magdalen farm


course tutors

Alma Orr-Ewing

Alma Orr-Ewing is a viola player currently studying a Masters in Instrumental Performance at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with Dr Louise Lansdown. Alma was a participant of Magdalen Farm Strings since the course began in 2008, and subsequently became housemother, junior strings teacher, and this will be her first year as course leader. During her studies in Birmingham, Alma has played in master-classes for people such as Thomas Riebl and Timothy Rideout, and is constantly working on improving her playing.

As well as doing lots of solo performing, Alma plays in various chamber groups and orchestras, and has performed in many venues throughout Birmingham alongside musicians such as Xhosa Cole, winner of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2018. Alma graduated from the University of Leeds with First Class Honours in 2019, having studied Maths and Music. Although she still enjoys the odd mathematical problem every now and then, Alma has realised that performing and the viola are her true passions.

Polly Orr-Ewing

Married with four children, Polly lives with her family in Somerset where she works as a freelance violinist and peripatetic music teacher. Polly is also studying for a Masters in Music Therapy at University West of England.

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 regularly with chamber ensembles and orchestras, alongside teaching commitments.

Since moving to Somerset in 2013 Polly has completed the training for a certificate in Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Polly performs regularly with the Taunton Sinfonietta and the Dorset Chamber Orchestra and conducts a local adult choir.

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. She is currently in her final year of the Masters of Music Therapy

Rebecca Spencer

Rebecca studied music at Birmingham University. She was then accepted on to the acclaimed specialist strings PGCE course at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) whilst simultaneously continuing her post-graduate viola studies with Louise Lansdown. It was during this time that Rebecca discovered Dalcroze, and found its movement-based approach to musical learning to be hugely complimentary to her instrumental development. She gained a distinction for both her viola postgraduate Diploma recital and her Dalcroze certificate. Rebecca enjoys dividing her time between working as an instrumental and Dalcroze teacher, and also as a freelance viola player.

Since leaving college in 2007, Rebecca has taught weekly Dalcroze class as well as instrumental string lessons to children aged 4-18 years on various programmes. She taught Dalcroze at Junior RNCM and the Young Strings programme at RNCM for 11 years. Rebecca also set up Manchester Young Musicians in 2008 - independent Dalcroze musicianship and instrumental classes, which really expanded and flourished over the years. Rebecca stepped down from her teaching in Manchester last year to move to Cardiff to live with her wife. She is now teaching Dalcroze at the Junior Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) and is very excited to be developing a new Dalcroze presence in the Cardiff and Bristol area. She is teaching Music through Dalcroze in many schools in Bristol, and has also run a series of workshops at Bristol Pre-Conservatoire.

Rebecca has developed many strategies to integrate Dalcroze into her string pedagogy and teaching. She has been invited to teach Dalcroze on many nationally renowned string residential courses. Since 2014 Rebecca has been on the faculty for New Virtuosi, an international course for talented violinists, directed by Ani Schnarch from the Royal College of Music. Rebecca was delighted to join the faculty at ConCorda in 2019, the national chamber music programme for youngsters in Ireland.

For the last 11 years, Rebecca has also been the viola player in the Unthanks, a contemporary folk band. They were nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in 2009, won Best Album at the BBC Folk Awards in 2016, and are the only British folk representation in The Guardian's and Uncut's best albums of the last decade.

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.