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MiSST Music Academy Staff

The MiSST Music Academy is led by Jonathan Gibson (Director of Excellence Programmes) and is supported by Stephanie Bissell (Director of Music), and our wonderful team of tutors.

Sam Thi Nguyễn-Neugarten

Sam Thi Nguyễn-Neugarten is a Vietnamese born British violinist. Thi started her music education with her father, uncles and auntie, until at the age of 17 she won a music scholarship to study in Moscow's The Gnecine Music College with the renowned Russian pedagogy Semion Mikhailovich Mykychiansky. In 1989, Thi, along with her mother and brother who is also a violinist, fled Communist Vietnam to Hong Kong. While in a Hong Kong refugee centre, Thi and her brother attracted worldwide attention through their violin playing, and finally given passage to Norway. Once settled in Europe, Thi furthered her music education at the Norwegian Music Academy with professor Ornuf Boye Hansen, the Guildhall School in London with professor David Takeno, and at the Institute of Education for a masters in Social Psychology and Philosophy in Music Education. Thi is a passionate teacher and coach working with young musicians through many music Hubs in London including MISST. As well as being a busy violin teacher, Thi is also a freelance violinist. She plays in many orchestras, chamber ensembles and is giving recitals when possible. Thi lives in London with her son. She is a keen amateur gardener and loves cooking.

Alex Fryer

Alex read music at the University of Southampton, studying oboe performance as well as conducting. During his time there, he was assistant conductor to both the University Symphony and Chamber Orchestra. After graduating, he pursued a post-graduate degree at the Royal College of Music in oboe performance.

While studying at Royal College of Music, Alex regularly played principal oboe with the RCM Symphony Orchestra in addition to taking part in numerous other ensemble projects including contemporary music groups and chamber music recitals. Since graduating with a distinction in 2016, Alex has enjoyed a varied freelance career as an oboist, singer, conductor, and music leader.

In 2019 Alex joined Southbank Sinfonia for a year-long orchestral fellowship, which included performances at the BBC proms and broadcasts on BBC Radio 3. More recently he has enjoyed taking part in the Pathway Scheme at the Wigmore Hall, training as a music leader for education and participation work and is currently a trainee music leader with Spitalfields. Alex is the artistic director of The Academy of St Mary-le-Bow.

Francisco Negreiros

Percussionist Francisco Negreiros’ career began in 2003, aged 8, at the SFUA - Sociedade Filarmonica Uniao Agricola of Pinhal Novo Concert Band. Through his formative years, he has had the opportunity to play extensively from the north to the south of Portugal, both with the SFUA and as an invited Percussionist with Orchestras and Concert Bands of similar standing as the SFUA in the Lisbon, Setubal and Beja areas. Francisco is a co-founder of street group Agarrat’oBrass, geared towards providing musical animation in the many summer festivals in Portugal, mixing repertoire ranging from Polkas and Balkan Music to Ragtime.

A Guildhall School of Music in Drama graduate, Francisco has increasingly focused on his future as a Timpanist alongside his Percussion studies, making the most of his lessons with Professor David Corkhill and LSO Principal Timpanist Nigel Thomas. Also, after growing interest, Francisco has broadened his horizons by taking up the baton by assuming Assistant Conductor positions at the SFUA’s academic ensembles and later began having lessons at Guildhall under tutelage of Professors Tim Redmond and David Corkhill.

The highlights from Francisco’s career include being an invited musician at the Orquestra Sinfonica Portuguesa just before his relocation to London in 2018, performing Sibelius’ Finlandia. In the United Kingdom, he has performed with the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, the Cambridge Philharmonic Society, the Aleph Chamber Orchestra, Camden Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. Most recently, Francisco has debuted in BBC Radio3, as part of UBU Ensemble’s Frank Zappa Yellow Shark Album concert, for the BBC Total Immersion concerts in March 2022.

Sally Palmer

Sally Palmer enjoys a varied career as a flautist, educator and workshop leader. She freelances across the UK and has most recently appeared with the English National Ballet, Aurora Orchestra, City of London Sinfonia and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Other highlights of her career include working with the newly formed Knussen Chamber Orchestra at Aldeburgh Festival, playing principal flute with Ensemble Cymru during a tour of ‘Tosca’, and performing an evening recital at Wigmore Hall after winning the Royal Academy of Music’s prestigious Patrons Award. Sally is passionate about teaching and has recently attained her LRAM diploma in teaching from the Royal Academy of Music. She currently works as a flute teacher at City of London Academy Highbury Grove as well as teaching a broad range of students privately. Sally is particularly interested in making music lessons both productive and fun, and her work with Royal Academy of Music as a Fellow with the education department, as well as her work freelancing on projects with Wigmore Hall, All Souls Music and English Touring Opera, have helped her to think creatively about music education.

Izabela Stefańska

A founding member of the Morassi Quartet, Polish cellist Izabela Stefańska is an accomplished solo and chamber musician, performing regularly across Europe. With the Turina Quartet, Izabela was a winner of the Platinum Ensemble award at the XX International Ensemble Competition in Rzeszów, Poland and with the Eos Piano Trio is a member of the Park Lane Group Music Trust. She has extensively toured the UK and Scandinavia with the RCM Cello Ensemble. As an orchestral musician, Izabela was a member of the Young Polish Philharmonic Orchestra, AUKSO Chamber Orchestra Academy and since 2020 has held the position of Principal Cello with the London City Orchestra. Izabela has performed across Europe and Asia including appearances at London Coliseum, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Cadogan Hall,    National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio, Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (DUCTAC) and also on tours of Germany, Norway, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic. Izabela is currently pursuing her Master of Performance degree at the Royal College of Music where she is a recipient of the Audrey Piggott Award and the ABRSM Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Award. She was nominated by the RCM to be a member of English National Opera’s Evolve Scheme, and has subsequently appeared with the ENO in recent performances of Puccini’s La Bohème. 

Ellie Blamires

Flautist Ellie Blamires read Music at New College, Oxford, where she was an Academic and Instrumental scholar. Following her undergraduate degree, she was awarded a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, where she completed her Master’s with distinction in 2020. Ellie now freelances as an orchestral musician and soloist across the UK. In 2022 she was awarded a place in Southbank Sinfonia, with whom she has toured Italy and performed two concertos to date. Ellie is a founding member of the award-winning wind quintet, Ensemble Renard. With the Ensemble she has toured Scotland as the recipient of a Tunnell Trust award, performed on BBC Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’, and been made a Britten Pears Young Artist. In 2023 the Ensemble will make their debut at the Aldeburgh Festival. Ellie loves teaching students of all ages and abilities. In 2022 she worked with the Royal Academy of Music woodwind department as a Chamber Music Fellow, coaching chamber ensembles and running classes for the Academy’s flute students. She has taught in schools across London for MiSST since 2019.

Malena Benavent Gimeno

Malena Benavent Gimeno grew up in a mediterranean town near Valencia, Spain. She has played with many Spanish professional musicians and orchestras, such as Young Valencia Orchestra in El Palau de les Arts in Valencia and Llanes International Course Orchestra in the north of Spain, Astúrias. Malena has studied with many violinists such as Aitor Hevia, Jordi Albelda, Poan Lin, Koen Roens or Oriol Sanya.

Malena also has extensive experience as a chamber music musician and toured in Andorra with her quartet in 2016, though she has also played and participated in competitions as part of other chamber formations.

Currently she studies with professor Jacqueline Ross at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she started her Bachelors degree in 2020 and where she has played in Guildhall’s Gold Medal orchestra, Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, Guildhall Spring Opera with renowned conductors Richard Farnes, Dominic Wheeler, Nicholas Collon and maestro Gianandrea Noseda, among others.

Varinia Oyola-Rebaza

Violist Varinia Oyola-Rebaza shares her love for the viola's unique sound world with her international audience and with underserved communities alike. As an accomplished chamber musician and recitalist, she has performed in renowned venues such as St. John Smith Square, Conway Hall, Alice Tully Hall (New York), Auditorio Santa Ursula (Peru), and St. Margaret's Church at Westminster Abbey. Committed to bringing music outside the concert hall, Varinia has performed in prisons, nursing homes, and for survivors of the 2007 earthquake in her home country Peru. A graduate of The Juilliard School and the Royal Academy of music, her honours included being appointed an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM)  for her contributions to the music field in 2019, the Enterprise Award from the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2021 and the 1st Prize and Audience Prize at the International Chamber Music Competition "Massimo Antonelli" in Italy in 2018, as violist of the Alauda Quartet. As a committed educator, she has served as Teaching Assistant of viola and chamber music at the University of Iowa, has taught at MiSST schools, and served as Chamber Music Mentor at the Juilliard Pre-College.

Samy Okuma-Chin

Samy Okuma-Chin is a graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music. He is a founding member of the Bauhaus Trio, who were prize winners in RNCM’s Nossek Chamber Prize. Subsequently, they have had engagements at the Bechstein Centre Manchester and Haslemere charity concert series. He is currently on the Royal Opera House Mentorship Scheme where he regularly sits in during rehearsals and receives lessons from a member of the orchestra.

He will be starting his masters at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of Joshua Fisher.

Elisabeth Lusche

Elisabeth Lusche is a trumpet player specializing in new music, improvisation, and outreach. Originally from Auburn, Alabama, Elisabeth now lives and freelances in London, UK.

Elisabeth is a researcher-performer at Studio LOOS, a hotspot for new music, improvisation, and interdisciplinary arts in The Hague. Her research project, “Embodiment and Empowerment,” has been presented at numerous conferences, including, the Darmstadt Summer Festival, and the Stockhausen Courses Kürten. Elisabeth is also a Research Assistant for Global Breath - an ethnographic study of trumpet sound and pedagogy.

As a performer, Elisabeth has had numerous festival appearances including the Holland Festival, the Grachtenfestival, Rewire, the Opera Forward Festival, and the Klangspuren Festival. In 2019, she starred in the Dutch National Opera’s award-winning production “aus LICHT,” featuring the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen and directed by Pierre Audi. Elisabeth is also a current member of the Nevis Ensemble: Scotland’s first and only street orchestra.

Elisabeth received an MM from the Royal Conservatory The Hague in 2019 and a BM in Trumpet Performance from Northwestern University in 2017. She is a former student of Marco Blaauw and an expert in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen. Elisabeth is also a proud alumna of the Chosen Vale International Trumpet Seminar.

Elisabeth is a Van Laar Trumpets and Flugelhorns Artist.

Adam Morris

Adam is a music director, teacher and theatre maker. In secondary schools, London music hubs and through private tuition he has extensively taught piano, GCSE and A-Level Music, musicianship and composition, and conducted amateur and youth orchestras. Working alongside experienced musicians to inspire and motivate students to excel and enjoy composition, musicianship and performance have been a real pleasure throughout his career. In addition, Adam has composed for, produced, and directed and music-directed for plays, musicals and operas throughout the UK. Currently, Adam is writing for theatre (both plays and musicals) and film, with public readings and next stages of development planned for June 2023 in London and New York.

Peter Fenech

Born in Malta, Peter Fenech studied at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance under the pedagogy of British violist Roger Chase. His studies were generously supported with the help of the Drapers’ Scholarship, The Joan Greenfield Fellowship Trust Scholarship and the Trinity College London Scholarship. In 2020 Peter was awarded the Trinity College Silver Medal for Strings for his distinctive contribution made during his time at Trinity Laban. During his studies, Peter performed in numerous orchestral projects and notably in side-by-side performances with members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Mozart Players, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia. 

He has played with professional orchestras in both Malta and the UK including a debut guest performance with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra at age 16. In July 2022 he was invited to perform in the Victoria International Arts Festival in Gozo. he was also invited to give a private recital for the President of Malta, his Excellency George Vella.

Peter has performed in masterclasses with world renowned violists including Sacha Bota, Alexander Zemtsov, Alexander Milosev, Rivka Golani, Lawrence Power and Nobuko Imai.

In 2022 Peter joined the Southbank Sinfonia in their 20th anniversary year, under the baton of Simon Over. Peter currently plays on a David Milward viola made in 2004.

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