Introducing The Dunev Quartet|Formation of a String Quartet

Hristo Dunev. Mahaliah Edwards. Eleanor Chapman. Alice Cheer. We are the Dunev Quartet, a string quartet formed in October 2017 at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.


Although we were “put” together by the head of chamber music, from early on, it was clear that as musicians, we were completely on the same wavelength. All four of us immediately shared interest and excitement to play great chamber music and share it. What’s great is that individually, we all have quite different personalities which somehow manage to compliment each other. The unique situation of a string quartet is that it we spend a LOT of time together practising and then scheduling rehearsals as well as general planning and strategising and so we have become very close colleagues.


The quartet

Hristo – our very talented first violinist from Bulgaria. He has won a plethora of awards and is an avid photographer.

Me – I’m the second violinist of the quartet and…well if want to know more about me you can read my about me page on my blog!

Eleanor – is the viola player of the quartet. She’s from Lancashire, she’s a fab musician and also has the best fashion sense.

Alice – is from Cardiff and is without doubt the most organised student in the country. She keeps us all in check!

Since our formation, we have been fortunate to have regular coaching with Rose Redgrave and Robin Ireland. In addition, we have received coaching from Sini Simonen and Christopher Roberts of the Castalian Quartet; Jana Kuss and William Coleman of the Kuss Quartet, Oliver Heath and Krysia Osostowicz.




Our current repertoire consists of Beethoven’s quartet no.10 op.74 aka “The Harp” and Haydn’s op.20 no. 5. Soon to come is Shostakovich’s 8th quartet. Past performances include November 2017 in the Recital hall at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, January 2018 at the Birmingham Central Library. Upcoming events include a performance of Beethoven op.18 No.5 in the Beethoven Marathon June 12th at the Royal Birmingham and Sunday Classics at the Spotted Dog on June 17th.

28695046_1314228572010676_982958423_oTo find out more about each member’s individual music journey, head over to our Instagram page @Dunevquartet, where you’ll find our interview sessions. We are also on Facebook so be sure to follow our page for the latest news, concert info and general shenanigans of the quartet. Our website is on its way and will be launching in June so in the meantime, for any enquiries for gigs and events, send us a message on facebook, direct message on Instagram or email







Introducing: Romarna Campbell

From Birmingham to Boston, MA, Romarna Campbell is a 21 year-old  drummer heading to the Berklee College of Music in the Autumn 2017.18870951_10155335113442418_1795933551_n
  When, how and why did you get involved in music?

I got into music mostly through the massive CD and music collection that was in our house when I was growing up. There was always music around, although I am the only musician in the family. When I was about 8, my Mum bought my Dad a drum kit for Christmas. I remember this massive brown box and being beyond excited about unpacking it and setting up this red drum kit, much to my Dad’s inconvenience. It wasn’t even my gift, but my parents couldn’t tear me away from it. From there my Mum actively sought out workshops for me to take part in. I joined a local music school that was every Saturday and took it from there. In fact, the music workshops that I first attended became particularly poignant. I actually busked in the sign-in area to the raise the money for my first drum kit, which was an Arbiter Flat Pack! Absolutely immense! As I got a little older and started to receive more regular tuition, I was introduced to The Notebenders by Andy Hamilton, CBE. It was there that I really discovered my love for jazz and big band music, amongst a really legendary group of people.

How important is it for you to see more people of colour in the industry?

Until recently, I hadn’t realised how important it really was. I think it’s bigger than seeing more people of colour in the industry, I think it’s more about connecting and interacting with them. Something that’s made so much easier with modern technology and social media. That connection reminds you that there are other people in the industry that you have similarities with, whether that be culturally, musically, etc. By the sheer nature of what a musician does, you’re always open to meeting to new people and what they have to express with their instrument through music. I also think that it’s particularly of importance for younger musicians. When you’ve been sat in a practice room for hours on end, it can be easy to feel isolated. So it’s great to be able to refer to or contact musicians that are of influence to you. Sometimes just to remember there are other musicians out there like you, that have probably gone through some of the same stuff that you’re going through. I have had the fortune of attending a conservatoire in the UK for two years, but one of the things I really struggled with when I first started was the lack of diversity, therefore the lack of understanding that can come with that occasionally.


How are you affected as a black person in music? Any advantages/disadvantages?

There are definitely a number of advantages and disadvantages to being a black person in music, which I assume to be the case for anyone of any ethnicity and identity. I am for lucky enough to grown up in a culture that heavily revolves around music and having a broad taste in music. Going up, I was exposed to a lot of really awesome music. Anything from super underground hiphop, to old big band records, to Soca music. There was never any differentiation, as long as it was good music then we would listen and enjoy it. Consequently, my listening ranges from Prince to Lenny Kravitz to Count Basie and everything in-between.

I try not to think about being disadvantaged in any way or even using the word, it puts you in a negative space and mindset. I would much rather think about it as hurdles; these issues are there but can be overcome with hard work, effort and drive. I put a lot of time, effort, work and care into what I do because I love it. So, to have all of that undermined by racist and sexist comments is always really difficult. I fail to understand what my race, ethnic background or gender has to do with me being a musician; the two are not mutually exclusive. I draw influence from those things because they make me the person that I am, but I don’t understand what that has to do with my musical and technical ability and why anyone thinks it’s acceptable to use it against my in any way. Instead these should be things that they also want to learn about and draw influence from in the same way that I do. Everyone has their own trials and tribulations, again, there’s no need for the negativity.


Any exciting projects that you’re working on at the moment and any upcoming performances?

There’s a lot going on at the moment that I’m super excited about!

Firstly, I have been accepting into Berklee College of Music in Boston for Fall 2017! So I’ll be moving to Boston in about 2 months, to finish my undergraduate studies! I can’t wait, it’s literally been a dream of mine since I was 17! In keeping with my imminent move, I am still fundraising to cover the rest of my tuition fees. I have a number of fundraising events coming up over the next couple of months and have set up a GoFundMe page for anyone that its kind enough to make a donation! Details for my fundraiser in June and my GoFundMe page are below:

Berkley’s Club,
258 Broad Street
B1 2HF

I am also super psyched about my new band, B L A N (C) A N V A S. We debuted our first project ‘Limitations of Our Imaginations’ in March to a sold out show in Birmingham. ‘Limitations of Our Imaginations’ features original compositions and arrangements by me. It’s an exploration of how music can push and break down barriers, what it’s like to navigate modern life as a young musician and an insight into me as a bandleader, composer and arranger.
Our latest performance was playing support for Terri Lyne Carrington’s Mosaic project, which is now up on my YouTube channel! It’s my first time being a combination of band leader, composer, arranger and drummer all in equal measures. I also whole-heartedly believe in my bandmates’ skill and power as musicians, both individually and collectively. We’re working on a few more performances and hopefully record and releasing music before I move to the States.


To find out further information about Romarna, you can follow her social media and visit her website as listed below.


Awards for Young Musicians


Awards for Young Musicians is an arts charity which aims to help talented young people to further their musical development. Whether you need help with music lessons, instrument purchase, orchestra fees, course fees or travel, AYM endeavours to help gifted musicians between the ages 5-18 in the UK.

For me, applying to AYM was one of the best things I ever did to further my musical development. The financial help which they provided was absolutely key in helping me to buy my violin. What was even better is that they kept in touch with me and have helped me in furthering my personal development as a mentor in their recent mentoring programme:  Talent to Talent. I feel so fortunate to have been involved with such a wonderful organisation run by phenomenal people.

My experience as an award winner

It was actually my sister who drew my attention to AYM. At the time, I was 16 and looking to buy a new violin. At the time, the violin I owned was a Stentor Conservatoire model which was a good instrument for a committed student of maybe grade 4 or 5 standard. For me, I had simply outgrown the instrument – musically speaking. I was working at grade 8 standard at the time. I wasn’t able to achieve all that I wanted to and frankly, it was holding my playing back. The year before, I’d had a taste of what it was like to play on a great instrument – I was playing on a Benjamin Banks violin that had been bequeathed to the Nottingham Youth Orchestra and I was leading the intermediate orchestra at the time. Fortunately, I was able to play that violin for the time that I was the leader but after that year I had to give the violin back as I moved on to the senior orchestra. Going back to the Stentor… it just felt wrong. I knew I had to get a better violin.  So I went and tried various violins from different violin workshops and stores in the East Midlands. I finally found “the one” the only problem was the price tag and I knew that it would be impossible for my mum to buy. I didn’t want to give up on buying a new instrument and I didn’t have to…

Enter AYM

I applied to AYM twice and fortunately they gave me a substantial sum of money to go towards the purchase of my new violin. Their contribution meant that I secured the violin with the dealer. It took me over two years to finally make the full payment for the violin but I did it.  It was a very uplifting experience knowing that there was a charitable organisation that was willing to support someone like me who needed an new instrument but didn’t have the funds. It meant that I didn’t have to give up on any of my aspirations or settle for an inferior instrument. My violin really elevated my playing and boosted my confidence as a musician. Having a new instrument truly help me along to develop my skills and grow. I didn’t have to try as hard on my new instrument as I did on my old violin.

Mentoring on the Talent to Talent programme

AYM is amazing at keeping in contact with their award winners to see how they’ve progressed. They reached out to past awards winners now alumni to give them an opportunity to take part as mentors in Talent to Talent. A completely new project, Talent to Talent was peer-led mentoring from AYM alumni to current award winners. The programme was actually three-tiered so I was an alumna who was mentoring a current award winner who then went on to mentor a furthering talent student. The alumni included musicians who were at music college; some at the end of BMus going into masters or work; some like me at the start of a degree and some who were actually working and living as freelance musicians. The award-winners were as it suggests –  current or recent recipients of an award from AYM. The furthering talent students were young musicians at the beginnings of their musical  journeys and had been identified as those with emerging potential and high aptitude learners. The whole point was to get 45 young musicians at different musical stages to encourage, mentor and support each other. I couldn’t pass the opportunity to gain training and experience in something that would benefit me and someone else.

One of the mains reasons why I applied to be a mentor in the project is because I wish I had a mentor when I was younger. I came from a background of not really knowing much about going in to music or even the dos and don’ts of applying to a music school etc. I really would’ve benefitted from an older more experienced musician who could offer me advice and encouragement. With Talent to Talent, peer-led mentoring was really effective because it meant that being closer in age we could be easily relatable and we were the bridge between being a student and their teacher. Also, I believe that I share similar views to AYM  on encouraging and supporting young musicians and I wanted to give back even the smallest portion of support to someone else in the same way that AYM has supported me.

The process was unique and unlike anything I’d ever done or heard of before. In retrospect, it seems a little obvious that musicians should be receiving regular mentoring but thanks to AYM, they’ve pioneered a fantastic project.  For me it was great to meet more like-minded musicians who were in different stages. We had a training day which included safe-guarding and all the important practical information about working with young people. We had excellent people who provided the training  and advice on  mentoring, so we learned from the best! The training day was vital because it really caused us to think and understand the difference between mentoring and teaching.  What was great was that my mentee was a cellist so I wasn’t tempted to try and talk about technical issues like bowing and fingerings!

For me, the beauty of mentoring was in the fact that it was definitely a two-way process and even though I was the adult in the situation, I learned an awful lot from my mentee and I also learned a lot about myself.  Sometimes, I didn’t always have the answers but that was ok. I just had to do some more research and broaden my knowledge in order to help my mentee and we could even learn together. Mentoring definitely benefitted me in numerous ways including: helping someone else in their musical journey; developing people skills and emotional intelligence skills; taking time out of my schedule to help someone else. The programme ended with a final group day at Richmix in London where we all composed our own performances to illustrate the mentoring process and journey. There, we also had the chance to interview and be audience to a performance by singer-songwriter-cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson.

Finally, I was invited to make a speech to the AYM Angels at Clementi House in Notting Hill on 26th April.

The house was amazing and transported me back to 18th century, as if Clementi himself were still living there. The AYM Angels are the phenomenal people who donate and support AYM. I’m so grateful to have been a part of such a lovely evening. It was a rare opportunity for me to meet and talk to people who truly enjoy helping and supporting young musicians. I came away feeling really high in spirits about the future of classical music and it’s young musicians. Speaking to the AYM Angels also gave me so much confidence with public speaking and sharing my enthusiasm with others.


I can’t say thank you enough to Hester, Hannah and the rest of the amazing team at AYM for their fantastic work.

If you are a young musician, parent/carer of one or you simply know of a young musician please check out AYM and be sure to make use of their services if you’re eligible.









Introducing: Lufuno Ndou


The first time I became involved in classical music was in primary school. Only a few of the children were given the opportunity to play violin, a few others the recorder. I remember very little about playing the violin at this time, other than playing my violin17888646_10210120982955219_2003672998_n to family when we visited South Africa and seeing the number of children playing instruments fall as we got to end of primary school. I didn’t play the violin much when I started secondary school but having had the play it always kept me connected to classical music. As a singer, and also as a dancer and actor – as someone whose appearance may often be a factor to my performance – seeing people of colour in the industry is so important to me.17901755_10210120982995220_1578615655_o

The first time I saw Caroline Modiba, South African soprano, perform in Birmingham Conservatoire, I cried so much. It was a little bit embarrassing. But I saw her and I finally believed for the first time since beginning my studies in Birmingham Conservatoire that I could actually be good. I saw her and thought ‘I could be like that.’ Even just knowing that Maureen Braithwaite is teaching in the Conservatoire is incredibly encouraging.

When I took my ballet exam, I was told we had to have our hair in a bun. My natural hair was too short to tie up so I had my hair braided a few days before, just so I could put it in a bun for the exam. In all my short time of being on stage, that was the only situation where my being black was brought to attention. In classical music, especially as a sing
er, I haven’t yet been deeply affected in a negative way. I think the Conservatoire’s accepting atmosphere has helped. But I haven’t had any particularly positive moments that that were due to me being black either. What I mostly worry about is how I’ll be affected when I’m in the real world, trying to get roles and work.
Like when I see agencies are casting roles and the descriptions will say something like “fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes.” Seeing open auditions for princess parties is another time when I have felt particularly black – there are only so many Disney princesses I could play! 17909527_10210120982915218_266639503_n
There are already so few shows and roles written for people of colour, and with that in mind I wonder if there is a limit to my success. On the other hand, I want to think that’ll I’ll be able to change how things are, or maybe I’ll be able to encourage young people to be more involved in classical music.

For more information go to her website and be sure to follow Lufuno’s instagram: @lufuyes


The Black Faces of Classical Music Explained

The Black Faces of Classical Music* is a movement seeking to champion and bring to light the many black individuals, ensembles, initiatives, charities and organisations that are affiliated with and represent progress for Black people within the domain of classical music. *Although the movement is called “The Black Faces of Classical Music”, and will focus primarily on music, it will include people of ethnic minorities and will also look at literature and arts. “The Black Faces of Classical Music” is a play on words: Black Faces = black people. This also represents the past forgotten figures, the presently up-and-coming figures and the achievements made by black people in the industry that have perhaps not been given as much recognition in the mainstream media.

The idea came to me  in the planning stages of my blog as I was thinking of the main themes to write about. One of the most obvious topics for me was the issue of the lack of diversity within classical music. In an industry dominated by caucasians and east asians, I think its important for me as a black person to see more people. Going to concerts and seeing the main orchestras, string quartets and other ensemble I found that it was quite  difficult to spot people who looked like me. In the rare occurrence that I did spot a face of a darker complexion, I would immediately smile jump for joy.

The Black Faces of Classical music is a movement that wants to see more talented black people and people of ethnic mintories excel in the classical genre addition to the genres pertaining to black culture i.e. Reggae, Rap, RnB, Soul etc. In the 21st century, where the world is so diverse, it should be a norm to see people of different complexions and cultural backgrounds in top orchestras and ensembles. In addition, the movement endeavours to create a dialogue and online platform to draw attention to and celebrate past, present and future talent in classical music that has its roots in African/Caribbean heritage.

If you’re interested in finding out more and reading some more articles follow the links below.

My Page – The Black Faces of Classical Music

Chineke! Foundation – Europe’s first professional orchestra comprised of Black and Minority musicians

The Black British Classical Foundation

Ritz Chamber Players – Chamber Music Ensemble comprised of African-American Musicians

Kinshasa Symphony – inhabitants of Kinshasa in DRC are not formally trained but have formed the country’s only symphony orchestra


Introducing: Shannon-Latoyah Simon

I started playing the classical guitar at the age of 9 and naturally I became interested in the repertoire, which actually isn’t too vast or varied for the instrument. I think my involvement with classical music really grew when I started studying at the Northampton School for Girls (my secondary school), which was also a specialist music college. Classical music was played in nearly all of our classes to improve cognitive function and we were all encouraged to compose pieces, join the after school music ensembles and attend as many concerts and recitals as we could!

For me it’s very important to see more people of colour in the industry. Growing up I found it difficult because there were hardly any people of colour I could look up to as a role model. Due to this I have become involved with the BBCF (Black British Classical Foundation) an organisation that represents and provides opportunities to ethnic minorities within classical music. This year I was able to perform in the BBCF ‘Music inspired by Shakespeare’ concert at St Pauls Church in Covent Garden, which was an amazing experience. I love working with the BBCF because it inspires minority audiences and makes them see the possibilities for themselves and think, “I can do that too!”

I don’t feel as though being a black person in classical music has had any advantages or disadvantages as such. I’ve never been discriminated against of made to feel uncomfortable in any situation. I like to think that any opportunities or achievements I have gained have been down to hard work and determination.



For more information about Shannon visit

Introducing: Caroline Modiba

“It doesn’t really matter what skin colour you are, if you’re talented enough then that’s where you should be”.

I got involved with classical music when I was still in school in South Africa. There were choral music school competitions and the finals took place in winter. And then the opera section was introduced and I thought “why not try my luck”. I made it to the finals and I made an impression to a few people who later introduced me to Sannie Streicher who was a voice coach. I took lessons with her while I was completing my high school diploma. After graduation I decided to study Bcom Management (business course) which had nothing to do with music but then music found me again. I was still taking singing lessons with Lorraine at this time and I heard about auditions for young artists training programme. I went to audition and got accepted in the 3 year training course with the Black Tie Ensemble which was an opera company with their own training programme. After completing the course I was accepted as a member and started earning money through my talent, which was great I thought.

There’s a lot of people of colour in the industry already, especially singers and for me it doesn’t really matter what skin colour you are, if you’re talented enough then that’s where you should be. It would be nice though if we could get more people of colour in the audience. I haven’t had any bad experiences as a black person in the industry and all the good experiences I’ve had I believe had to do with my talent and not my skin colour.

Caroline was one of the soloists in Verdi’s Messa Di Requiem performed by Birmingham Conservatoire. You can listen to her phenomenal voice in concert here and here.