ARCO: A tri-continental string teaching and learning collaboration

Presenter: Louise Lansdown


The ARCO Project was founded in 2015 by Dr Louise Lansdown, Head of Strings at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (RBC) along with staff and students from the strings department. ARCO has evolved over the past seven years, and now boasts two projects, based in South Africa and India.

The inaugural project started as an online string teaching project between RBC and the Morris Isaacson Centre for Music, Soweto, South Africa, and in 2021 ARCO India was formalised, seeing RBC collaborate with the A.R Rahman Foundation and the Sunshine Orchestra based in Chennai.

This talk will outline each project briefly, but, focus on the challenges teaching online in non-Western cultures, choice of repertoire, communication and teacher-student dynamics and expectations.


Louise Lansdown was appointed Head of Strings at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2012, after holding the position of Senior Lecturer in the School of Strings at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester from 2001-2012. Louise is the founder of the Cecil Aronowitz International Viola Competition and Festival, launched at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in October 2014 as well as the founder and President of the British Viola Society 

She is a trustee Quartet of Peace Trust, Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, the Albion Quartet and directs a viola course at Blisland, Cornwall, as well as teaching on Cadenza and Quattro Corde. Louise, along with her viola students is the founder of a major distance learning education project that the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire runs in collaboration with the Morris Isaacson Centre for Music in Soweto, South Africa called “ARCO”. The project was launched in July 2015 and was nominated for a guardian internationalization award in 2018.

Louise and the ARCO Project currently financially support four of its Soweto students in full-time education, two cellists (UK) and a double bassist (SA). In February 2021, Louise launched ARCO India, a similar project providing 1:1 instrumental teaching for the Sunshine String Orchestra founded by A.R Rahman in Chennai. Louise plays on a French Viola c.1750 and 1890 Sartory bow, both previously belonging to the South African violist Cecil Aronowitz. She has also recently acquired a beautiful viola made by Antoine Gourdon. Louise plays mostly chamber music and solo concerts, collaborating with violists and other musicians across the world.

She commissions new music for the viola and concocts hair brain schemes to perform music by Paul Hindemith and much unknown viola music, bringing the viola to many unsuspecting and innocent people. Louise was awarded a PhD from the University of Manchester in 2008 with the title: ”The Young Paul Hindemith: Life, Works, Influences and Music Activities until 1922”. She is a member of the South African “Ubuntu Ensemble”.

She is planning to record a solo CD of South African Viola Music by John Joubert, Hendrik Hofmeyr, Monthati Masebe and others in 2022/23!

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