Teacher focus: Marianne Olyver Jump to main content

Teacher focus: Marianne Olyver

Education is at the heart of what I do as a violinist and musician. Whether I’m teaching privately, examining for ABRSM at home or abroad, directing The Young String Experience (YSE) programme for Pro Corda, or performing narrated duo recital programmes for Postcards from Europe I feel that I’m passing on the experience and wisdom of my teachers – as well as adding something of my own to the mix.

I often reflect on what inspired me as a young player and on which early experiences influenced me and I often realise how significant these were to what I do today.

I feel remarkably fortunate to have had mentors who were amongst the very best of their generation, and to have had opportunities to hear and play with many great artists and performers. The teachers that guided me most profoundly were Emmanuel Hurwitz and Alfredo Campoli, both of whom were not only extraordinary musicians but individuals who nurtured their students and guided them wisely as they worked towards their goal of entering the professional music world.

In addition, the experience of playing in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for five years, under conductors such as Pièrre Boulez and Sir Simon Rattle, was life-changing for me, and I continue to draw inspiration from that time.

It was while I was a student of Emmanuel Hurwitz that his wife Kay gave me the opportunity to teach class violin to little children at their Saturday School YMC (Youth Music Centre). This was my first venture into the realms of teaching. Kay was so kind and generous in her advice and support; this encouraged me to think about a future which would incorporate both professional playing and teaching – passing on the knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for music to an up and coming generation of young string players.

This background has led me to believe strongly that young players should not only have individual lessons but should, from the very start, play in ensembles and chamber music together. For some time now, I have been Director of the Pro Corda YSE London Saturday School and in the past few years, I was asked by Naomi Yandell to direct the ESTA Cambridge String Workshops in collaboration with St Faith’s School, Cambridge. Both of these are attractive to me because they focus on giving young players exciting musical experiences and concerts in a very different context to their individual music lessons.

Pro Corda's weekly YSE London Saturday school takes place during term time for young string players aged 7-14. YSE combines orchestral training with chamber music and creative musicianship. We have recently added a Leadership tier to YSE London giving the older children a chance to stay on the programme and offering a range of exciting opportunities including preparing and performing a concerto movement with the orchestra, extra creative and composition classes and extra performance opportunities at prestigious venues.

ESTA Cambridge’s workshops for intermediate strings attract children from a wide range of backgrounds and schools to play together and prepare in a short time a range of specially selected and accessible pieces. In the most recent workshop, we had a group of 42 children from 28 different schools – many of whom had never played in such a large ensemble before. After just an afternoon’s work, they were able to perform to an audience to great acclaim. The excitement in the room was palpable and, as always, a great deal was learned and shared. As Director of the afternoon, my overriding aim was for them to have fun, to learn and to want to come back! Who knows, some might be inspired enough to pass on the skills and knowledge they gained to the next generation.

Postcards from Europe is Marianne Olyver’s duo partnership with pianist Nigel Yandell that gives voice to composers who were affected by The Third Reich.