Beginner Orchestra is run by a collective of music educators working in international schools around the world.

Our team of highly trained teachers have extensive knowledge working with beginner groups and thousands of hours of combined experience leading orchestras in schools.

We understand the importance of quality resources in the educational sphere and are passionate about beginner musicians because we see them as the foundation of what we do as music educators.

If we can engage and inspire our beginners, then we will continue to see strong musicians moving through our school music systems and into our local and international artistic communities when they finish school. 


Chris Koelma

Until recently, Chris was the Head of Music at a large International school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He completed his Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Teaching at Avondale College in Australia and a Master of Educational Studies (Creative Arts Specialization) at the University of Newcastle, Australia. He is currently completing his PhD looking at Music Education in International Schools.

Chris grew up in a household with eclectic musical tastes! His grandfather was a pianist, organist and choir conductor, who loved the great symphonies, but also was just as comfortable playing dixieland jazz. His father is a pianist and bass player that also loves jazz, but similarly dabbled in rock, pop and classical music. Thus, Chris' musical world is an eclectic mix - world, funk, rock, pop, jazz and classical. As an electric/double bass player, he worked extensively in studios as a session musician and toured with rock and jazz bands in Australia and the USA. Chris also played in community chamber orchestras.

Chris always composes for orchestra with a specific challenge in mind. He starts by identifying a particular instrument, rhythmic phrase, melodic idea or style that he would like to have his students explore. He also centres in on a tasteful compositional structure quite early in the process. He wants his students to feel excited about playing a piece, without necessarily knowing that it has been specifically designed for an important area of their musical development.

Chris believes that composing for a beginner orchestra is a special process because whilst a piece may need to be ‘easier’, it is also tightly constrained by the ability level of the individuals in an ensemble. It also needs to have enough challenge for those students who are moving more quickly in their learning journey.

Chris loves seeing students move through his beginner orchestra and on to a more senior orchestra with confidence and excitement. This is Chris' goal and is also what he feels makes beginner orchestras so vital to our school music systems.

Find out more about Chris' work: https://chriskoelma.com

Christopher Smith

Christopher is a music and strings teacher based in Victoria, Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Music from the University of Victoria, with teaching certification. He has previously worked at international schools in Asia for about 10 years.

Christopher has an eclectic range of tastes with a particular interest in pop songs that can be scored into orchestra or strings pieces. He love the unmatched genius of Bach, the complexities of Charlie Puth's pop stylings, and greatly admires the harmonies and wonderful song arrangements of groups like Pentatonix. He is always intrigued by an interesting bassline, and the expressive performance range of the great violin concertos.

Christopher's compositional style is fluid, emulating the great work of whoever inspires him at the moment. Egalitarianism is also an important goal for him, so that each player is challenged and interested by their own part as well as the piece as a whole.

Christopher believes that writing for ensembles is a common language. He sums this up in the following statement: "At a certain level, any conductor can come to any ensemble and direct everyone on a new or familiar piece. It is a dynamic environment where every musician can fit into the big sound at whatever level they can. This heightened experience serves to continually enhance musical literacy in an environment exponentially far richer than a practice room."

"A beginner playing alone has little context of how to sound good. A beginner playing with an ensemble has a common experience of success and challenge, and immediately becomes a valued contributor of a shared environment. In such a large group performance, the individual challenges dissolve into the melting pot so that a performer can play with less anxiety and develop musical confidence more deeply. Even new players can be bolstered by the big sound, and they may well exceed their own expectations as they are intrinsically motivated to join in and make the collective sound as good as possible."

Catherine Colette

Catherine is a Primary Music Specialist based in London. She holds a Masters of Music in composition, a Bachelor of Music and a PGCE in Primary Education from the University of Aberystwyth, Wales. 

She completed a TESOL Diploma from the London Teacher Training College in 2007 and enjoys teaching English. She has over 14 years’ experience teaching music internationally and especially enjoys collaborating on curriculum development with colleagues. Whilst in Malaysia, Catherine became a certified music examiner for GUILD Australia, examining biannually for them in South East Asia from 2014 to 2021. 

Growing up in a musical family, Catherine’s father was a Fellow of the Royal College of Organists, conductor and piano accompanist.  This led Catherine to be admitted into his church choir at the age of six.  Whilst not understanding Latin or reading many pitches, the whole musical experience had a profound effect on her with regards to the beauty of the sound made by the choir when singing together.

To this day, Catherine has a special love for Christmas carols! She listens to a wide variety of musical styles, from the serenity of medieval chants and the energy and excitement of Mozart, to ballet, opera, choral, folk songs, world music and pop.  

Being an extremely powerful tool when it comes to mental health and well being, Catherine believes that everyone should listen to music and benefit from its therapeutic qualities. 

For Catherine, joining a Beginner Orchestra is fun and an integral part of development for musical students. It promotes team spirit and can bring about a feeling of identity and a sense of pride for its members. She believes that music is an art form to be shared and enjoyed by the listener and the performer. Playing in an orchestra can also promote self-confidence, owing to the fact that players can perform in public as part of the orchestra, until they are ready or wish to perform solos. 

“I am delighted to join the Beginner Orchestra! My compositions are derived from an emotion or a scenario, with dynamics and articulation employed to bring it to life!”

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