About Us



Peter Fender first organised an orchestral course in Italy in 2014, in Scicli, south-eastern Sicily. That course will run for the 8th time in 2024. It has been so successful, that Peter decided to look into running similar courses in other parts of Italy – hence the Lugo course in 2024, and most probably there will be another starting in Spring 2025!

Peter first visited Lugo and its environs in 2016, assisting on a recording by violinist Enrico Gramigia.  When Peter discussed with Enrico the possibility of doing a course in the area he was introduced to Matteo Penazzi, an organiser of musical and cultural events who is based in Lugo, including the award-winning Lugo Music Festival.  It is with Matteo that Peter has organised this exciting new course for 2024.

Who’s Who

Peter Fender, conductor
Peter Fender, conductor

Peter began his musical career as an early music specialist, playing violin regularly with groups such as the Academy of Ancient Music, the Sixteen and the Hanover Band.  More recently his focus has shifted towards conducting.  In 2007 he formed the orchestra Philharmonia Britannica, keen to create interesting juxtapositions by mixing music with other art forms, such as acting, poetry, dance, comedy or video.  He is also currently also the musical director of The Angel Orchestra, and the 6 Centuries Chamber Choir.  Aside from his native England he has conducted across Europe.  Known for his innovative programming, he has conducted many works by unjustly neglected female composers (Imogen Holst, Ethel Smyth, Amy Beach and Louise Farrenc amongst others).  Peter regularly leads conducting workshops – from days introducing conducting to non-musicians to advanced classes with full orchestra.

Peter has composed a wide variety of music, and has released three CDs of his music.  As an arranger and editor he has worked on music by composers such as Ethel Smyth, Imogen Holst, Monteverdi and Haydn. Full details of his musical activities (plus a short film about him) are on his website. Peter feels that a year is not a proper one unless it contains at least three trips to Italy … preferably by train 🙂


Jessica O'Leary
Jessica O’Leary, leader

Combining performing, teaching, examining, writing, mentoring, adjudicating and editing, Jessica has a persuasive portfolio career. Jessica has recorded and toured internationally as a professional violinist and member of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Principal 2nd violin of the Orchestra of St. John’s for twenty-five years.

Jessica is passionate about playing and teaching music in a variety of styles and has worked with Madonna, Led Zeppelin, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Opera House.

Jessica is a string consultant and examiner for ABRSM and regularly presents seminars to teachers and adjudicates festivals in the UK and Asia. She recently co-authored a beginner string method series Basics and Flexi Violin with Paul Harris while her Best of Grade collection and 80 Graded studies are also published by Faber.  Coming from a family of innovative string teachers who were the first to start the Suzuki method in Europe, Jessica played in the Cork, Irish and European Youth Orchestras before moving to London to take up a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. She is Head of Strings at Eltham College, London and has taught violin and viola at Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London for fifteen years. She has been a tutor on National Youth Orchestra Outreach days, works with the Autistic society and regularly plays chamber music.