Daughter of the Academy’s former Head of Keyboard, Alexander Kelly, and cellist Margaret Moncrieff, Alison Moncrieff-Kelly was a cello pupil of Antonia Butler before winning a scholarship to the Academy to study with Florence Hooton and subsequently with Pierre Fournier in Geneva. She has performed and broadcast all over Europe and the UK as soloist and chamber musician. She has recorded the complete piano trios of Hummel, the piano trios of Clara Schumann and Saint-Saens, the complete cello and piano works of Stanford and three discs of solo cello repertoire. In 2005 she was awarded the Heinrich Boll fellowship, the first musician to be given this honour - mostly given to writers, poets and artists of note. A highly sought after teacher, Alison has an impressive record of nurturing successful cello pupils. She is an ABRSM grade and diploma examiner, and repertoire and content consultant for their cello syllabus.
From 2007 until 2012, Alison was the Director of Music at The Conservatoire in Blackheath, where she ran a programme of music tuition and concerts, and was responsible for managing a team of seventy tutors
As well as being an adjudicator, Alison is also an examiner for ABRSM in classical, jazz and diploma exams. Since 2007 she has been a syllabus consultant for ABRSM, selecting all the exam material for grades 1 to 8. She was also part of the editing team that put together all the ABRSM cello scales and sight-reading material. In 2015, she and Tim Wells created and edited a book of cello pieces for ABRSM., Principal Cello.
Alison was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music in 2013, an award made for distinguished services to the music profession. She is a sought after teacher and coach and has run many successful workshops for children and adults. She has particularly strong experience in the teaching of gifted children, and in coaching chamber music.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent”
I studied the cello with Alison during the mid/ late eighties at Wells Cathedral School during that crucial time of auditioning for music colleges. She had some fantastic students (most notably Ernst Simon Glaser- now principal cello of Gothenburg SO, who began the cello with her) and then there was me. I had arrived at Wells with a reasonably solid if parochial training and it was Alison who got me match fit for further education.
At that time, there seemed to be a very incidental attitude towards the big, bad world out there and this was something which Alison countered. I was always realistic about my ambitions (which, I think, she found refreshing!) and with her robust and intelligent teaching, found myself at the Royal Academy of Music. I've played with many orchestras now over the last twenty something years and have been a member of the BBC Philharmonic for most of those.
I've stayed in touch with Alison over the years- I still find her advice and support invaluable. What no CV will tell you is how emotionally intuitive she is and I think that for students of a vocational age, that kind of understanding is vital. It certainly helped me.
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
I studied with Alison Moncrieff-Kelly at Wells Cathedral School for four years in the 80s. I was 11 years old when I started studying with her. It was quite daunting for me, in retrospect, suddenly being in an environment where I was far from the only cellist and far from the best. It was an incredibly important time in my development and Alison was extremely important to me.
She could be quite demanding but always supportive, understanding and very caring. I always felt safe and secure with Alison, and I knew that I could rely on her to be there for me.
Alison basically taught me how to practice. She showed me in a fully graspable way how to practice shifting, how to practice complicated passage work. She showed me how to plan my practice, told me which studies, scales and exercises I should practice, and how to approach them. She showed me how to use my bow and was so inspiring in every lesson. Somehow, I still remember the excitement I felt before each lesson and the good feeling I invariably had afterwards. She gave me such a good basis and I find myself repeating so much of what I learnt 30 years ago to my own students now.
After my studies with Alison came to an end, I had reached a pretty high level for my age. I eventually won my first orchestral position as co-principal cellist of the Trondheim Symphony Orchestra at the age of 22. I went on to become Principal Cello of the Norwegian Opera Orchestra and I am currently Principal Cello of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. I am totally indebted to Alison for the support, the warmth, the inspiration and the large amount of knowledge she passed on to me during those early years. I would not be where I am today without her!
Ernst Simon Glaser
Principal Cello - Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra
Alison has been teaching me for a little over two years, since I returned to the piano after not playing anything beyond chopsticks for three decades. I had forgotten how to read music but, having loved playing as a child, I wanted to recapture the enjoyment I remembered so clearly. What I hadn't bargained for was the difficulty ahead of me: trying to make my brain connect with my hands, remembering to breathe when my heart is pounding, forcing my little finger to bend to my will, all while attempting to play the right notes in the right order, at the right speed.
Thankfully I couldn't have chosen a better teacher to help me rediscover the joy. Alison combines an enormous array of talents (formidable knowledge, experience, intellect, patience and dedication, among others) yet couldn't be more approachable and modest. If I am struggling with a piece, she immediately pinpoints the problem and gives me the tools to progress. She is a fantastic communicator, able to call upon an anecdote or illustrate her point vividly to help me understand how to improve. She always finds the right balance between encouragement and challenge, pushing me out of my comfort zone without ever making me feel out of my depth, not to mention picking me up when I'm overcome with self-doubt and frustration. Alison really is an outstanding teacher.