Nicola Swinburne’s Biography
The story from San Francisco to Milan to York
She founded her own school, called Mandolin Serenade in San Francisco in 2004 and through it taught over 100 students to play Classical and Italian mandolin. She also taught through the Community Music Center in San Francisco, Gryphon Strings in Palo Alto, and Albany Community Center and has given numerous public workshops at festivals and local music stores.
By gathering her students together, in 2005 she began what became the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. The orchestra then grew through the addition of other instruments (mandola, mandocello, guitar, double bass, harp, and occasional percussion and bass viol) and with the help of other musicians in the community. In 2009 she handed the musical direction of the orchestra to Achille Bocus, then the conductor of the Orchestra a Plettro, Città di Milano and she played in the orchestra. In 2014 she left the San Francisco Bay Area for Milan and joined two orchestras, the Orchestra a Plettro (conductor Augusto Scibilia) and Amici del Mandolino (conductor Vittorio Naldi).
Nicola first began to play the mandolin in 1991 in San Francisco when she was 28 years old (although she had studied violin as a child) and her earliest teachers belonged to folk rather than classical traditions. Her first mandolin inspiration came from the mandolin orchestras founded by older Italian and German immigrants. Later she sought out visiting professional mandolinists and travelled to Italy to study. The strongest influences on her style have been Dorina Frati (Brescia, Italy), Gertrud Weyhofen Tröster (Germany), and in later years Carlo Aonzo (Savona, Italy) and Achille Bocus together with the mandolinists of the Orchestra a Plettro in Milan. At the core of her teaching materials are the historical method books of Branzoli, Munier and Ranieri, as well as some traditional violin teaching material.
Her students and teaching style