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Our History

The North London Conservatoire was founded in 1995 as the North London Colourstrings Centre by Deborah Harris, in Muswell Hill with 12 pupils in music kindergarten. It was an instant success and has continued to flourish: it now has a stable number of about 1300 students. A dedicated team of over 70 teachers caters for babies from six months old to teenagers of 19 years and the school now attracts top instrumental teachers, including from the London Conservatoires’ Junior and Senior Departments.  It has an excellent reputation for the long-term musical success of its students and is, unusually, a school that caters for all musical abilities.

The Kodály-Szilvay Colourstrings Approach

The North London Conservatoire instrumental programme builds on the foundations laid in the Colourstrings Music Kindergarten and through the use of Kodály ear training exercises and a colour-coded system of notation, simplifies considerably the process of learning to read music, allowing virtually all children a very good start and the chance of long-term success. From the very beginning, correct technical foundations are carefully laid alongside the continuous development of the child's musical intelligence. Most importantly, a Colourstrings-trained child learns to hear inwardly what s/he is reading and therefore plays with a much deeper sense of understanding and musicality. This development of 'inner hearing' begins in kindergarten and is an essential skill for any musician. Instrumental tuition begins when the child is musically and emotionally ready - usually between 5 and 7 years old - after at least two years of kindergarten including a  minimum of one complete year of solfa.

See the programmes that make up our rounded musical education package here!


Our Philosophy

A letter from Deborah Harris, Principal

It is one of the greatest privileges and pleasures to be able to play a part, year after year, in the musical and personal development of so many individuals, from the tiniest babies to enormous, wonderful teenagers, as they all progress through their musical careers in this school, developing into fine musicians who relish performing and sharing music with others as they go.

We believe in creating a positive environment where everyone feels valued - not just the learners, but the whole family, the teachers and the admin staff: a happy and positive teacher is more likely to inspire a child; a happy and positive and inspired child is more likely to succeed in whatever s/he undertakes; a happy office staff will do their utmost to help and support.   I know my colleagues at the school feel the same way as I do: that teaching is extremely important and that with the Kodály and Colourstrings approaches, we can achieve the highest standards.  To encourage and assist, advise and nurture the younger generation is, I believe, one of the most fulfilling roles an adult can have in this world and to do it through music, for which I and my colleagues have a particular passion, is truly wonderful.


At the NLC, it is not our primary aim to raise a generation of professional musicians for the future, although a number of them will continue to go into the profession each year; more, it is to raise a generation of players who can achieve anything they wish to on their instrument, who will attend concerts with pleasure, who will raise their own children to have a love of music and the ability to play an instrument, and to use music as a social, emotional and artistic gift for life.


You may have come to this site because you have heard about Colourstrings from a friend or colleague, or because you found it by accident... Whatever the reason, I hope that you will find in its pages an understanding of what we are about.  First and foremost, we love music and we love children: to be able to help children, and many grown-ups, learn about music in a simple and effective way is our aim and our endeavour.


We do seriously believe that music is available to virtually everyone: our aim is to encourage a love of music in all the children that pass through our doors and to help any who wish to, to become proficient in an instrument so that they have the potential to play and enjoy music for life.  

There is a tendency these days to value things outside ourselves more than we value the things within. Acquisition of material objects does not necessarily make us happy in the long term, though it may satisfy us temporarily... However, acquisition of skills, and in particular, of musical skills and nurturing of talent, can allow us to understand ourselves and "shed light on those parts of the soul that cannot be reached by any other means" (Zoltán Kodály).  It can make us strive for perfection, teaching us along the way the merits of self-discipline and team-work and creating in us an authentic sense of self; it can raise our self-esteem and increase confidence in our resilience and our ability to shape things and to tackle challenges the world may throw at us.  It also gives, through its beauty, a tacit understanding of humanity and the highest human endeavours.


I have heard it said that Colourstrings is a bit like a cult ... If by this, it is meant that some people who are very passionate about something they believe in are helping others to achieve something joyful, then I would concur…In other respects, I would disagree! Colourstrings is not the only way to learn music, but it is a very enjoyable and successful approach and those that do it have the strong possibility of achieving something wonderful for their children’s lifetimes and potentially, for their children’s children’s lifetimes.  


Why not come along to a concert to sample the positive atmosphere for yourself?


I hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you to Colourstrings very soon.

- Deborah Harris

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