Biographies

Achille Bocus
Achille Bocus joined Nicola Swinburne in January 2009 as a teacher with Mandolin Serenade and Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. From 2009 to 2012 he taught around 50 students of all levels, from complete beginners to advanced students of Italian and Classical mandolin, some of whom later joined the orchestra. He conducted the orchestra through Seasons 7 to 13 which ranged from Baroque operatic arias to 1960s prog and rock music - and a lot inbetween!

Achille is from Milan, Italy. From 2006-8 he conducted Milan's largest and oldest mandolin orchestra, the Orchestra a Plettro Città di Milano, in which he first played at the age of 10. As part of his tenure as Director, he organized two concert seasons for his orchestra and several exchange visits with other local orchestras. He has composed and arranged music for the Orchestra a Plettro Città di Milano.

Achille has around 20 years of teaching experience. In 1989-1993 he worked for the Nuova Accademia di Musica Moderna in Milan as an instructor teaching music theory and solfege. In 2000 he began to teach mandolin through private lesson and in 2007 he reopened the orchestra school which had been closed for 15 years. Through the orchestra school he taught orchestral musicianship skills to small groups of students.

Achille has a long career as a orchestral Double Bass player and has played at the highest level with some of Milan's oldest and most famous orchestras, including Orchestra Verdi, Pommeriggi Musicali and Accademia della Scala. He has studied mandolin with Dorina Frati. He is also a fan of American and British popular music and has performed in groups on the electric guitar and bass. He has a diploma in music from the Conservatory in Milan.

Nicola Swinburne

Nicola Swinburne began teaching through San Francisco’s Community Music Center in 2003, and began her private teaching through Mandolin Serenade in 2004. Since then she has been taught over 100 students, mostly in individual private lessons, and occasionally in small groups. Her students have ranged in age from 16 to over 70. She was a faculty member at CMC until 2009.

Her teaching style stresses the importance of good technique to get a pure, sustained tone, playing both strings, be able to express rhythm, phrasing, and mood, and build an ability to play fast and accurately without getting tendonitis. All her students learn to read standard notation and have a grasp of basic music theory.

In 2005 she began the Noe Valley Plucked String Orchestra for her students. In 2008 the name was changed to San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. She has now conducted the orchestra through several seasons each with a distinct repertoire (Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Late Romantic Italian, Modern, Russian). She arranges some of the music for the orchestra. The orchestra performs around the Bay area in concerts, festivals and fundraisers. In 2009 it is hoped that the orchestra will become a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation.

Nicola has given workshops at the San Francisco Folk Festival (2004-7) on Italian mandolin, San Francisco Mandolin Festival (2006) on Classical technique, and at several local music stores and other events on the four-hundred year history and development of the mandolin instrument and its music.

Her mandolin playing has been strongly influenced by the Italian and German schools. In 2005 and 2007, she studied with Dorina Frati in Italy and has since formed a partnership with Achille Bocus (see below). She has also attended workshops by Gertrude Troester and Andre San Clivier. For several years she played in the duo Serenata with harpist Mitch Landy and they recorded a CD of that name. She is largely self-taught in music theory through her own study and a variety of evening classes at Bay Area music schools.

She is originally English and graduated from Cambridge University in Natural Sciences.  She comes from a musical family, with a grandfather who was a musician and ran a college music department (also self-taught!) and she played the violin as a child. She also plays lute and has studied guitar. Violin, guitar and lute technique influence her teaching.