Interview | Rachel Cooper on Music in Education

Our new Music in Education tutor on teaching, working with Nicola Benedetti and more... 


The start of the academic year will see a number of new tutors joining ICMP including the inspiring Rachel Cooper.

Rachel has devoted herself to music education both as a student and as a teacher. After studying music at the University of Chichester, she went on to the Royal College of Music to pursue a Masters.

Since graduating, Rachel has worked across a number of educational settings including Nicola Benedetti’s new education initiative, The Benedetti Sessions.

We're delighted Rachel is joining us this September and, ahead of the start of new year, we asked her about her career, experiences and advice for anyone looking to launch a portfolio career...

How did you begin your musical journey? Who first inspired you?  

My mum always said that I needed something in my hands. I was always fiddling with things and she thought a musical instrument would be a good way to go.

When I was four a violin teacher moved in next door to us and it was too convenient not to start violin lessons. My grandpa was a pianist and music lecturer and fuelled my love of music when I was growing up. He would buy me various recordings of violin works every Christmas. My grandmother would take me to the proms every year for my birthday and it was there I first saw Maxim Vengerov perform. He went on to became a huge inspiration to me.    

Could you talk a little about your career to date? What have been the highlights for you?  

I have built up a varied portfolio career over the last seven years since graduating from the Royal College of Music in 2014.

When I started to teach the violin 10 year ago I realised that, although I knew how to play the violin, teaching was an entirely different skill and one I wanted to learn how to do properly. I had always been interested in the Suzuki violin method/philosophy so trained for three years to become a qualified Suzuki teacher. I split my time between teaching at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama Junior Department, London Music Masters (a charity organisation providing intensive music education to deprived area schools), Benedetti Foundation and my own private studio. As well as this, I mentor and lecture on a PGCEi course which specialises in instrumental teaching. I also run my own summer school each year. 

The highlights of my career have included being apart of the Benedetti Virtual Sessions working with 7,000 people from all over the world, taking students to perform at the Proms, recording with DECCA, and being invited to take masterclasses in Belgium and Latvia."

I noticed your thesis was about the importance of music education for young people? Could you talk a little about this and what it involved?  

I wanted to know more about the role of informal music education in young people’s lives and in particular the role and impact of summer music schools. I used my own summer school as my case study and developed a qualitative study to gather some fascinating data from the young people on the course. I used a mixture of questionnaires, interviews and even drawings to explore their experiences in this educational setting. The results of the study were really interesting and revealed the importance of this educational context in relation to young people’s identity and relationship with music.  


How has the Suzuki philosophy impacted your teaching?  

The Suzuki philosophy has not only impacted my teaching but also my life. I am so happy that you said the Suzuki philosophy and not method, because while it is of course a way of teaching it is so much more than that. It is more about developing the human than a musical skill. The focus is on helping shape beautiful human spirit through joy, love and of course music making. I can't really express the impact it has had on my teaching other than to say that I love my job more than I ever thought possible. To watch young children bounce into class with excitement to learn the violin is just a total privilege and joy. I highly recommend that anyone who is curious to know more about this method/philosophy should go and read ‘Nurtured by Love’.   

You're also involved with Nicola Benedetti's education initiative - how did you get involved in this and how does it work? 

This is a tricky one to answer because when I spoke to Nicky about this question neither of us could recall how it all came about. I met Nicky two years ago at a masterclass she was giving and she also watched some of my work with the charity I work for (she also happens to be an ambassador for this charity).

I received a phone call from Nicky one day asking me if I was interested in working on a new project she was starting. I obviously jumped at the chance and I can honestly say hands down it has been one of the most joyful, perfectly timed and magical job opportunities I have ever had.

The foundation officially launched in January this year and we go around the country giving large weekend orchestral workshops to around 300 young string players and around 100 string teachers. The children receive sessions in smaller groups, then at the end of the weekend we put it all together in a collective concert. Alongside this teachers from all over the country can come and observe and also receive a series of lectures/workshops given by us the tutors and Nicky herself. My personal role is that of intermediate violin tutor as well as delivering lectures on performance anxiety, developing confident students, creative teaching practice amongst others. Since lockdown the foundation has been busy delivering huge virtual workshops/lectures and continues to do so this summer.  

What has led to ICMP? And what are you looking forward to in your new role?  

I am so looking forward to getting to work with your students at ICMP and being able to explore creative teaching practice with students who are about to embark on this exciting venture.  

You work across various forms of music - have you any tips on sustaining a portfolio career like this?  

You need to be organised, plan in advance, make sure you have space to think creatively and do your best not to take on work simply for financial gain."

For any aspiring musicians, what's the best piece of advice you would offer them?  

Be someone that people want to work with. 

What other projects are keeping you busy?  

I am working on collaborations with an educational project in America, writing various talks for the Benedetti Foundation which I will be delivering over the summer and planning to observe more amazing teachers to improve my own practice. Oh and I want a holiday!  

Visit for more information. Watch a video below of Rachel teaching alongside Nicola Benedetti. 

Take the first steps in your music career with ICMP

We've been developing and delivering contemporary music education for over 30 years – longer than any other music school in the UK. With a proven track-record, countless music industry connections and unrivalled access to facilities, it's easy to see why hundreds of students choose ICMP each year. 

To completely immerse yourself in your music career, chat with our friendly Admissions Team via email or give them a call on 020 7328 0222.

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by ICMP staff writer
July 27, 2020
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