transforming young lives and communities through music

The Mayor of Islington's Charity 2015/16

Meet the Music First team

Bob Pepper co-founder


Robert Pepper has worked in Music Education for over 40 years as Teacher, County Music Adviser and Conductor. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2003 and made MBE in 2006. Robert is Musical Director of the English Schools’ Orchestra and the English Young Artists’ Sinfonia, a professional Chamber Orchestra. He is passionate about “El Sistema“ and its potential for transforming the lives of young people and their communities. Robert visited Venezuela for six weeks in 2008 to carry out research into the programme. He is currently leading workshops and performances in Lewisham with the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Goldsmiths, University of London and the Lewisham Music Hub.

Carol Pepper co-founder


Carol Pepper has spent her career in primary education, working in a variety of schools ranging from challenging inner-city environments to one of the country’s leading Independent establishments. Alongside her classroom work Carol has gained vast experience organising national and international residential courses, tours and concerts in major venues for a number of youth orchestras. She has seen the growth in confidence and self-esteem such experiences encourage which has led to her interest in El Sistema and its work with more disadvantaged children. With Bob she spent six weeks researching the programme in Venezuela in 2008. Carol is currently working on a number of Music Education projects in London.

Clive Strowger chairperson


Clive Strowger is Chairman of the Trustees. He combines serving on the Board of Private Companies with working with charities and Not for Profit Organisations. He is a business consultant and financial adviser to early stage companies taking equity positions as appropriate. His voluntary work includes London First where he is a Board Member and Treasurer; a Council Member of City and Guilds; a Member of Brewers Court where he chairs a Charitable Educational Trust; Board Member and Treasurer of The International Business Leaders Forum. He was a Trustee and Treasurer of Cancer Research UK and chaired the Finance and Investment Committee and until recently chaired the Board of Trustees of the CRC Pension Fund. His business career covered Chief Executive positions in public companies, including twelve years with Grand Metropolitan (now Diageo) in senior executive roles serving on the Board for five years, the last three as Finance Director.

Kirsty Wilcockson operations director


Kirsty has played the piano, violin and sung since she was young and has been a member of many different choirs and orchestras. She studied Music at Leeds University for three years and then joined the Teach First scheme and taught at Wembley High Technology College for three years where she was promoted to Head of Music. She then moved on to being the curriculum lead teacher at In Harmony Lambeth, a project which shares the same ethos and beliefs as Music First. Kirsty is looking forward to following the Music First students' progress from primary to secondary school.

Tara Franks creative consultant and AMSI hub leader


Tara has worked closely with Music First since its creation back in 2009. As the creative consultant, composer/conductor, she now also leads the Arts and Media School hub. Having worked in education since 2003, with PGCE from Homerton Cambridge and MMus in Leadership from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Tara works as a freelance creative workshop leader running projects in collaborative composition/improvisation, vocal work and CPD training. She has worked for organisations including Arts First, Barbican, Aldeburgh Music, Royal Opera House and co-founded an on-going song writing project/leadership programme in Mexico City. Amongst varied freelance performance projects, Cellist Tara composes and plays regular with her contemporary trio Quest Ensemble, who released their debut album ‘Footfall’ last May. Alongside all this a primary focus over the last couple of years has been the growth of her own social enterprise - SoundsCreative Projects. For more information visit and

Helen Innes AMSI coordinator


Helen has worked to administrate and deliver educational projects for four years. After training as an illustrator at Cambridge School of Arts, she put her creative and communication skills to work at a range of arts education projects in London. These include The Big Draw, engage, the Ministry of Stories, Stour Valley Arts, and the Diana Awards Trust. She is a singer, and has participated in the Goldsmiths Ensemble Choir, performing at the Barbican. She has extensive experience in supporting the planning and programming of education events and workshops with The Culture Capital Exchange, and Creative & Cultural Skills, including the Royal Opera House Design Challenge. She also enjoys being at the front end of learning projects, most recently delivering learning experiences at Historic Royal Palaces, the V&A and the Museum of Childhood. This summer she was able to expand on these skills in Paris, working on bespoke educational tours at the Musee du Louvre and Notre Dame.

Lindsay Dunlop fundraiser


Lindsay joined Music First in February 2015, bringing her experience of fundraising for many youth organisations. After an early career in marketing, Lindsay began fundraising for children’s charity React in 2001, progressing to Head of Fundraising at young people’s helpline Get Connected, where she more than doubled income to over £1.2m during her tenure. Having been a student of a number of instruments since childhood, Lindsay firmly believes that music education provides a solid foundation for so many facets of life – from the discipline of regular practice, to the joys of teamwork when playing as part of an ensemble. She is delighted to have joined Music First and looks forward to growing the charity’s income so that many more children may benefit from their valuable music programme into the future.

Marianna Hay trustee


After reading music at Oxford University, Marianna joined Teach First as a music teacher at Highbury Grove School in Islington. She subsequently became the school's Director of Music, leading on the establishment of its first in-school music academy under the headship of Truda White and working closely with Music First from its inception in 2009. As a Teach First music teacher, Marianna won a Jack Petchey award for Leadership and was highly commended for a Teach First Ambassador Award. She became Music First’s director of programme development in 2010. Inspired by her work at Highbury Grove School and Music First, Marianna founded The National Orchestra for All in 2011, an organisation which creates orchestras for young people who do not have the opportunity to access traditional music making, pioneering a new approach to using ensemble music to develop life skills and improve life chances.

James Kempton trustee


James Kempton is passionate about the arts and their central role in education. As cabinet member for children and Council Leader in Islington for 10 years, James led the transformation of education in the Borough. A key element involved nurturing music and drama in the borough which led to the creation of Music First and of the outstanding youth theatre group Islington Community Theatre, which he now chairs. James often remarks that it was with a flute (or clarinet) in his hand that he first leant the performance skills that he have proved so important later on to his own career. James now works as an independent education and leadership consultant and has advised and written extensively on public services reform policy and delivery. He is currently closely involved with creating the new professional body for school teachers, the College of Teaching, serving as Clerk to the Board of Founding Trustees.  In this he is drawing on his experience as a history teacher and his earlier work for two medical royal colleges, including setting up the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and serving as its first chief executive. He also serves as a trustee of the 500 year old anti-poverty charity - the Cripplegate Foundation.

Tina Vinson Islington Youth Orchestra (IYO)

Stephen Drury trustee


Stephen Drury is treasurer of Music First. He has had a long career in financial management and was Finance Director and Company Secretary of London First until October 2015. He was also a director of Skills Festival Company Limited which runs a major annual careers fair in London which attracts around 30,000 young people, Finance Director of Academy Schools Trust which was involved in the early days of academy schools and was involved in the early financial management of Teach First. He has also been finance director for a number of other companies in the not for profit, charity sector and commercial sectors as well as setting up and running of offices in China, India and the United States. He is also treasurer of a charitable organisation which raises funds for the maintenance of the fabric of his local medieval church.



Music First works with a fantastic team of professional tutors to ensure the highest quality of teaching takes place in all of the hubs.

Rebecca Breen violin


Irish violist Rebecca Breen is a graduate of the Royal College of Music where she studied with Andriy Viytovych and currently is on the Masters course continuing her studies with Jennifer Stumm and Simon Rowland Jones. During her time at the RCM Rebecca has been a prize winner of the RCM Viola competition and has featured as a RCM Rising Star resulting in performances at Cadogan Hall, Wigmore Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. Outside of her studies at the RCM Rebecca has already worked with English Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Opera House Covent Garden on numerous productions, concerts and tours. She is an alumni of the Casalmaggiore International Festival in Italy on full scholarship and the Academia Internacional de Música Festival in Catalunya where she has broadcast on Spanish radio.

Felicity Gorst clarinet


After completing my studies at Birmingham Conservatoire, Fliss spent three years traveling the world working as a musician on cruise ships before moving to London. Here she enjoys running her own swing/jive band 'Jivestar' who have performed all over the country, including the prestigious Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club. Fliss composes and arranges music for many other projects, including her jazz quartet 'The Fliss Gorst Quartet' and a show featuring the music of the James Bond films. For more information, visit

Carla Santos violin


Portuguese violinist Carla Santos obtained her Artist Diploma and Master’s Degree from the Royal College of Music, where she studied from 2009 to 2012 with Professor Radu Blidar. Carla is a member of the Dryads Duo, together with Portuguese pianist Saul Picado. The Dryads Duo, formed in 2010, participated in the “Prémio Jovens Músicos” Competition in Portugal (2011) and were awarded the First Prize.

Jo Keithley cello


Jo graduated with a first class honours degree in 2008 having studied at Trinity College of Music with a full scholarship, gaining both the Leonard Smith and Felicity Young Duo Prize, and the Sir John Barbirolli Prize for Cello Studies. She then completed her Masters at Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since then, she has combined teaching with freelancing in orchestras such as the European Union Chamber Orchestra and the London Concert Orchestra.

Erin Smith violin


Erin started playing the violin at the age of four and by twelve, she had performed on TV and Radio, and in the Scottish and British Parliaments on many occasions, winning over 200 Scottish competitions. She has toured all over the UK and Europe, and Mauritius with the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, leading them on their tour of Ireland. Erin graduated from the Royal Academy of Music, London in 2011, where she obtained her teaching diploma. She completed her Masters Degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in 2013.

Michael Liu flute


Michael Liu is a much sought after, prize-winning flautist. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, he studied with William Bennett OBE and Kate Hill. He was second prize winner at the Alexander & Buono International Flute Competition in 2013 and is fast achieving recognition as an international soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player. He has performed with many revered conductors, orchestras and ensembles in over 50 cities around the globe.

Cristina Prats-Costa violin


Cristina Prats-Costa, natural from Ibiza, Spain, holds a BMus (Hons) degree from Guildhall School of Music, an MA in Performance from the Royal Academy of Music and a Master in Chamber Music from the Hochschule für Musik in Hanover. She qualified as a Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music LRAM and has a certificate in Pedagogy from the University of Barcelona. Cristina is the first violin of the Alauda Quartet and combines her performing career with teaching.

Caroline Rankin cello


Caroline studied the cello at Trinity College of Music in London with Naomi Buterworth. After graduating Caroline embarked on a world cruise playing as the cellist in The Cunard String Quartet. Caroline went on to study a PGCE in Secondary Music with Specialist Instrumentalist Teaching at The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. Caroline taught classroom music at Matthew Moss High School in Rochdale for a year before moving back to London to teach a mix of primary classroom music and cello and violin teaching.

Aga Teodorowska cello


Polish cellist Agnieszka Teodorowska  is well known and admired for her lyrical playing and emotional contact with her instrument. Working in the music industry since 2005 she is a musician with particularly broad interests. Her playing is characterized by sharp performances, confidence and imaginative ideas. Aga completed her Masters in Performance at the Grazyna and Kiejstut Music Academy and later an Artist Diploma in Performance at the Royal College of Music in London, graduating with 1st class Honours.

Jonathan Parkin clarinet


Jonathan Parkin leads an exciting schedule as a busy London freelance clarinettist. He performs regularly as a guest principal clarinet in many of the UK’s finest orchestras, including the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia, the orchestras of English National Opera and English National Ballet and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. In 2012, he was contracted by EMEC Records to record his first solo album, which is now commercially available. Jonathan is passionate about music education and teaches clarinet and saxophone at Highbury Grove School.

Jennifer Watson flute


A virtuoso saxophonist, Jenni is also a talented multi-instrumentalist (mainly Flute, Violin, Piano) and an increasingly sought-after composer.She has 3 albums out, all of which showcase her original compositions and a few quirky arrangements, across classical, jazz & folk genres. She studied in Manchester at Chetham’s School of Music (from age 15) and the Royal Northern College of Music, gaining a BMus (Hons) and a (Masters with Distinction) in Saxophone Performance. For more information, visit

Russell Gilmour trumpet/conductor


Russell Gilmour graduated from the Royal College of Music, gaining a distinction in the ‘Master of Music in Historical Performance’ course. Prior to this he studied the modern trumpet and simultaneously completed his Qualified Teacher Status while at the Royal Northern College of Music. Russell has very broad musical interests, but his expertise in performing and researching ancient music is most notable. A busy freelance musician, Russell has toured all over the world with highly prestigious orchestras and he is becoming increasingly in-demand as a soloist, sought-after to perform pieces such as Bach's notorious Second Brandenburg Concerto. For more information, visit

Claudine Guidoin violin/viola

Rachel Grimes violin

Alicia Tomsett flute

Edouard Wood violin

William Russell trumpet

Music First

c/o Brewers’ Company

Brewers Hall

Aldermanbury Square

London EC2V 7HR

Music First is a registered trademark of Viacom International inc., used under licence

Registered Charity Number 1136028