The Cantilena Festival Scholar programme invites string students from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to take part in a week of music-making on the beautiful Hebridean Island of Islay. Students are invited to apply for the scheme from January 2024 with auditions taking place late-March.

Please meet our 2023 Scholars below:

Sophie Hamilton

Sophie Hamilton / Violin

Currently studying for a Master’s degree at RCS under Maya Iwabuchi, Sophie is a keen chamber and orchestral player. Having successfully auditioned for schemes with the BBC SSO and RSNO, she has enjoyed taking part in projects with them this year, as well as a side by side concert with Scottish Ensemble. Sophie recently led the 2nd violins for the RCS Symphony Orchestra concert at City Halls, performing Mahler Symphony No.5 & Beethoven Piano Concerto No.3. Previously Sophie studied at the Music School of Douglas Academy for six years under Fiona Osborne before completed her Bachelor of Music with 1st class honours at the Royal Northern College of Music studying under Catherine Yates. Sophie was a member of NYOS symphony orchestra for many years, performing at the Royal Albert Hall in the 2016 Proms and more recently returned as a mentor. Sophie is also a keen music educator having been a tutor for the NYOS training ensemble course in 2022 through the NYOS ambassador scheme as well as being a Benedetti Ambassador.


Annabel Stevens

Annabel Stevens / Violin

Annabel Stevens is a violinist from Nottingham, currently studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Andrea Gajic and Katrina Lee. She has performed chamber music recitals previously at the Southwell Music Fringe Festival, the 2019 Pro Corda competition final, and the RCS’s Mondays at One concert series. Earlier this year, Annabel appeared with the newly formed Trent Chamber Orchestra in Rushcliffe for their monthly lunch-time concerts. Alongside her studies, she also enjoys her work as an ambassador for the Benedetti Foundation.


Yik Liang Soo

Yik Liang Soo / Violin

Yik Liang Soo(Yik) is a Malaysian violinist who graduated BMus(2023) in RCS where he studied with Maya Iwabuchi and Joseph Swensen. During his time in RCS, he participated in many competitions and concerts, this year including: Leading the RCS Mahler 5 Symphony Concert, City Halls; Soloist for Scottish Ensemble Lark Ascending and participant of the Young Artist Programme; Governors Strings First Prize 2023 with Eunoia Duo. Yik is an active and enthusiastic chamber musician, co-founding the international prize winning ’Eunoia Duo’ in 2021 with Lithuanian pianist Elze Fedorcovaite, as well as Chiara Trio, 2023, who will have their debut concert in Scotland later this October.


Bianca Wesley Smith

Bianca Wesley-Smith / Viola

Bianca Wesley-Smith is a South African violinist and viola player. She completed her Bachelor of Music degree at the University of Pretoria in 2018. Bianca has worked with a number of orchestras both in South Africa and abroad, including two years as a 2nd violinist in the Gauteng Philharmonic Orchestra, and two seasons with the Immling Opera Festival in Bavaria, Germany. She is also a member of the MIAGI Orchestra, with whom she has performed in notable European concert halls, including the Elbphilharmonie, Concertgebouw, and Konzerthaus Berlin, as well as festivals such as the Verbier Festival and Young Euro Classics. Since 2021, Bianca has been actively involved with the Benedetti Foundation, and is now a Senior Ambassador. She currently studies at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Duncan Ferguson and Greg Lawson.


Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson / Cello

Khalil Johnson is a 22 year old cellist based in Glasgow, studying with professor Alison Wells atthe Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS). Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, he began hisstudies at the age of 10 under the tutelage of Troy Stuart. By the age of 14 he began attending theBaltimore School for the Arts, where he’d continue his studies. During his time there he began totruly explore himself as a cellist and musician through a variety of different performanceopportunities. Most of his work was on solo performance, as well as chamber music.

Khalil has just finished his final year of study at the RCS. The year has been fruitful as he has undertaken many solo and chamber music opportunities. Most notably Khalil has become apart of the Chiara Piano trio, with whom he played at Chamber Music Scotland headquarters in Stirling. This would lead to numerous concert engagements, thanks to the attending promotors.


Finlay Hay / Guitar

Finlay Hay / Guitar

Finlay Hay is a nineteen-year-old guitarist studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with Allan Neave. He started playing the classical guitar at Portobello Music School on Saturday mornings before being scouted, aged twelve, for the Yehudi Menuhin School where he studied with Richard Wright on a scholarship from the Rolling Stones. Finlay has performed solo and chamber recitals in venues such as Blair Castle, Queens Hall, The Foundlings Museum, Bilkent University, Canongate Kirk, St Giles Cathedral and the Menuhin Hall and has played for renowned musicians such as John Williams, Nicola Benedetti, Rene Izquierdo, Pavel Steidl and Princess Alexandra. He has been a recipient of a Eurostrings scholarship, awarded the NECGSA and in his first year at the RCS placed 3rd in the Altamira International Guitar Competition. His recent projects include creating a climate themed programme for a green zone COP26 concert, forming the Taproot Ensemble, and arranging a series of songs for cello and guitar that were toured with Hattie McGregor.


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David Ford / Composition

David Ford is a Scottish composer and musician who writes concert music for a diverse range of ensembles along with film music. His primary interests include writing music with narrative and a focus on timbre and the emotional qualities of music. From a young age, David developed a keen interest in composition, heavily influenced by 13 years of trumpet study performing orchestral, jazz and concert band music.

Recent projects include working with the GAIA Duo for the Plug new music festival and the University of St Andrews Intersections project; in addition to receiving a commendation in the Dinah Wolfe Composition prize.

Currently David is in his 1st year studying a Masters of Music (MMus) in composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, studying under the guidance of Bekah Simms. In his undergraduate, David studied a Bachelor of Music (BMus) at the University of Glasgow achieving a First-class Honours.


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