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Dorothy Wilson

Viola player with Volante Strings


My earliest musical recollection was of my Dad and his Father playing violin duets and violin and piano duets when we visited my grandparents in Co. Durham. My maternal grandparents met when they both sang in a “concert party” during the First World War and my Great grandparents were band leaders and orchestral players. Later I appreciated sitting on the stairs, after I was supposed to be in bed, listening to my parents playing piano duets. 

Volante Strings violas
A common interest in music brought them together as it did my husband Graham Longfils and me when we met at University - and we’ve been playing duets more or less ever since!
I started playing the piano and violin when I was about 9. I recall my frustration when I had to ride my bike to violin lessons with my fiddle and music bag around my neck – the frustration because my 3 years younger brother played the ‘cello and bassoon and somehow the car always came out to take him to lessons! He went on to become a bit of a star ‘cellist and I swapped the violin for the viola when we moved to Worcestershire, 25 years ago now, and I fancied a change. So viola is my instrument now though I do also sing a lot, sometimes as a soloist with Volante Strings, which is both a huge pleasure and a bit of a responsibility. Graham often writes and arranges songs for me to sing with Volante and I’ve done a few arrangements myself too.
Our daughters are also musicians, all three playing violin, piano and singing, and each another orchestral instrument – viola, flute and oboe. We hope the music bug will carry on to successive generations.

Jennie Jones, leader


At the age of seven I was offered the chance of violin lessons in school, having previously missed the offer of learning the recorder I was the first to put my hand up. “Yes, me!”

I was very lucky to have a very patient and understanding local teacher, who could obviously see some potential,  and she very kindly organised some extra lessons with Eta Cohen. Soon after I joined one of the very earliest courses of the National Children’s orchestra.

Lessons at Leeds college of Music with Douglas Reid followed, before gaining the Herbert Lumby string scholarship to study at Birmingham School of Music where I studied with with Joseff Aronoff and Jacqueline Ross. 

Graduating from Birmingham with a BA (hons) degree and ABSM diplomas in Performing, Teaching and Recital, I also took the Performance Diploma from the Royal College of Music London. 


I then moved to Worcester where I was the head of strings at the Alice Ottley School Worcester for 15 years.

Since then I have combined a part time teaching career with freelance playing in and around the Worcestershire area. As well as leading Volante Strings, I also enjoy playing with Castalia String Quartet,  Brecknock Sinfonia and the St Woolos Sinfonia.


My violin was made by Melvin Goldsmith in 2005, a copy of the “Lord Wilton” Guarneri del Gesu of 1742.


Oliver Bouckley, double bass

My double-bass playing career started, as with so many, with my music teacher saying, “there’s a double-bass sitting in the music cupboard – how about it?”  My (almost) initial training on the instrument was a whole year’s-worth of rehearsal for Dvorak’s 8th symphony for the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra.  My main tuition was subsequently with Lawrence Bradshaw in Birmingham, although I now study with Charles Wall of the CBSO.
At that time, my playing centred on the Midland Youth Orchestra, and thus began a dynasty of Bouckleys in that orchestra: two brothers (flute and timpani), a girl-friend (clarinet, later to become my first wife) and, much later, my elder daughter.  I also played in the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, rising to Principal Bass. 
I am now a regular member of three orchestras – Sutton Coldfield, Sinfonia of Birmingham and, of course, Volante Strings, but play regularly for several other ensembles

I wish I had a pound for each time someone has remarked:

“How do you get it under your chin?”, or
“Doesn’t the spike stick in your neck?” (think about it), or
“I bet you wish you played the piccolo”…

… to which the answer is a firm "No".  Not because there’s anything wrong with the piccolo, but simply because the bass part in an ensemble provides the musical foundation on which everything else is built.  It is a tremendously rewarding way to make music (which is what God put us here for, isn’t it?).

My double-bass is by the well-known maker Thomas Martin, vintage 2010.

My (very) second instrument is the church bell.  Bellringing is a completely different form of music-making, but music-making it is, nevertheless, and highly enjoyable. 

Oh yes – and the day-job.  After redundancy from an IT organisation I turned a hobby into a job, which now finds me as the Fine & Dandy Handyman.

I live in Walsall with my second wife, Kate.  I have three children from my first marriage,  two of whom make their living from music.

Janet Thomas,


I was born in Sutton Coldfield and brought up in Birmingham. Whilst at King Edward's High School, I learnt violin firstly with Joy Lee (who fled home to Australia after 3 years of me!), then with Dennis Avery. In the sixth form I also had viola lessons with Derek Ratcliffe. I was a member of Midland Youth Orchestra under Blyth Major.

I went on to study at what was then (just!) still called the Royal Manchester College of Music with Walter Jorysz, who had been a pupil of Max Rostal. I spent all my student summers working in Salzburg, on an orchestral contract at the Mozarteum's International Summer Academy.

I returned to Birmingham to do my PGCE, settling here permanently. I met my late husband Bob, a horn player, singer and composer, through a rehearsal orchestra and a madrigal group (both long since defunct) at the MAC (Midlands Arts Centre). This orchestra included Dorothy and Graham Longfils who are also members of Volante Strings.
I was a peripatetic violin/viola teacher in Solihull for 36 years before retiring in July 2010. I was actively involved in ESTA (the European String Teachers Association) at regional, national and international level during the last ten years of my career.I am still busy with plenty of music-making, especially chamber music. Besides Volante Strings, I am a member of the Bianchi Quartet; of Highgate Circus (an ensemble specializing in Baroque and early Classical repertoire); and of the recently-formed Bromsgrove-based Orchestra of St John, as well as being invited to do a fair amount of freelance playing.
Outside of music, my main field of interest is languages. I completed my Open University B.A. Honours degree in Modern Language Studies with French and German in 2007. I also enjoy cooking, swimming, driving Volkswagens and watching cricket
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