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About Us


Ben Knowles


Ben graduated from The University of Manchester in 2011 with a MusB degree in Music and subsequently gained a PGDip on the viola from Trinity Laban Conservatoire, passing with merit. He studied conducting at Sherborne Summer School of Music Conducting Course and for three years he was a member of Denise Ham’s Blackheath Conservatoire Conducting course.

In June 2011, he had the privilege of conducting the world-premiere of three pieces written by University of Manchester composers Kevin Malone, Richard Whalley and Phillip Grange in honour of the distinguished musicologist Professor David Fallows that were performed on a day celebrating his achievements prior to his retirement.

2014 saw Ben increasingly active in conducting, deputising for Kenneth Woods in a rehearsal of Brahms’ Serenade No. 1 with the Surrey Mozart Players; conducting the musical Hair and deputising for Peter Bassano in a rehearsal of Elgar’s Falstaff with the City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra. In February 2014, Ben was invited to take part in a masterclass with Kenneth Woods at the Bridgewater Hall as part of their day devoted to The Art of Conducting in their Richard Strauss festival. 

The end of 2014 and the beginning of 2015 saw Ben continue his conducting development under Kenneth Woods when he was invited to work as Conducting Assistant with the English Symphony Orchestra on the first two performances of a new work by Deborah Pritchard based on the paintings of Maggi Hambling. The performances took place at LSO St. Luke’s and the National Gallery, London. The first of these performances was released on CD by Nimbus Records. He was also appointed as one of two Assistant Conductors for the world premiere of John Joubert’s opera Jane Eyre, which was recorded live by Somm Records and released in March 2017.

In 2017, Ben was asked to be repetiteur and continuo player for New Sussex Opera’s production of Gluck’s Orfeo. He was then invited to conduct their 2018 production of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore in June and was assistant conductor to Toby Purser on their award-winning production of Stanford’s The Travelling Companion later the same year. Ben wrote a re-orchestration of the opera for the performance, which was recorded live by Somm Records and released early the following year. In 2019, he returned to conduct NSO’s production of Verdi’s La Traviata. 

During the 2016/17 season, Ben conducted a cycle of the complete Beethoven concerti and symphonies, including the Barry Cooper completion of the 10th


Symphony. The soloists were Thomas Carroll (cello), Harriet Mackenzie (violin) and Anthony Hewitt (piano). He has since worked with several local orchestras as a guest conductor, performing both repertoire from the standard orchestral canon and premiering new works.


Most recently, in 2022, Ben was selected as a participant in a conducting masterclass on Mahler’s 9th Symphony with the English Symphony Orchestra. 


As a violist, Ben leads the viola section at Maidstone Symphony Orchestra and has played professionally with the Orpheus Sinfonia, Orion Orchestra and Worthing Symphony Orchestra.




Our Leader


Kate Coles grew up in Kent and began learning the violin at the age of nine, and a love of the instrument quickly developed. She later joined the Kent County Youth Orchestra and completed a BA Music at Durham University. At Durham, Kate was actively involved both in making and organising music. She played with both main orchestras, in addition to a wide variety of other small ensembles and helped to run the both the Music and Orchestral  Societies.

These days, despite having trained as a primary classroom teacher, Kate can’t leave Music alone and works as a peripatetic violin teacher. Alongside the Old Barn Orchestra, she plays with a whole host of local orchestras and groups including Maidstone Symphony Orchestra, Oare String Orchestra and Rochester Sinfonietta, plus anything else different that she can squeeze in! Kate enjoys all genres of music, but the highlight was definitely having the chance to play with Baroque specialist Rachel Podger, when she was performing in Canterbury just a few years ago.

Our history can be found on a separate tab

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