We are accepting applications for boarding and day places for Autumn 2020 entry. 

If you would like to find out more, including information about the Aided Places Scheme, please email admissions@st-marys-music-school.co.uk




International Strings Summer School 2021

1st to 6th August

Led by our Head of Strings, Valerie Pearson, and supported by members of our String Faculty and players from our partner organisation the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO), this residential course offers participants an intensive, immersive and exciting week of musical experiences in the fields of solo, chamber and large ensemble playing, including the opportunity to perform alongside professional orchestral players.

Participants will be able to develop individual playing in daily lessons with a member of the St Mary’s Music School string faculty, coaching with piano staff and a concert opportunity. We are delighted to work with our partners SCO to offer specialist coaching (daily) in string quartet and string orchestra playing, as well as the opportunity to perform with them in a final concert, which parents and guardians are invited to attend.

The course takes place at our home in the heart of Scotland’s beautiful capital city, Edinburgh.

Who is the International Strings Summer School for?

This residential course is for violin, viola, and cello students aged 11 to 15, grade 7 standard and above (ABRSM or Trinity or equivalent, which may be evidenced by a teacher) who would like to improve their technique and playing ability, gain experience in string quartet and ensemble playing and build confidence through playing and performing with others in a fun and inspiring environment.

Numbers are limited to just 16 participants (four string quartets) to ensure that participants receive dedicated and focused attention and support, and benefit from a comprehensive range of group and individual classes.

 The Course is residential and includes:

· Individual lessons of 45 min with a member of St Mary’s Music School String Faculty - 4 x 45 min

· String quartet coaching with SCO players 4 x 60 min

· String orchestra - directed and tutored by SCO players 4 x 60 min

· Individual and group coaching with piano staff

· Performance classes with John Cameron, Assistant Director of Music and Head of Keyboard

· Lesson observation

· Concert opportunity for solo performance

· Final concert for string quartet performances and string orchestra performance (performing alongside SCO players)


· Daily yoga for musicians – relaxation and mindfulness to improve performance

· Alexander Technique - how to reduce stress and avoid injury

· Dalcroze sessions

· Walking tour of Edinburgh

· Final concert open to parents and friends

· Evening concerts given by SCO players

· Sports and outdoor activities

· Talent show and quiz night

· Dedicated practice rooms

· Practice time

· Use of the School’s library

· Food and accommodation in single or twin ensuite rooms

· Online resources

· Certificate of attendance


· Advisory Audition


Information for Parents

Edinburgh is Unesco World-Heritage site and one of the world’s most beautiful cities. As well as stunning architecture to admire, there are excellent shops, restaurants and visitor attractions. The city also makes an excellent base to explore other areas of Scotland including the Highlands and Islands, so while your child focuses on developing their instrumental techniques you can happily spend a few days sightseeing. We hope you will join us for a concert on the last day of the course.

Cost and How to Apply

Cost: £795 inclusive

Financial Support

A limited amount of bursary funding is available. Please contact bursar@st-marys-music-school.co.uk for more information.  

We have compiled a list of trusts and funding bodies who may be able to help if you require financial support. You can access this here. SMMS_Funding_Directory.pdf

The deadline for applications is Sunday 6th June.  

How to apply: Applicants will be asked to submit a video recording. For more details and to apply: APPLY HERE

If you have any questions please contact: Mary Walls, mwalls@st-marys-music-school.co.uk


Whilst we fully intend to deliver this course in person at our premises in Edinburgh, if the UK government or the government of any student’s home country imposes travel restrictions, we will provide a fully digital online course as an alternative.






Course Director - Valerie Pearson

Originally from Leicestershire, Valerie read music at King’s College London, studying violin with Diana Cummings at the Royal Academy of music. Diana's teaching gave her a deep understanding of the physiology of playing, which completely transformed her relationship with the violin and has been a huge influence on her teaching. With a wealth of experience as a teacher, Valerie's skills range from starting off three-year-old Suzuki violinists to leading university projects, and teaching at international summer music schools. She is widely sought after, having a reputation for helping students eradicate tension, maintain healthy posture and technique, and for inspiring them from beginner to conservatoire. She was appointed as Head of Strings at St Mary’s Music School in August 2020.

Valerie’s interest in the intersections between performance, composition, and improvisation have led her to performances and projects ranging from the West Bank, Palestine, to commissioning new works for performances in the Faroe Islands. It also formed the basis of her doctoral research at the University of York, supported by the AHRC.


Staff list:

Individual lessons - St Mary’s Music School String Faculty

Violin – Valerie Pearson, Kana Kawashima

Viola – Felix Tanner

Cello – Ruth Beauchamp

String quartet and String Orchestra coaching - SCO players

Gordon Bragg – violin

Kana Kawashima – violin

Felix Tanner – viola

Su-a Lee – Cello

Performance class and coaching

John Cameron


Kana Kawashima - Violin

Born in Japan, Kana began violin aged 4, shortly before her family moved to the UK. She studied with Eszther Katona and Natasha Boyarsky before attending the Yehudi Menuhin School aged 12. Her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees took her to the Vienna Conservatory, under Pavel Vernikov, and she gained her Artist Diploma from the Royal Academy of Music where she held the Florence Whitlock Scholarship, studying with So-Ock Kim and baroque violin with Nicolette Moonen and Margaret Faultless.

Performances as a soloist, chamber musician, and as part of the Kawashima Duo, with pianist sister Miho, have taken her to major venues and festivals around the world. Kana was appointed Scottish Chamber Orchestra First Violin No 4 in March 2019. She also performs with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and major London orchestras (including co-principal roles).

She is grateful for the generous support of the Albert Cooper Scholarship and the loan of a c.1700 Grancino violin from the Harrison Frank Foundation.


Felix Tanner - Viola

Born in Helensburgh, Felix studied with James Durrant at the RSAMD (now RCS)  Junior School and St. Mary’s Music School, and subsequently at the Royal Academy of Music where he studied with John White, Martin Outram and Katherine McGillivray and was awarded the Theodore Holland Viola Prize and the John Ireland, Vivian Dunn and Herbert Craxton Prizes for Chamber Music.

Felix was a member of the Badke Quartet before joining the Brodowski Quartet, winners of the Royal Overseas League Competition and Val Tidone International Chamber Music Competition in Italy. They were resident quartet at the Anvil Concert Hall in Basingstoke, Warwick School, and Bristol University where they worked closely with the composer John Pickard.

In 2016 Felix was appointed Sub Principal viola with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, having previously been a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2018 he was appointed an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in London.


Ruth Beauchamp - Cello

Ruth came from New Zealand on an ABRSM overseas scholarship and an award from the NZ Arts Council. After studying with Joan Dickson at the Royal College

of Music and attending intensive teaching courses given by pioneering pedagogues Paul Rolland, Phyllis Young and the Szilvay brothers, Ruth went on to become Joan Dickson’s Teaching Assistant at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and, at her invitation, began teaching at St Mary’s Music School in 1977.

Since then she has coached chamber music, taught early years cello in the Saturday Morning Classes for 35 years and has had many students go on to successful professional careers, several of whom have done well in both national and international competitions. In recent years she has led several Teacher Training workshops for the staff of Big Noise (Sistema) Scotland.


Gordon Bragg - Violin

Gordon graduated in violin performance from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama with first class honours, studying with Stephanie Gonley and Simon Fischer. He was second violinist of the Edinburgh Quartet from 2012 to 2017, one of Britain’s foremost chamber ensembles, performing throughout the UK, regularly broadcasting live on BBC Radio and making critically acclaimed recordings.

Since joining the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in 2015 as sub-principal second violin, Gordon has combined the orchestra's regular concert activity with his passion for music education and leads the SCO Academy and String Academy projects.

Gordon is also much in demand as a conductor. Following studies in Manchester and Zürich, he has participated in masterclasses with Bernard Haitink, Ivan Fischer and Sir Mark Elder, and has conducted the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg and Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie. He conducted a critically acclaimed performance of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire with Scottish Ballet at the 2013 Edinburgh International Festival.

Su-a Lee - Cello

Born in Seoul, Su-a trained at Chethams School of Music, completing her studies at the Juilliard School in New York before moving to Scotland to join the SCO, where she remains as Assistant Principal Cello. While she is deeply rooted in her Scottish home, Su-a and her cello have appeared all over the world, from South America to the Arctic Circle.

Though Su-a spends most of her time playing classical music, her versatility, and appetite for musical adventure make her very much in demand across a wide musical spectrum - recording Musical Saw for Eric Clapton; improvising with the

Belgian Theatre group Reckless Sleepers; and commissioning and performing diverse repertoire as a founding member of Mr McFall’s Chamber.

With a special passion for working with young musicians, Su-a regularly participates in SCO Creative Learning’s education and community work. She is Patron-in-Chief of the Perth Youth Orchestra and a regular coach for the Benedetti Foundation and the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland.

Su-a Lee is an Associate Member of the Martyn Bennett Trust, and a Trustee of the Board of the Soundhouse Trust, Nevis Ensemble and Tinderbox Orchestra.

John Cameron - Performance class and coaching

John has been Head of Keyboard at St Mary’s School since 2014, and Assistant Director of Music since 2019. Prior to his busy teaching career, John was the winner of the Megan Foster Accompanists Prize 1999 and has performed on BBC Radio Three, BBC4, Radio Scotland and S4C. Among others, he has worked with singers Sally Matthews, Sarah Walker, Gweneth-Ann Rand, The Dunedin Consort, Mark Stone, Stefan Loges, Sophie Karthauser and Matthew Brook. 

Since joining the staff at St.Mary's Music School he has been active as a recitalist, accompanying both string players and wind players in concert and masterclasses as well as teaching piano and chamber music.  He has worked with Mr McFall's Chamber, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Cadenza, Edinburgh Festival Chorus, and acted as repetiteur for Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (2008), Phillipe Herreweghe (2009), Donald Runnicles (2011 & 2013), Sir Roger Norrington and Robin Ticciati at the Edinburgh International Festival. 


Jean Johnson – Yoga

Jean is a professional clarinettist who began her career with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and today works with a number of orchestras and chamber ensembles. Her Guest Principal work has included Bergen Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Southern Sinfonia, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Camerata Ireland. She has performed chamber music in the world's finest venues, notably the Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts Brussels.

Alongside her own practice as a musician, Jean is also a qualified yoga instructor and has worked with musicians for many years to introduce them to techniques and practice that assist greatly in unlocking tension and helping to develop performance under pressure. By beginning each day with a yoga class, Jean will provide you with tools and techniques you can carry with you in your future careers.

Robin St Clair – Alexander Technique

Robin specialises in Alexander Technique for performers of all genres and has worked closely with St Mary’s Music School for a number of years. Having trained as a musician himself, he is able to empathise with the issues that young musicians will encounter and he is able to bring a very practical approach to learning the Alexander Technique in the areas of music and performing.

About Alexander Technique

The Alexander Technique has a long history of helping instrumentalists and singers to perform with less stress and likelihood of injury. Musicians do some of the most complex and demanding physical movements of any profession. In recent years, the term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) has come into popular use, but musicians have always had to face the challenge of performing the same complex muscular actions over and over again.

By helping musicians release undue tension in their bodies, the Alexander Technique makes possible a performance that is more fluid and lively, less tense and rigid.


Instrumental Learning

Choir School

Saturday Music Classes


St Mary’s Music School is one of the nine specialist Music and Dance Schools the UK (and the only one in Scotland)  funded by the UK Government and providing the finest training in Britain. It is a co-educational, non-denominational specialist music school, offering a world class standard of music and academic education to musically gifted children aged 9-19 years. It is also the Choir School of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh. It attracts day and boarding pupils from across Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Europe and internationally. 

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