student days?

Unfortunately music education is no longer free and available to all which is a great tragedy. However, technical standards have risen and there is greater internationalism.


Madeleine introduces and performs excerpts from her album of chamber music by Grace Williams at 6pm on 1st March at City’s Performance Space, with a drinks reception afterwards. Reserve free tickets for the events here

Madeleine Mitchell is a leading international violinist, who has performed as soloist and chamber musician in over 50 countries, including with major orchestras. She has made many recordings, some of which have been nominated for BBC Music Awards, and has collaborated with composers including James MacMillan and Michael Nyman. As well as teaching at City, University of London, Madeleine is also a Professor at the Royal College of Music

Find our more about Madeleine’s work at:

10 Minutes with Alena Walentin

We start our series of interviews with some of our amazing visiting staff in the Music Department with flute teacher Alena Walentin.

Alena, could you start by telling us something about your current performance projects?

I recently recorded my debut solo album and also a second album with my wind quintet Atéa. Both albums will be released later this year which I’m very much looking forward to! I will also will be recording with my chamber duo partner harpist Anne Denholm for a planned release next year. As well as recording, I have some masterclasses and performances coming up in Denmark, the USA and in the UK, including with Ian Pace at City! Right now, I’m in the middle of a tour of Wales with Mid-Wales Opera as part of the Ensemble Cymru playing Puccini’s Tosca. So some really exciting and enjoyable projects. 

What is the highlight of your music teaching career so far?

I feel that each conservatoire and university  I teach at is unique and each offers a different but wonderful experience. When I was a student I had no idea that such an important part of my career would be teaching, but now I teach and give masterclasses in so many amazing places and I absolutely love it. I feel very humble and honoured to be teaching at City as well as at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Junior Royal Academy of Music and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as well as giving masterclasses in different countries. I think sharing one’s knowledge is so important and it’s a very special, incredibly happy feeling when you hear your students progress and see that they enjoy playing the instrument!

What were the most important things you learned from your own teachers?

It would be very hard to identify one single thing – they all together form one thing! Everything from intonation, the technical side of playing the instrument, posture, breathing, rhythm, dynamics etc are all incredibly vital to being able to express the composer’s intentions to its fullest. But if I had to pick the very most important thing, it would be the feeling that I’ve had from when I first started to play the instrument: that music always should come first, technique second. Instrumentalists, of course, need a flawless technique to be able to be professional, but the musical part should always take first place. When an audience member comes to a concert, they might not know much about the instrument and how hard certain passages or aspects of the playing might be. However, they feel the music! And if one can make them cry, laugh, smile from real enjoyment or bring back to them sacred memories – that is what it’s all about and is the reason why we learn the instrument. And that is why I always aspire to be a musician, an artist and not an instrumentalist. And I wish to all the students out there to remember why they love music so much and why they want to play the instrument.

Thank you very much for your time and good luck with your forthcoming tours!

You can find out more about Alena’s music at

Alena and Ian Pace (piano) will present a lunchtime recital on Friday 15th March 2019 at 1:10pm. Click here for details and to reserve free tickets. The programme will include music by York Bowen, Vitalli and Rachmaninoff.


Careers with a Music Degree Evening

On Tuesday February 5th, the Music Department held its annual ‘Careers with a Music Degree’ evening, organised in conjunction with the City Careers Service.

The panel was hosted by Antonia Clark from the Careers Service and included 8 speakers from a range of different professional areas, including a number of City alumni, as follows:

  • Jim Harrison, Head of Music, Latymer School
  • Eve Carpenter, Promotions Coordinator – Partnerships, EME, The Walt Disney Company
  • Guy Davis, CEO, Hilton Grove
  • James Perkins, Head of Quality Assurance and Enhancement, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
  • Sean Hendrie, Event Ticketing Coordinator, Sponsorship at O2 (Telefónica UK)
  • Ben Cook, Composer
  • Leslie East, former Director of Music at ABRSM publishing
  • Karoline Zobens-East, Paralegal, Warner-Chappell Music

Panel members spoke about their particular areas of work, and offered valuable advice on the kinds of skills, qualifications and work experience needed in order to secure a placement or graduate position. They also offered useful tips on CV writing and interview skills.

The evening was attended by about 40 BMus and BSc students, who were able to find out more about the breadth of professions open to music graduates. They also pointed to the kinds of transferrable skills that music students develop – including team-working, time-management, presentational skills and creative thinking – which are widely recognised and valued by employers.

Students were encouraged to make full use of the City Careers Service, where they can access a range of support including mock interviews, CV writing and information on jobs, as well as opportunities to gain valuable experience through placements and volunteering.

The main panel was followed by a networking session where students could talk informally with speakers.


Chamber Orchestra Concert at St Clement’s

The first Music Department concert of the year took place on the evening of Friday 18th January, with the City Chamber Orchestra performing music by Bach, Handel and Mozart, conducted by our very own Tim Hooper.

The concert was held in the beautiful church of St Clement’s, Finsbury, close to the university, and with a very appreciative audience.

The programme started with J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, followed by a performance of the first movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, with second year BMus student Michael Cutajar playing solo clarinet.

The final piece on the programme was Handel’s Concerto Grosso Op.6 No. 1 in G major.

Many congratulations to all for a fabulous concert!