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Centre for Advanced Training: Strings


Study Leader: James Craig (Principal Study Leader & Cello)

James joined the cello section of Royal Northern Sinfonia on completing post-graduate studies at the Royal College of Music. In 1995 a Northern Arts scholarship enabled him to study in Israel, Finland, France, Italy and England. Since returning, James has also taught extensively. For many years, he wrote and presented workshops in schools, including string quartet and composition coaching to A level standard. James has additionally given cello masterclasses in the Baccarelli Institute, Sao Paolo Brasil and as part of ‘Awards for Young Musicians’.

Teaches on: Centre for Advanced Training


Iona Brown (Violin)

Iona received her early musical education in Leicestershire where she was a member of the Leicestershire Schools Youth Orchestras for seven years. She won a scholarship to study at the Royal Northern College of Music under Christopher Rowland, Lydia Mordkovitch and Wen Zhou Li. Whilst in Manchester she helped found Ps- appha with whom she appeared live on Radio 3 and in various series nationwide. She was also a member of Manchester Camerata performing regularly with their Chamber En- semble and as soloist in Bach’s Concerto for 2 Violins. Iona joined Royal Northern Sinfonia in 1995 where she is now a principal first violin.

In 2003 Iona was awarded an Arts Council grant for a sabbatical in Paris where she studied with Jean-Jacques Kantorow. Iona is also extremely dedicated to music education, and was invited to adjudicate the preliminary rounds of Young Musician of the Year in Manchester in 2017 and 2015 . As well as private teaching, Iona teaches for Durham University and has recently been appointed Head of Strings at Newcastle University.

Teaches on: Centre for Advanced Training

Helen Critten website size

Helen Critten

Helen studied violin performance at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and The Royal Academy of Music in London. Her violin teachers included Sam Bor, Gerre Gibson and Howard Davis.

Helen played 1st violin with Royal Northern Sinfonia for seven years before moving into teaching. She helped to establish Foundation Strings at Sage Gateshead and currently teaches at the Centre for Advanced Training as well as several schools in the North East.

Teaches on: Centre for Advanced Training

Ed Cross (Violin)

Ed completed his undergraduate degree in music at the University of Birmingham before returning to his home city of Newcastle upon Tyne where he was awarded a distinction for his MMus degree in performance at Newcastle University; he is currently working part-time towards a doctorate in 20th century performance practice, focusing on the use of rubato in late-Romantic solo violin repertoire. He currently performs regularly as a violinist with a variety of ensembles and gives concerto and recital performances around the North East.

Teaches on: Foundation Strings, Step Up Strings and Centre for Advanced Training

Gemma Kost website size

Gemma Kost (Cello) 

Gemma studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and Royal College of Music, after which she established a varied career as a freelance cellist.  She has performed with Royal Northern Sinfonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, The Philharmonia and Opera North. Other performing  highlights include a ten-week European tour with Sting, festivals and touring with folk band The Unthanks, and an album recording with electro pioneer Anna Meredith. Gemma loves teaching, and hopes to pass some of her passion for live music onto the next generation. She has been Programme Leader of Foundation Strings since 2017.

Teaches on: Foundation Strings, Step Up Strings and Centre for Advanced Training


Alana Tonetti-Tieppo (Violin)

Alanna Tonetti-Tieppo, originally from Boston, Massachusetts, has been living in the UK since 2008 when she was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, in London. There she studied under Professors Lydia Mordkovitch, and Remus Azoitei and in 2014, Alanna completed her Master’s of Music degree with distinction at the Royal College of Music in London, as a Leverhulme Scholar, under Professor Jan Repko. She has performed as a soloist, and chamber musician across the country, as well as France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Norway, and Spain. In 2015, Alanna was appointed Sub-Principal 2nd Violin in the Royal Northern Sinfonia.

In 2010, she joined the Jubilee String Quartet, prize winners at the 2013 Trondheim International String Quartet Competition, and recipients of the Park Lane Group Artists Award, the Hattori Foundation Award, Tillet Trust Award, and the Worship Company of Musicians Maisie Lewis Award. They are also winners of the Val Tidone International Chamber Music Competition (2011), the Philharmonia Orchestra MMSF Charles Henderson Ensemble Award (2012), and the St Martin in the Fields Chamber Music Competition (2013) as well as Leverhulme Fellows at the Royal Academy of Music from 2012-13.

Teaches on: Centre for Advanced Training