'Every student who comes here is an individual artist with their own perspective on life. I seek to allow you the space to be yourself as well as to perform at the highest international level.'
The Strings Faculty at the Royal College of Music is a supportive community of talented individuals excited by the study and practice of music. From dedicated world-class professors to extensive performance opportunities in recital, chamber groups, large-scale ensembles and orchestras, the faculty will broaden your horizons and support you in reaching your full potential as an artist.
An introduction to the Strings Faculty
Mark Messenger, Head of Strings at the RCM, joins violist Bryony Gibson Cornish and Cellist Jamal Aliyev to introduce the excitement of life and work in the Strings Faculty.
We provide string players with an innovative programme of study combining instrumental training of the highest calibre with the skills needed to succeed as an artist. Students have regular opportunities to learn from internationally renowned visiting artists through public masterclasses and orchestral performances with some of the world’s finest conductors.
One-to-one lessons are at the very heart of every RCM student’s learning experience. Our world-class professors, who are successful soloists, chamber musicians and orchestral players in their own right, have a proven record of leading students to success in competitions and in the profession.
Additionally our visiting professors include some of today's greatest artists including Maxim Vengerov (Polonsky Visiting Professor of Violin), Pinchas Zuckerman, Nicola Benedetti, Alina Ibragimova, Torleif Thedéen, Paul Ellison, Maris Robles and John Williams.
Chamber music is a key part of your musical experience and RCM groups can receive unlimited chamber coaching from any professor. There are numerous performance opportunities (both internal and external), festivals, collaborations and competitions for RCM chamber ensembles. Students also benefit from the expertise of our Ensemble in Association, the Sacconi Quartet and our Quartet in Residence, the Harlem Quartet.
For students who want to develop skills in specialist areas, we offer additional tuition in jazz violin within the Strings Faculty, while lessons on period instruments are available through the Historical Performance Faculty.
We also offer an surgery run by our resident luthier, who provides maintenance and repairs, together with rehair facilities and practical advice.
'The RCM has helped me reach many of my goals by providing a lens on the different corners of the musical world.'
Guitar ensemble rehearsal
Double Bass Festival
Masterclass with Maxim Vengerov, Polonsky Visiting Professor of Violin
Performing at the Royal Academy of Art
Chamber coaching from visiting artist Thomas Zehetmair
One-to-one lesson with Head of Strings Mark Messenger
Chamber coaching from visiting artist Pinchas Zuckerman
Nicola Benedetti performing and working with RCM students
Chamber music is integral to the student experience. Students have enjoyed many opportunities to perform as part of a chamber group, both as part of the RCM’s chamber music concert series and at venues across London. Violinists, violists and cellists are able to work with professional accompanists to help develop their duo skills. In addition, we provide specially tailored ensemble opportunities for double bass, harp and guitar students.
Our students are offered as much orchestral experience as possible. A vibrant orchestral life exists across multiple ensembles, including the RCM Philharmonic, RCM Symphony Orchestra and RCM Opera Orchestra, plus many other smaller groups. We have benefitted from world class visiting conductors including the late Bernard Haitink, Holly Mathieson, Sir Antonio Pappano, Vladimir Ashkenazy, John Wilson and Vladmir Jurowski. Recent student performances have included the Brahms Double Concerto, Bottesini’s Double Bass Concerto, Debussy’s Danse sacrée et danse profane, Dutilleux’s Sur la Même Accord, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Korngold’s Violin Concerto, Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto no 2, Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto and On Open Ground by Mark-Anthony Turnage, the RCM Research Fellow for Composition.
Harpist in an orchestral rehearsal
A violin section enjoys a short break
Visiting conductor Vladimir Jurowski in rehearsal
Lower strings in an orchestral rehearsal
Visiting conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy in rehearsal
Double bass section rehearsing at the Royal Festival Hall
Visiting conductor John Wilson in rehearsal
Recent visiting artists
Our students enjoy regular masterclasses with high-profile visitors including:
- Nicola Benedetti
- Paul Ellison
- Alina Ibragimova
- Maxim Rysanov
- Torleif Thedéen
- Maxim Vengerov (Polonsky Visiting Professor of Violin)
- John Williams
- Belcea Quartet
- Chilingirian Quartet
- Sacconi Quartet
- Hugh Bean
- Levon Chilingirian
- Andrew Haveron
- Daniel Hope
- Alina Ibragimova
- Sir Neville Marriner
- Peter Oundjian
- Sasha Rozhdestvensky
- Vasko Vassilev
- Tamsin Waley-Cohen
- Cecil Aronowitz
- Roger Chase
- Simon Rowland-Jones
- Christopher Wellington
- Natalie Clein
- Eileen Croxford
- Joan Dickson
- Amaryllis Fleming
- Julian Lloyd Webber
- Anna Shuttleworth
- Julian Bream
- John Williams
- Claire Jones
- Rachel Masters
The RCM’s Creative Careers Centre, which is recognised internationally for its innovative approach to supporting young musicians, provides an unparalleled service to current students and recent alumni. The dedicated team partners with leading consultants, reputable arts organisations and local communities, delivering unique career-building opportunities and a direct route to the music industry.
The work of the Creative Careers Centre allows students to discover their professional identity, gain hands-on experience and new skills, develop an entrepreneurial mind-set and build a fulfilling professional portfolio.
Extensive performance and teaching opportunities are available, as well as valuable guidance on CV and biography writing, concert programming, communication skills, project management, marketing and publicity, online promotion, financial matters and how to develop a business idea.
We continually invest in our facilities to ensure RCM students have the very best opportunities. Our impressive performance spaces are matched by top-quality academic and technical provisions, such as our historic library and professional grade studios. The Royal College of Music is proud to offer some of the finest facilities anywhere in the world.
The RCM has three major performance spaces. The Amaryllis Fleming Concert Hall which has an illustrious history and is the primary performance venue for RCM orchestras and large ensembles. Our 400-seat Britten Theatre boasts excellent technical facilities for the RCM’s thriving International Opera School. The Performance Hall offers an alternative space for ensemble performances and orchestral rehearsals. It boasts a retractable stage, a Fazioli grand piano, comprehensive technical infrastructure and variable acoustics, providing versatility for the range of events staged by the College.
In addition, more intimate spaces for solo and chamber performance include the Performance Studio and The Parry Rooms, which have unparalleled views of the Royal Albert Hall, and our 100-seat Recital Hall.
As well as practice rooms and space for one-to-one and group teaching, the RCM contains dedicated opera rehearsal spaces, a number of sound-proofed Amadeus Music Pods and organ rooms. We have over 160 pianos, including 60 grand pianos and 20 early keyboards, and a recently opened Blüthner Practice Suite which holds ten Blüthner pianos, instrument storage with special facilities for harps and double basses, plus in-house instrument workshops.
RCM Studios is a commercial-grade facility, equipped with professional audio, video and composition technologies, supporting the RCM’s recording needs and enabling live broadcast of performances around the world.
The RCM Library contains more than 400,000 scores, books and recordings in its lending collection, plus access to more than 400 music journals. The library also subscribes to many online resources including Oxford Music Online, Naxos Music Library, JSTOR, Met Online and the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. In addition, the RCM also boasts an internationally renowned collection of original manuscripts (including examples from Mozart and Elgar) early printed editions and archives. Our musicians also have access to thousands of scores online through our partnership with nkoda, and Henle digital sheet music.
The RCM Museum holds more than 15,000 instruments, portraits, images and engravings dating from the late 15th century to the present day, some of which are the earliest known examples of their kind. These items offer fascinating insight into the past, present and future of music and provide a coherent and comprehensive resource for the documentation, research and representation of the history of musical performance and instrument-making in London, particularly between the 18th and 20th centuries. Collection items regularly feature in academic and popular publications, television and radio programmes and as loans to major international exhibitions in Europe and beyond.
As part of a £3.6 million National Lottery Heritage Funded project, the Museum collection has been greatly enhanced and revitalised in a suite of purpose-built spaces that include accessible permanent display and temporary exhibition galleries, a ‘hands-on’ discovery area, a climate-controlled performance space and a dedicated research facility.
RCM String Instrument Collection
The RCM is custodian to a highly important collection of string instruments and bows that include some of the finest examples of Italian, French and English makers. The collection is maintained and expertly restored by RCM Luthier and world-renowned authority on fine violins Florian Leonhard Fine Violins.
Florian Leonhard, RCM Luthier:
'The RCM collection is an important and fascinating part of the institution's history, ever evolving through the bequests of generous affiliates of the College. This large collection comprises superb examples including not only many of the leading Italian makers, such as Guadagnini, Goffriller and Gagliano, but also French makers such as Vuillaume, and English luthiers such as Benjamin Banks and Richard Duke.
Such instruments require regular check-ups with luthiers at the highest level, in order to maintain the attributes for which these irreplaceable antiques are so famous: sonority, brilliance, clarity, depth, easy response and sound projection.
The benefit from the loan of these instruments, which become their ‘voice’ for a formative period of their education, is simply invaluable to students: a fine instrument will not only encourage, but actually enable its custodians to unlock their full technical and musical potential.'
Highlights of the Collection
Violin, Nicolò Gagliano (1740–1787)
Irene Gertrude Swann bequeathed her Gagliano violin to the RCM in 1990. She attended St Paul’s Girl’s School in Hammersmith and played this violin in the world premiere of Holst’s St Paul’s Suite. Irene was a devoted assistant of Holst's and remembered him as being a ‘kind teacher who was full of encouragement’. She was married to Herbert Swann and step-mother to Donald Swann of the famous Flanders and Swann duo. Nicolò Gagliano’s instruments are the most sought after of the Gagliano family.
Cello, John Betts (1752–1823)
Ina Boyle bequeathed her Betts cello to the RCM in 1967. Ina was the most prolific and significant female composer from Ireland before 1950. Her oeuvre included vocal, choral, chamber and orchestral music. In 1923, Ina travelled to the UK to begin lessons with Ralph Vaughan Williams, then a teacher at the RCM. John Betts was apprenticed in 1765 to Richard Duke, another successful British luthier of the time. Betts went on to employ many eminent makers including Vincenzo Panormo, Joseph and Henry Lockey Hill.
Benedetti works with Johannes Marmen on Brahms' Sonata no 1 in G major op 78
Please note that the audition and application process for Fellowships is not the same as it is for our courses. Please refer to the individual Fellowship pages for more details.
Latest from the Strings Faculty
The Royal College of Music launches its 2021 events season, with more events to be announced.
The Royal College of Music has performed well in the 2021 National Student Survey (NSS) achieving an overall satisfaction score of 85%.
An exciting new film showcasing the RCM received its premiere last night at the College’s More Music Virtual Gala.
The RCM has joined with three international partners to launch the Global Conservatoire.
RCM musicians are taking to the College’s stages to perform together for the first time since autumn 2020.
Contact the Strings Faculty
If you have any general queries about strings at the RCM please contact our Strings Faculty Administration team. If you have any queries about auditions or the admissions process, please contact our Admissions team.
Strings Faculty Administration
General enquiries about the operation of the faculty and consultation lessons
Admissions and general audition enquiries