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(shortened from 'clavicembalo col piano e forte' - meaning 'harpsichord with soft and loud')

We offer exceptional piano tuition from experienced teachers fully trained in the Colourstrings-Kodály principles. Our teachers provide high quality instruction to students of all ages and abilities, helping to develop musical skills and a passion for music in a fun and creative way. The piano is a particularly popular second study choice for string players and there are also termly 'Piano Days' to make a fun, sociable time for these instrumentalists, who ordinarily would play alone. Find out more about our piano teachers below!

Szandra Vilmanyi smiling at the camera on a balcony

Szandra Vilmányi

Head of Piano

Alexandra Vilmányi has been teaching piano for over twenty years, working in this field since her graduation.  Alongside her interest in classical education, Szandra has a passion for early music.

After graduating as a piano teacher from the Liszt Ferenc College of Music in Budapest, she turned her full attention to Baroque music, and gained her Master's diploma as a harpsichord player in 2004 at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London; and later a second degree in the field from the Liszt Academy in Budapest.

Szandra always enjoyed performing as a harpsichord and continuo player in orchestras and chamber groups specialising in early music.  These engagements have led her to various parts of Europe, where she met excellent musicians and took part in inspiring projects.

For several years, she split her career between London and Budapest, teaching children and teenagers, including at some renowned music specialised secondary schools and conservatoires in Hungary, before settling down eventually in London where she now dedicates herself to teaching piano at several well-established music schools the (the NLC, the Colourstrings Music School in Kingston, Donhead Preparatory School, Windsor Piano School).

Szandra enjoys leading young and older students through the first steps of their musical journey  and watching how they progress.  She has successfully prepared many of her students for exams, auditions and public concerts.  She is hoping that music will enrich their lives for many years to come.  Since 2019, she has been honoured to work as the head of the piano department at the North London Conservatoire and enjoys the collaboration with her talented colleagues.

In her free time, Szandra enjoys cycling around the country side, crocheting, theatre visits and photography.

Boglarka Gerstner smiling at the camera in the woods

Boglarka Gerstner

Boglarka was born in Esztergom, Hungary. Her mum, a piano teacher, hooked her into music from early on and the longer she continued, the more rewarding it became. She took part in many solo, duet and chamber music competitions as a teenager and winning some of them always gave her new motivation.

As a teenager, she developed an interest in other musical styles, mostly to British progressive rock music of the 70's, where she found similar elements to modern classical music. Besides classical music education, she spent a few years studying jazz-improvisation and film-music composition. Writing music became her abiding passion, with various projects always under way with others. She has taken many of her compositions with elements of classical, pop, rock and film music for a collection of piano books for children, from beginner to advanced.

Boglarka enjoys working with children of any age, watching and being part of their musical development for many years. She was happy to discover that the North London Conservatoire uses Kodály, which she studied as a child, where students are encouraged and guided through music, opening their inner ear and making music-learning a rewarding experience, whatever the aim, be it professional or simply to enrich the soul and give the benefits from improved co-ordination, memory, self-discipline, confidence and persistence.

Boglarka loves nature, hiking in the forest and walking through hills as well as sailing.

Catalina Ardelean

Eriko Ishihara smiling

Eriko Ishihara

Eriko Ishihara was born in Tokyo, Japan. She studied classical piano at Kunitachi College of Music and moved to London to take a post-graduate course in jazz and studio music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Since graduating in 1995, Eriko has gone on to be a successful musician on the British jazz scene. She has played at many of Britain's top jazz venues, such as Ronnie Scott’s, 606 club and so on and worked with many of the country’s finest players. In 2003, Eriko signed a major record deal with the Japanese record company, Ponycanyon.

She has released four CDs, the latest of which featured US saxophone legend, Scott Hamilton. She regularly tours in Japan and other Asian countries and recently performed in major concert halls in Hong Kong and Korea.

Eriko has many years of experience in teaching, including work at St. Paul's Girls’ School, private music schools in Tokyo and of course, private tuition. She joined the The North London Conservatoire in September 2009, where she teaches piano. She lives with her husband, the jazz guitarist Colin Oxley and her son, in North London.  

Hanna Kuosmanen-Mehta smiling

Hanna Kuosmanen-Mehta

Hanna Kuosmanen-Mehta started playing the piano at the age of 6 at the West Helsinki Music Institute in her home country Finland, and continued later in Brussels where she moved along with her family for five years.  At the Academie de Musique de Waterloo, with her teacher Orit Ouziel her keen interest and love for music started to grow and she decided to become a professional musician at the age of 14.

Returning to Helsinki in 1993 Hanna continued her studies at the Sibelius Academy junior department with Hui-Ying Liu-Tawaststjerna, and in 1997 at the piano music department with Prof. Juhani Lagerspetz, from where she graduated with a MMus in 2008.

Between 2002 and 2004 Hanna had the opportunity to study in the vibrant atmosphere of the Cologne University of Music and Dance under the guidance of Nina Tichman, through a scholarship from Deutscher Academischer Austauschdienst (DAAD).

Hanna’s musical journey has led her to perform in various chamber music ensembles in Europe and Asia with a number of leading Finnish instrumentalists and singers of her generation.  Perhaps her most cherished genre is Lied music; she finds that Lied unites her twin passions – music and poetry.

Hanna is an experienced teacher and enjoys teaching students of all ages.  Her studies include a degree in art pedagogy from the University of Helsinki.

Hanna has lived in London since 2012 with her husband and teenaged son, and has been teaching at the North London Conservatoire since 2016.

Ina Surikova-Winjahr smiling at the camera

Ina Surikova Winjahr

Ina’s love of music started very early on in life through hearing the rich offerings of folk culture in the former Soviet Union in a daily TV/radio broadcast. She would listen to the simple rise and fall of the melodies, sang them back and savoured the intervals and movements without knowing what they meant; her curiosity was so inspired that she used to get lost in her imagination and make up stories to herself about who might have composed the tunes, what it looked like in their  own land where they sang them and what the singers felt when they sang the melodies.

At the age of seven, Ina auditioned with one of her favourite songs to be admitted to study piano and all the supporting subjects; twelve years later, she graduated with a Diploma in Piano (tuition, performance, accompaniment). She taught and accompanied in Almaty, Kazakhstan and in Bonn, Germany, then settled in London in 1995, which has been her home ever since. While on maternity leave, she took up undergraduate studies in Humanities with Music at the Open University and was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours. She joined The North London Conservatoire in 2009 and has enjoyed working there since, in a variety of capacities.

In her spare time, Ina loves spending time with friends and family, potters around at home with her comprehensive plant collection and keeps on learning new things about music and life in general.

Julia Dembska smiling in the woods

Julia Dembska

Born in Poland in 1987, Julia Dembska is a pianist based in London. In 2011 she graduated from the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice (Poland) obtaining an MMus with Distinction.  Her studies included advanced training in Psychology, Methodology and Pedagogy; this enables her to provide students with dynamic and targetted lessons. The individual, tailored approach for every student makes her teaching style efficient and gratifying. She considers teaching to be a process of sharing her passion with her students, which gives great results.

Julia’s performances have taken her to many venues as laureate and participant of many competitions and festivals for both solo and chamber musicians. The most important appearances have been those at The Wroclaw Philharmonic Hall (Poland), Chopin’s Manor House (Duszniki, Poland) and Paderewski’s Manor House (Kasna Dolna, Poland).

As soloist and chamber musician she has performed in masterclasses with many famous pianists including Joseph Banovetz, Bruno Canino, Therese Fahy, Kevin Kenner, Aleksei Orlovetsky, Anthony Spiri, Joseph Stanford and Adam Wodnicki.

Besides teaching and performing, Julia enjoys cooking, watching good films and travelling.

Katalin Kahno smiling outside

Katalin Kahno

Katalin started learning piano at the age of 7 in a specialist music school for children in former Soviet Union, in the city of Uzsgorod, Republic of Ukraine.  Her love for piano came about in the nursery where her mother was a manager and Katalin heard accompanists playing for the children.  She was mesmerised with the different music she heard on the piano asked her parents to let her learn to play it.

She graduated as a Piano teacher, Pianist (Performance) and Accompanist and has been teaching and accompanying ever since.

As Katalin is of Hungarian origin, she moved to Hungary in 1991, where she had her diploma accredited as equivalent to a degree from the Liszt Academy in Budapest.  This allowed her to continue teaching and accompanying widely in Hungary.

Katalin now lives and works in Muswell Hill.  She enjoys meeting friends, taking long nature walks and visiting arts performances that London is so rich with.  She joined The North London Conservatoire as a Kindergarten assistant teacher in 2019 and as a piano teacher in 2022.

Owen Leech smiling at the camera on holiday

Owen Leech


Owen is a passionate advocate for the transformative experience of live music and for demystifying the magical world of ‘Classical’ music. Having composed, sung (as a cathedral chorister) and played various instruments as a child, Owen read Music at Bristol and, while completing his Doctorate in Composition, spent two years as an advanced student at the Chopin Academy in Warsaw. His compositions have been performed and broadcast in various parts of the world by artists such as The Schubert Ensemble, the violist Rivka Golani, the Amernet Quartet and many others.

As a conductor, Owen has worked with a variety of orchestras and ensembles, especially relishing opportunities to showcase unusual and neglected repertoire. He has worked at The NLC since 2013 and particularly enjoys the variety of hats he has been allowed to wear – as teacher, composer, pianist, and conductor. Amongst his non-musical activities, Owen loves travelling, cooking, books and languages, as well as trying to prevent his garden from completely ‘rewilding’ itself!

Peter Bridges smiling at the camera

Peter Bridges

Peter Bridges first studied the piano at the age of six and began the tuba when he was eleven. He enjoyed playing in orchestras and playing piano for the local amateur opera company. He went on to study at Trinity College of Music, London, the Chopin Academy in Warsaw and Goldsmiths University in London. He has performed as a soloist and chamber musician all around the UK in Austria, Poland, Spain, Ireland and South America, and with the Brodsky string quartet at major venues in London, including the Southbank Centre.

Peter ran the Garden Opera Company for 21 years and had great fun meeting lots of different audiences and gorgeous gardens. It made him aware of the dramatic element of music. The Times Newspaper called the company “A National Treasure”!

He has a cat called Bluebell and daughter who studied the violin at The North London Conservatoire.

MASON Sara Vai Kuan Photo 2023 website 2

Sara Vai Kuan Mason

Sara started playing the piano at the age of nine in Malaysia. Her older sister was already learning and she became interested; they used to play little duets together and would often perform in front of friends and family.

She came to the UK at the age of seventeen and her first two teachers really refuelled her love for music - they had so much belief in her and they went to so many recitals together. They also entered her in many piano festivals and competitions, and she was chosen to represent North London following a victory.

She has been teaching now for over twenty years and still very much enjoys it! In her downtime, she loves films, ice-skating, musical theatre, and food.

Stephen Baron smiling at the camera

Stephen Baron

Growing up in a musical environment with his father playing string quartets at home every weekend, classical music was central to Stephen’s life from an early age.  He first learned violin with his father but at the age of six told him he wanted another teacher. His father said he was the only violin teacher in the world, so Stephen began piano lessons!  His first piano teacher told him to ‘lift his fingers’ (which Stephen now thinks was not such good advice) and his second he felt paid more attention to her cat than to him!

A Turkish teacher, Celia Arieli, was a musical inspiration to Stephen in his teenage years and was also a very intuitive player.  Entry to the Royal College of Music brought further lessons, including with Bernard Roberts, Ian Lake, Rosemary Wright and Mary Peppin (the latter being the first to focus on his technique).  After graduating, Stephen was a lecturer in Music History/Appreciation for twenty years, until accreditation put an end to most classes! 

In September 1996, Stephen joined the NLC as one of its first three teachers, teaching Kindergarten and piano, and eventually headed up and  developed the Piano Department for many years.  He has made an enormous contribution to the school as it has developed.  This Kodály work released in him a composing streak and he has since written five albums of piano works for young pianists and the beginners’ piano tutor books the school uses today.  Around the same time, his son's playgroup asked him to 'put on a musical show' and Poulenc's Babar the Elephant was the first of his popular shows and workshops that continue to this day, with the intention of drawing children into classical music.  Stephen continues to be a highly-respected member of the Piano Department, whose knowledge and experience is often drawn on in many areas.

Stephen also works with the Arts Society, where he gives music lectures illustrated from the piano and he presents occasional lecture-recitals including his great love, chamber music.

Yvette Karolyi smiling at the camera outdoors

Yvette Karolyi

Yvette Karolyi was born in Budapest to an Armenian mother and a Hungarian father. She always loved singing and was introduced to music by performing Hungarian folk songs from an early age. Later, she became a member of the prestigious Angelica girls’ choir, which truly immersed her in the Kodály method and repertoire.

Already having a piano at home, it was no surprise that she developed a keen interest in music, eventually graduating as a concert pianist at the Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest. She won a scholarship to Montclair State University (New Jersey, USA) where she focussed on exploring chamber music and jazz piano. She has performed both as a soloist and chamber musician, including in Budapest, New York and London.

With her own family, she lived in Qatar and Egypt for nearly a decade before settling back in North London. The culture and music of those places have had a lasting impact on her.

Yvette loves teaching, a passion that comes from a responsibility to pass on the rich, deeply rooted Hungarian musical heritage she was fortunate enough to be born into. Her children all play instruments and are part of The North London Conservatoire family. 

In her very scarce spare time as a busy mother of three, Yvette likes to keep active by running marathons, enjoying exploring the world (preferably hot places) and visiting art galleries.

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