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Deborah Harris at a park

Deborah Harris

Founder and Principal, The North London Conservatoire

Deborah Harris became passionate about teaching from a very early age, having been somewhat frustrated by her own musical experiences of violin tuition at school. It was not until after she had left college and had further private tuition that she became broadly satisfied with her own playing, having recognised first-hand that teaching itself requires serious study and that it is important for teachers to be passionate about what they are doing.  Deborah was born into an arts-loving family and started teaching in 1977. She studied violin at Trinity College of Music with piano as a strong second study.

After gaining her degree and Licentiateship, she undertook further study privately and freelanced for several years. She completed a post-graduate teaching year at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London and dabbled with the idea of an academic career, registered for an MPhil/DPhil but dropped out, feeling a need to be more active in changing the world somehow, though unsure how to achieve this at the time.

Dissatisfied with nothing but playing and reluctant to teach in schools because of the lack of provision for pupils within the system, Deborah instead decided to undertake a variety of work to gain skills in other areas, including concert management and festival organisation (Windsor Festival at Windsor Castle and Eton College), exhibition organisation (Ideal Home Exhibition), teacher training, probation service management and computing. Throughout, she continued energetically to teach and study violin and piano.

In 1990, through her experiences in the probation service, she began to study psychoanalytic psychotherapy at the London Centre for Psychotherapy and had decided to train as a psychotherapist when Colourstrings materialised. After meeting with the Colourstrings originator, Dr Géza Szilvay in 1992, Deborah spent many weeks studying with him and observing his teaching. Together, they have worked on all the  major Colourstrings violin publications. Deborah began work for The Szilvay Foundation in April 1992, becoming a Director of Colourstrings International in October that year.  She quickly became one of the leading experts in the approach.

In 1992, Deborah spent many weeks with Ritva Ollaranta, Head of Kindergarten at the Helsinki Conservatoire and wrote the Colourstrings handbook for Music Kindergarten Teachers. She devised, taught and continuously developed Music Kindergarten Teacher Training Courses nationally. She has worked regularly with the Colourstrings/Colourkeys originators, helping develop materials and training, furthering the work of the Foundation and teaching on the International Summer Courses.  She prepared and recorded children for the Colourstrings Rascals CDs with Géza, folllowed by their editing and production, drew up the prototype violin teacher training programme, and worked closely with Géza on the translation of the Violin Books’ teachers’ and parents’ notes in several editions.  

From 1994-97, Deborah set up and taught the Colourstrings project at Blackheath Conservatoire and jointly set up the Colourstrings Saturday School with Pat Wislocki in 1994, where she taught for 6 years. Several of her students were accepted by Professor Ester Boda Katona at the Royal College of Music.

Deborah set up her own Colourstrings school in January 1995 and grew it from 12 students to 1300 over the next fifteen years.  Many challenges were met and conquered along the way.  One large challenge still remains - to inhabit a bespoke building!  Deborah was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2004 in recognition of her contribution to arts and the community. She writes articles for specialist magazines and has trained teachers both in-house and externally. She lectured regularly for ten years to final year and post-graduate students at the Royal Academy of Music and has plans to write a book about music and children.  Deborah is married with two children, three step-children, three step-grandchildren and a very large dog.  She has a strong interest in languages, education, writing, psychology, calligraphy, philosophy and current affairs as well as in continuing to play and teach music and ride horses. She has recently begun travelling again, plans to resume oil-painting and will continue to ride pillion on her husband's motorbike when the weather is good!

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