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Introducing new viola staff

Tue 19 July 2022

Following Raphael Wallfisch’s appointment as International Chair of Violincello and Chamber Music, we are delighted to announce that Alexandru-Mihai (Sascha) Bota, Malcolm Johnston, Milena Simovic and Stephen Upshaw are joining the conservatoire’s roster of accomplished professional musicians, educators and artists as full-time members of teaching staff. 

Of the new appointments Professor Nic Pendlebury, Head of Strings comments –   

“I am very excited to welcome Milena, Malcolm, Sascha and Stephen into our already illustrious Viola department. They are all fabulous musicians and teachers and bring with them a wealth of knowledge and a breadth of complementary skills joining Richard, Rivka and Roger to create one of the most dynamic choices of teachers in the country.” 

Accomplished American violist Stephen Upshaw has enjoyed a close relationship with the conservatoire since holding the Trinity Laban Carne Trust Junior Fellowship 2016-17, returning frequently to deliver masterclasses and workshops.  

With a strong interest interdisciplinary collaboration, he led a project for CoLab 2022 which saw Stephen and fellow Solem Quartet musicians work alongside TL string composition and dance students to co-create Bela Bartok Now: Song & Dance. Inspired by the quartet’s Beethoven Bartok Now concept, which uniquely reimagines classical works with music from composers of today, it wove together existing music from Bartok, Beethoven and living composer Jasmine Morris, culminating in an hour-long performance side-by-side at Blackheath Halls. 

Stephen is a member of the innovative Solem Quartet and London’s Riot Ensemble and has worked closely with many of today’s leading composers, including John Adams, George Benjamin and Errollyn Wallen. A noted interpreter of contemporary music as both a soloist and chamber musician, Stephen’s teaching will focus on this repertoire.  He comments –  

“In recent years I have had the pleasure to work regularly at Trinity Laban with The Solem Quartet, Riot Ensemble and on individually designed projects focused on collaboration and innovation. I am thrilled to be joining the music faculty professorial staff and look forward to creating opportunities within the department to nurture and encourage students in what it means to be a 21st century musician. I am excited to develop a class of violists who are hungry to delve into the world of contemporary music and who are ready to take advantage of the many unique and creative offerings the Trinity Laban curriculum provides.” 

Equally at home as a violinist and violist, Serbian musician Milena Simović has an illustrious international career of concerto, recital and chamber music performances. Her playing has been praised in the press as jaw-dropping, seductive and exciting. Milena is also a resident viola and a chamber music coach at the annual Culture Festival in Sardinian town of Santulussurgiu. 

On her appointment at Trinity Laban, Milena comments –  

“I am tremendously excited to be embarking on this new chapter at Trinity Laban from September 2022. I look forward to joining force with students and colleagues, finding new ways of expression and joy in music-making.” 

Newly appointed by the Oculi Ensemble and joining the professorial staff of Trinity Laban from this September, Alexandru-Mihai (Sascha) Bota has quickly established himself as one of the most sought-after viola players in London. Since relocating to the UK in 2017, Sascha has been in high demand as soloist, chamber musician and guest principal with symphony and chamber orchestras alike.  He joined the Navarra String Quartet in 2018 and Britten Sinfonia in 2021 as co/and leader of the viola section.    

On his appointment, Sascha comments – 

“I am deeply honoured and thrilled to be joining the professorial staff at Trinity Laban Conservatoire! It is a humbling opportunity for me to share the knowledge and inspire young talented viola players from all over the world in their search for truth and beauty in music.” 

Malcolm Johnston currently holds the Sub-Principal viola chair in the London Symphony Orchestra, working with the world’s greatest conductors including Claudio Abbado, Sir Georg Solti, and Sir Simon Rattle. He is also Principal Viola with the European Camerata and has appeared as Guest Principal Viola with the Royal Opera House, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. 

As a chamber musician, Malcolm was a member of the award-winning Amernet String Quartet from 1990, performing globally and holding residencies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, LSU and The New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts. More recently, he has worked as guest violist with the Leopold String Trio, the Falk Quartet and participated in the Chamber Music series at the Wigmore Hall with the LPO Chamber Players. 

A sought-after educator, Malcolm served as a visiting professor at Trinity Laban for several years. Several of his former students now hold prominent positions in orchestras around the UK. 

Malcolm comments –  

“I’m looking forward to joining the professorial staff team at Trinity Laban. There is so much on offer at the conservatoire, and I am very excited to be able to be part of that, focusing on all forms of viola playing with special emphasis on the orchestral world.” 

Find out more about studying at Trinity Laban.

Image credit: John Hunter