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Liverpool-born conductor Matthew Hardy graduated in 2018 from the masters course in orchestral conducting at the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Peter Stark and Howard Williams. He attended Dartington International Summer School in 2017 as a scholar studying with Sian Edwards and was invited to the Cardiff Conducting Days masterclass in 2018 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales led by Martyn Brabbins.

At the RCM he assisted conductors Bernard Haitink, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Martyn Brabbins, and Jac van Steen. He conducted the RCM Orchestra in several performances, and directed many smaller groups as part of the college’s programme of events.

He is the founder and artistic director of East London Music Group with whom he has given performances among other things of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale and Walton’s Façade. With ELMG he also commissioned and premiered Strange Joy by Edward Nesbit and 1936: An East London Uprising by Robin Haigh, two works for narrators and ensemble. East London Music Group has also delivered several large scale primary school educational projects.

In addition, Matthew has a busy schedule as Musical Director of East London Community Band, St Albans Rehearsal Orchestra, and Bowes Park Community Choir. In September 2019 he took up Musical Director positions with CoMA (Contemporary Music for All) London Ensemble and Southampton University Symphony Orchestra.

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Laura started learning the violin aged 5 with Elaine Jordan, who taught her using the Suzuki violin method.

The enthusiasm and energy of Elaine, as well as the emphasis Suzuki places on playing as a group, resulted in many wonderful opportunities for concerts and tours. These included performances in London, Vienna and Budapest as well as appearing on Blue Peter all whilst still at junior school!

Aged 10 Laura gained a place at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, studying violin first with Derek Collier and then with his daughter Susan Collier. Highlights of her time at the academy include winning the junior violin prize, a performance of the Mozart G major violin concerto as soloist with the chamber orchestra and a playthrough of Kabalevsky's violin concerto as soloist with the symphony orchestra, for which she also performed the duties of leader in her final year.

Elsewhere Laura performed as soloist in Bach's E major violin concerto and Dvorak's romance in F minor as well as leading Buckinghamshire County Youth Orchestra on a tour of Italy.

With friends from school she formed a string quartet that, unusually for a school aged group, was invited to provide a lunchtime concert as part of the Amersham Music Festival. They also played at weddings, garden parties, and shop openings (having much more fun than at a more standard Saturday job!) with their most memorable "gig" at the Prime Minister's boxing day party at Chequers.

On leaving school Laura attended St Anne's College at the University of Oxford, where her tutors in chemistry would attest that she spent more time on music than science. Laura's love of collaborative orchestral and chamber music performance dominated her undergraduate years. She led several orchestras, including the flagship Oxford University Orchestra, and tried her hand at conducting with the St Anne's and St John's college orchestra (more of a leaky punt than a flagship but excellent fun nevertheless!).

She also performed in innumerable chamber music concerts with the Merle ensemble, a group of players from which pretty much any chamber music combination you could name could be formed, and few you probably couldn't!

After a DPhil in Physical and Theoretical Chemistry led her to a stint as a software engineer, Laura returned to her first love and now works as a violin teacher. From pre-schoolers to retirees, Laura loves the challenge of tailoring her teaching to each individual, helping solve the puzzles of musicality and technique in different ways every lesson. She aims to set her students on a path of full awareness of their own performance, providing the tools and methods so that every individual practice becomes a self-taught lesson.

Once her son was safely installed at primary school, Laura's first priority for her spare time was to find an orchestra to join. She was delighted to find such a warm welcome and collaborative style of music making at SARO and hopes to spend her Wednesday mornings there for the foreseeable future!

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