Studio Instruction – Classical Strings, Guitar, and Harp

Program Outline

violin and cello

String Lessons for Children

Children can begin a string instrument as young as 3 years old.  At the VCM, students and parents can choose between Traditional, Suzuki, and BC Fiddle Orchestra teaching methods. Each of these methods have tremendous merit and instill the joy of music, build confidence, and improve cognitive skills. Allow us to help you find the learning style that best suits you or your child.

Traditional Strings Method

Beginner students typically begin with 30 minute private lessons. Each teacher uses a variety of materials; instruction can be tailored for each individual student.  Most students immediately begin learning note and rhythm reading, technical skills such as scales, musical terms, and ear training skills.

Student progress can be measured in a number of ways. The Royal Conservatory of Music offers a guide through grades 1-10 including yearly exams and theory and ear training components in later years. Students may also gauge their progress through a variety of performance opportunities. Instructor and String Department masterclasses are open to all students on a weekly basis.  Instructors may organize their own periodic recitals.

Program Details

Studio Instruction on String Instruments - Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Harp, Guitar, Lute.



Michael Dias

An enthusiastic performer, musicologist and teacher, Michael Dias completed a Masters of Music in classical guitar performance under Dr. Alexander Dunn at the University of Victoria (UVic) in 2008. A Calgary native, he previously studied under Jacob Salomons and has had the opportunity to play in masterclasses with renowned artists such as David Tanenbaum, Roland Dyens, Benjamin Verdery, Adam Holzman, Judcael Perroy and Carlos Barbosa-Lima. Michael was the recipient of the first prize at the 2008 Northwest Guitar Festival. He is the Managing Editor of the UVic School of Music’s annual journal, Musicological Explorations, and is currently conducting research in (…)

Alexander Dunn

Alexander Dunn has completed extensive summer studies at the Aspen Festival and Sommerakademie Mozarteum. His performances and activities at music festivals include Darmstadt, Salzburg, Vancouver New Music, International Guitar and Lute Institute, Stetson Internatioanl Guitar Workshop, Guitar Foundation of America, Boston GuitarFest, Northwest Guitar Festival, Paracho Festival de Guitarra, Vancouver Festival, Early Music Society of the Islands, CBC Festival de Printemps, Zihuatenejo International Guitar Festival, Appalachian Guitar Festival, Singapore Youth Festival, and many others. Dr. Dunn has performed in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, Ukraine, China, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Cuba, (…)

Douglas Hensley

Douglas Hensley

Douglas Hensley is an ecclectic and versatile musician who enjoys teaching students of all levels and ages, helping them develop a solid technique which will enable them to play whatever kind of music they choose. Since 2001, he has served with the Victoria Symphony on guitar, lute, mandolin, and banjo, and in 2008 joined Pacific Opera Victoria in Regina. As co-founder and co-director of the Continuum Consort, he explores a repertoire from 12th century Cantigas de Santa Maria to 21st century works written for the ensemble (including commissions funded by the B.C. Arts Council and the Canada Council), on a (…)

Bradford Werner

Bradford Werner resides in Victoria, BC, Canada where he teaches classical guitar at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and works as a freelance musician. Bradford teaches a wide range of students from dedicated youth, hobbyists adults, and emerging young professionals. He adjudicates festivals, and has given exams and masterclasses for a variety of organizations including The Alberta Provincial Festival, Mount Royal University, Calgary Guitar Society, The Northwest Music Festival, and many more. Bradford holds a diploma in music from Camosun College, an A.V.C.M. in teaching and performance, and a BA in history from the University of Victoria. He is a member of the Quelus Guitar Duo, and the Victoria Guitar Trio with Michael Dias and Adrian Verdejo. The trio has commissioned numerous premieres and has recorded an album on RedShift Records showcasing contemporary Canadian composers with support from the Canada Council for the Arts. (…)

Annabelle Stanley

Annabelle Stanley is the principal harpist of the Victoria Symphony, a position she has held since 1982. During this time she has frequently been featured as a soloist with the Orchestra. She is also an active chamber musician, soloist and performer of new music. Annabelle is the harp instructor at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and UVIC. She has adjudicated harp students throughout Western Canada. Last year she made a CD with the great American Bassist Gary Karr of familiar classics arranged for Bass and Harp.

Stacey Boal

A multi-faceted musician, Stacey Boal teaches recorder, violin and viola at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and plays the viola in the Victoria Symphony. In addition, she has taught at WCAMS summer camp, and led recorder workshops in Victoria, Nanaimo, Sechelt, Kelowna and Edmonton. Stacey has performed several recorder solos with the VS, most recently Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto. She has also played the recorder in Pacific Opera productions of Handel’s Rodelinda and Britten’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Stacey was born in Revelstoke and went to high school in North Vancouver. She is a graduate of Carson Graham and the UBC (…)

Müge Büyükçelen

Müge Büyükçelen was born in 1975 in Istanbul, Turkey, where she began playing music at the age of nine. She studied at the Istanbul State Conservatory, where her natural talent was quickly recaognized and she was awarded the “Best Young Musician” Award. She studied privately with Nicolai Chumacenko, Sandra Goldberg, Ayla Erduran, and Burkhard Godhoff. Müge holds a Masters degree in music performance from Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey, and an Associate Teaching Diploma from the Victoria Conservatory of Music. She has taught and performed at the Toulouse National Conservatory and is a former member of both the Bilkent Symphony (…)

Allyn Chard

Allyn has been enjoying teaching and making music for over 35 years. Allyn’s students learn the joy and discipline of playing the violin. Many of her students have won festival prizes, exam medals and have gone on to professional music careers. However, Allyn believes that life long learning, enrichment and love of music is the most important goal.

Mary Clarke

Mary is an accomplished violinist, violist and conductor. She was violinist with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for 17 years. She continues to play violin and viola with the Victoria Chamber Orchestra, the Sooke Philharmonic, and is Principal Viola with the Civic Orchestra of Victoria. She has thirty+ years experience teaching individual violin and viola lessons and group string classes at all levels. She was one of the founders of the Strings Program in the Edmonton Public Schools where she taught for 29 years. She adjudicates music festivals in Alberta and BC and has been an Examiner for Conservatory Canada (formerly (…)

Raya Fridman

Raya Fridman is a dedicated and fully trained Suzuki violin teacher at the VCM. She believes that every child can succeed in life if she/he has support of the family; music will be one of the many achievements. Raya holds a College Diploma in Orchestra/Music Education from Russia and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University, as well as a Master in Music from the University of Victoria. Her performing experiences include the Chamber Orchestra of Leningrad, Montreal Chamber Orchestra, Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Symphony Orchestra, Victoria Chamber Orchestra, various theatre companies such as Victoria Operatic Society and Gilbert and Sullivan. She has also enjoyed masterclasses with Pinkas Zukerman, Eleonora and Yuli Turovski, Richard Roberts, Thomas Williams and workshops with “I Musici” and “Quador Bozzini”. Raya has been leading the Civic Orchestra of Victoria since 2006. She is conversant in Russian, French, and English.

Tatiana Kostour

Ms. Tatiana Kostour is a violinist from the Ukraine, and a graduate of the Kiev Conservatory of Music. In addition to studies in performance and pedagogy, including teaching methodologies and practicum, under some of the finest teachers in the Ukrainian, Tatiana always stood out with the highest marks in performance and teaching. Believing in life-long learning, Tatiana has continued to polish her teaching techniques over the years, and has achieved a very high level of success. Many of her students have won Gold and Silver medals from The Royal Conservatory of Music and placed first in The National Canadian Music […]

Guyonne Le Louarn

Born in France on December 27, 1975, Guyonne Le Louarn began to study violin at the age of five in Rennes, then Nantes. She switched for the viola in 1993 and went on to study chamber music, theory and history of music, orchestral work and conducting in Nantes and Paris earning multiple gold medals in all disciplines. Meanwhile she earned a degree in Early Music under the tutelage of Daniel Cuiller in Nantes. In 1998, she won the Paris Interschool competition with outstanding grade and was a finalist at the National Viola Competition in Epernay in 1999. She also played […]

Tori Gould

Violinist Victoria (Tori) Gould (née Lindsay) has consistently distinguished herself as an exuberant and varied performer and instructor. In 2006 Tori joined the Victoria Symphony Orchestra in British Columbia, Canada, in the position of Principal Second Violin. She has also held the Assistant Principal Second Violin chair with the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony and can frequently be seen performing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Past orchestral experiences include acting guest Concertmaster of Symphony Nova Scotia and numerous performances with the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera orchestras. A widely hailed solo performance with the National Repertory Orchestra and with the Victoria Symphony […]

Simon MacDonald

Simon MacDonald began playing the violin at age seven, here in Victoria, British Columbia. Following studies with Frona Colquhoun and Sydney Humphreys, Simon earned his AVCM Teacher and Performance Diploma from the VCM, Bachelor’s degree from New England Conservatory in Boston, and Master’s degree from the Schulich School of Music, at the University of McGill, in Montreal. Simon’s musical education also included performing at music festivals in Europe and North America, including Schleswig Holstein Music Festival (Germany), The Festival of Two Worlds (Italy), the Spoleto Festival (Charleston, South Carolina), Tanglewood Music Festival and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (Massachusetts), and at ArtSpring Festival on Salt Spring Island. […]

Christine Prince

As an active chamber musician and recitalist, violist Christine Prince has participated in festivals including Academia Chigianna (Italy), the International Musicians’ Seminar (Cornwall, U.K.), and the Hornby Island Festival (Canada). She performs regularly in several local chamber music series, including West Coast Chamber Music (Vancouver) and the Victoria Conservatory of Music’s Faculty Concert series, which she founded and directed for 13 years. Her eclectic musical interests include historically informed performance on period instruments and works by women composers. Christine has commissioned and premiered a number of works for the viola, including those of Canadian composers Steve Tittle, Sylvia Rickard, Stephen (…)

Kathryn Ranger

Coming from a musical family, Kathryn Appleby Ranger started her musical studies at an early age. By age thirteen, she had premiered sonatas written for her, soloed with symphony orchestras (Houston Symphony and Interlochen Arts Center Orchestra), and given solo recitals. Kathryn Ranger had the privilege of studying with the foremost teachers of the twentieth century: Dorothy DeLay, Josef Gingold, Ivan Galamian, Oscar Shumsky, and Sidney Harth. She has her undergraduate degree from Indiana University and Masters degree in chamber music from Sarah Lawrence College. She has also studied Suzuki pedagogy at the School for Strings in New York (…)

David Visentin

David Visentin is widely known throughout Canada as a performer, conductor, pedagogue and arts administrator whose leadership and creative experience in the performing arts has successfully advanced classical music from coast to coast. In 2011, founded Sistema Toronto and was appointed as the organization’s President and CEO. Sistema Toronto is a free and uniquely immersive after-school social program through music for at-risk children and youth, modeled after the highly successful program known as el Sistema. For six years, as dean and associate dean of The Glenn Gould School and Young Artists Performance Academy of The Royal Conservatory of Music, David […]

Dexine Wallbank

DEXINE WALLBANK was a member of The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra and also played with the National Ballet Orchestra of Canada, both in Toronto. Apart from the years she spent in eastern Canada, Dexine has played with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra since she was twenty years old. Over the years she has also played with various chamber groups including the early music group, Victoria Festival Consort. Dexine received Suzuki teacher training form the Suzuki Kingston institute as well as the Guelph Suzuki institute. In addition to many years of giving lessons privately from her home, she has also taught at (…)

Laura Backstrom

Laura Backstrom began her musical life as a pianist, switching over to cello in her teens. She studied cello at the University of Alberta with the renowned pedagogue Claude Kenneson, and participated in summer programs in Banff and Victoria. Upon graduation from the U of A with a Bachelor of Music, Laura was invited, with a full scholarship, to study with the Fine Arts Quartet at the University of Wisconsin. Her next few years were spent pursuing studies in Toronto with cellist Daniel Domb. While there, Laura completed two intensive training courses: the Orchestral Training Program, and the Musical Performance (…)

Martin Bonham

Martin Bonham is well known for his expertise in early music and sensitivity as a chamber musician. Over the last 30 years, he has directed the Pachelbel Players, the Island Chamber Players, Chamber Music Victoria and Eine Kleine Summer Music as well as served on the faculty of the University of Victoria and the Victoria Conservatory of Music and is currently a member of the Victoria Baroque Players. He has given many radio performances and recitals in the Pacific Northwest and has been a member of the Victoria Symphony since 1978.

Paula Kiffner

Cellist Paula Kiffner earned music performance degrees from Ohio State University and the Peabody Conservatory. While at Peabody she was principal cellist of the Annapolis Symphony and a member of the Washington Theater Chamber Players. A former member of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Ms. Kiffner has also performed as guest principal cellist of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and appears frequently as a recitalist and concerto soloist throughout the Pacific Northwest. Her performances are heard on CBC Radio and KING FM (Seattle). Ms. (…)

Silvina Samuel

Silvina Samuel was born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. In 2008, Silvina moved Silvinato Maui and from 2008-2012 she was principle cellist of the Maui Pop’s Orchestra. She played with the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and Hawaii Opera Theater on Oahu. She is a member of Cellano, with Lotus Dancer, pianist, performing annual recitals on Maui. Her acoustic rock collaboration with singer-songwriter, Jim Major, brought her to the stage opening for such bands as Santana, Mick Fleetwood & Island Rumours, Smashmouth, Train, Huey Lewis and Henry Kapono. While in Hawaii, Silvina recorded for a number of albums including Grammy nominated (…)

Karen Whyte

Upon hearing the legendary Jacqueline Du Pre perform in Vancouver, Karen became enthralled with the cello. Lessons with Judith Fraser and Ian and Colin Hampton preceded a Bachelor of Music Degree in Performance of the Cello, completed in 1985. Since then, Karen has gone on to complete a Professional Teaching Certificate, the Camosun College/Victoria Conservatory of Music Strings Diploma and Bachelor and Master’s Degrees in Education. Karen has also participated in six sessions of the Montreal Suzuki Institute, completing Suzuki Cello Books 1 – 8.
Karen teaches Suzuki Cello at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and Strings in the Greater Victoria School District. She enjoys performing with the Victoria Civic Orchestra and the Sooke Philharmonic. Karen plays a cello dated 2002 by Gregory Walke of Paisley, Ontario.

Darren Buhr

Darren Buhr has been on the faculty of the VCM and a core bassist with the Victoria Symphony since 1994. As well, Darren performs with the new music ensemble Aventa. He received his Master of Music degree from Indiana University. His principal teachers have included Bruce Bransby, Lawrence Hurst, Stephen McLellan, Thorvald Fredin (Sweden), and Gary Karr. Mr. Buhr is an active composer with over 40 works to his credit. Away from music, Darren is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and Inspector Morse, is an avid solver of logic problems and is a member of the Metchosin cricket team.

Brian Yoon

Brian Yoon is currently the Principal Cello of the Victoria Symphony. Since winning First Prize at the 35th Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition, he has been presented in recital from coast to coast, with repertoire ranging from Bach and Beethoven to Shostakovich and Metallica. As a soloist, Brian has recently appeared with orchestras in works by Brahms, Dvorak, Haydn, Lalo, Morawetz, and Schumann. His main teachers include Judith Fraser (Vancouver Academy of Music), Paul Marleyn (University of Ottawa), and Desmond Hoebig (Rice University). Brian has received support from the BC Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Sylva Gelber Music Foundation.

Mary F. Smith

Mary’s musical training on string instruments was centred in Toronto and Kingston. She has developed skill in playing violin, viola, cello and double bass and, therefore, is comfortable in directing orchestras of varying sizes. Her teaching degree in music education is from the University of Toronto (1975) where she also studied cello at a performance level. From 1986 to the spring 2019 she taught at St. Michaels University School, leading its string ensemble program at various campuses. She currently is the principal cellist of the Victoria Chamber Orchestra. She takes part as a volunteer within the musical entertainment team at […]

Carol MacIsaac

Carol MacIsaac is a Vancouver Island born and raised violinist and violist. She received her Bachelor of Music, majoring in Performance, at the University of Victoria in 1984. Her teachers included Sydney Humphreys, Jaroslav Karlovsky and Gerald Stanick. Carol is a passionate, creative teacher, committed to the Suzuki method. Her Suzuki training was completed at Calgary and Edmonton Suzuki Institutes.