Robin Ashwell is well known as the viola player of the Sacconi Quartet, one of the UK’s finest string quartets. With the Quartet, he made his Wigmore Hall debut in 2004, and since then has performed internationally, broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3 and appeared on numerous CDs.
Robin was born and brought up in Medway, taking violin lessons at age six and viola from age twelve, first with Susan Cheetham and then with Marguerite Wilkinson at the Kent Centre for Young Instrumentalists. From 1990-97 he attended Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, where his love for music was nurtured and fired in equal measures by Trevor Brearley. Up to age eighteen, almost all of Robin’s spare time was spent playing viola, violin, recorder and piano in just about every Kent County group that he was eligible for, supported by two Kent Music School bursaries. Upon leaving school he entered the Royal College of Music as an Associated Board Scholar, where he studied with Ian Jewel and Andriy Viytovych, and won the Cecil Aronowitz Prize for outstanding viola playing. He also studied baroque and classical viola with Jan Schlapp, Catherine Mackintosh and Annette Isserlis, and went on to be Principal Viola of the European Union Baroque Orchestra during their 2001-2003 seasons. Upon graduating from the Royal College of Music, Robin was awarded the prestigious Tagore Gold Medal, the College’s highest prize in recognition of achievements and contribution to college life.
With the Sacconi Quartet, Robin has collaborated with some of the world’s finest musicians, including Freddy Kempf, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Paul McCartney, appearing as solo violist on his 2009 hit song Come Home. Also with the Quartet, he has commissioned, premiered and recorded works by Roxanna Panufnik, Jonathan Dove, Graham Fitkin and others, leading to four world-premiere albums of works by Panufnik, Dove, Fitkin and McCabe, and a further five albums on the Sacconi Records label. Robin is a regular guest at the Savannah Music Festival in Georgia, USA, where he performs alongside fellow British violist Philip Dukes.
Robin combines his performing schedule with a love for and dedication to teaching. He is Head of Strings at Westminster School, teaches at Sevenoaks School and coaches chamber music at the Royal College of Music. He is indebted to Ellen Solomon, whose beautiful Sacconi viola of 1934 he is privileged to play.
Having received significant support from the Kent Music Bursary Scheme and others during my childhood years, I know how important a difference this can make to the future of an up-and-coming young musician. “Music for all” is a term easy to acknowledge, but more challenging in practice. Studying a musical instrument and pursuing that dream through school, conservatoire/university and beyond into the profession costs eye-watering sums of money; talent, however, is based on hard work and determination, not the ability to pay. I am proud to support the work of KaMYM, helping talented young musicians at this crucial stage of their lives, just as I was helped at that stage in mine.