magdalen farm


course tutors

Spanish violinist Ricardo Brown has surrounded himself with music since he first started learning the violin at age 5. His musical upbringing in his hometown of Valencia, was a combination of classical violin, and making his way into his dad’s folk band: The Whistling Thieves. At 18 he moved to London to do an undergraduate degree at the Royal College of Music, followed by a Masters at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Ricardo enjoys everything from contemporary composers, to Bach, Beethoven and Mozart, particularly  Opera. He loves chamber music, orchestral playing, and giving recitals with lots of musicians from different backgrounds, such as folk, contemporary, classical  and pop music. He plays regularly with the Soundworld Contemporary Music ensemble, the Hestia Quartet, Félicité Piano Trio, and many freelance orchestras around the world.

Education is also of vital importance to Ricardo, and he works hard to take music to as many people as possible, especially those who don’t have easy access to it. He teaches one-to-one in various schools in Birmingham and has taken part in outreach with the LEAP ensemble, RCM Sparks, and ARCO. Teaching and outreach are just as important as performing to Ricardo as he hopes to inspire and involve as many people in music as possible.

Alma Orr-Ewing

Alma Orr-Ewing is a young violist at the beginning of her career as a performer. Based in Birmingham, she has recently completed her postgraduate studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, where she studied with Louise Lansdown and graduated with Distinction in 2022. Before doing a master’s in performance, Alma studied Maths and Music at the University of Leeds, graduating in 2019 with First Class Honours. Although she still enjoys the odd mathematical problem every now and then, Alma has realised that performing and the viola are her true passions.

Alma was a participant of Magdalen Farm Strings since the course began in 2008, and subsequently became housemother, junior strings teacher and course leader. Alma is a passionate teacher and has students from all over the world, including South Africa, India and Canada, whom she teaches online, as well as teaching for the Birmingham Music Service. 

Alma has a varied performing career. During her studies in Birmingham, she played in master-classes for people such as Thomas Riebl, Timothy Ridout and Garth Knox.

As well as solo performing, Alma plays in various chamber groups and orchestras, including the Halle Orchestra, and has performed in many venues throughout Birmingham alongside musicians such as Xhosa Cole, winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018. Alma’s favourite part of playing the viola is playing in string quartets, and she regularly performs with the Sekine Quartet for the Fever Candlelight Concert Series, who specialise in themed evenings such as Queen, Vivaldi and Hans Zimmer. In 2022, Alma made her Wigmore Hall debut performing Beethoven with the Hestia Quartet.

Polly Orr-Ewing

Married with four children, Polly lives with her family in Somerset. She has recently been appointed Head of Music at Chard School and teaches private instrumental lessons in her music studio at home. Polly is a qualified Music Therapist and works in special education and mental health. Polly Orr-Ewing Music Therapy. Polly performs regularly with the Taunton Sinfonietta and also gives chamber music recitals in her music barn -  Kilima Farm Music.

After completing a degree in music at Manchester University Polly spent many years living and working in Spain where she was involved in the founding of three music schools in villages where music education was scarce. During this time, she performed with various chamber ensembles and orchestras, alongside teaching commitments.

Since moving to Somerset in 2013 Polly has completed the training for the Professional Certificate in Dalcroze Eurhythmics and is currently training for the Dalcroze Licence. 

Polly's musical education was greatly influenced by a privately-run annual chamber music week in Wales. It was on these camping weeks, which also involved a lot of outdoor activity in the Welsh countryside, that she really developed a passion for playing chamber music, particularly the quartet repertoire.

Polly has been a course tutor at Magdalen Farm Strings since its founding in 2007.

Hilary Boxer

Hilary Boxer studied cello performance at the Guildhall School of music with Stefan Popov and Christopher Bunting. She and her pianist, were duo prize winners and Hilary went on to freelance with London ensembles such as Ballet Rambert, the Scottish National Orchestra and enjoyed the honour of playing under the baton of Leopold Stokovski at the Royal Albert Hall. Since moving to the South West, Hilary plays frequently as a professional chamber musician and orchestral player.

She has founded, managed and promoted many different chamber ensembles in partnership with musicians including Nick White (clarinet/sax), Carina Vince and Alex Ennis (violin) Andrew Daldorph and Alex Wilson (piano), David Cottam (classical guitar) and cellists Jane Greenwood, Jane Pirie and Rebecca Allnatt. Hilary teaches privately, and also at Blundell’s, Tiverton and Wellington School, Somerset. 

Hilary tutors the Somerset Youth Orchestra cellos and has a broad experience of coaching chamber groups. This includes preparing ensembles for the Pro Corda Chamber competition and weekly string and cello groups. On top of this, Hilary has a wealth of experience teaching curriculum music in primary and secondary schools, most recently at Heathfield Community College, Taunton.  She conceived, created and continues to direct the Kentisbeare Children’s Orchestra.

Bonnie Schwarz

Bonnie is a cellist, singer and composer based in Manchester. Having attended Magdalen Farm Strings since she was 10, she now works full time as a singer-cellist. She is half of the alternative-folk duo ‘Good Habits’ which has seen their recent performances at Purbeck Valley Folk and Shrewsbury Folk Festival soon after returning home from 2 years ‘stranded’, performing across New Zealand. She also works as a booking agent, with her own roster of international global-folk acts.

Ricardo Brown