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Helen Sanderson

Job Role: Head of Guitar Performance

Department: Guitar

Honours: GRSM (Hons), DipRCM, ARCM (PG)


Helen Sanderson epitomises life as a 21st-century guitarist; her diversity as a performer, educator, arranger, composer and creative entrepreneur is reflected in the broad spectrum of guitar studies at RWCMD.


Helen’s international performing career has centered on chamber music with highlight performances including the Southbank Centre, Kings Place and the Guitar Foundation of America, and CD recordings with the VIDA Guitar Quartet, James Bowman and Mark Wilde. Alongside her love of performing, her impetus to create opportunities for young guitarists led to her founding the music education charity, Guitar Circus, home of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble and the World Youth Guitar Festival of which she is Artistic Director.

These roles have given invaluable experience in arts management and have also fuelled Helen’s interest in extending the repertoire for the instrument, in particular for guitar ensemble; Helen’s work is regularly chosen for the ABRSM, Trinity College and London College of Music exam boards and developing this vital craft of arranging and composing has a prominent place in RWCMD’s programme. She is often invited to competition juries including BBC Young Musician of the Year, Guitar Foundation of America, London International Guitar Competition, Koblenz Guitar Competition and most memorably, the Sky Arts televised series Guitar Star.

Helen has formed a voice and guitar duo with Mark Wilde of the Royal Academy of Music and a guitar duo with Zoran Dukić of the Royal Conservatoire, The Hague and was a founder member of the Vida Guitar Quartet. She has toured extensively throughout the assessment period, giving notable performances across the US in 2014, and in Europe in 2019, from the Long Island Guitar Festival (USA) to the Kutná Hora Guitar Festival (Czech Republic).

Notable Achievements

Helen was a consultant for the Trinity College of Music Examination Board in 2019, and for the London College of Music Examination Board in 2020. She received the Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2015 and was a panellist for the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2015, 2018, and 2019, as well as for the Sky Arts series Guitar Star in 2015.

Helen has served on the jury for guitar competitions at the Birmingham Conservatoire (2014), and the Royal College of Music (2015), and also for the Koblenz International Guitar Competition (2016), the London International Guitar Competition (2016), the Ida Presti Guitar Competition in Croatia (2018, 2020), and the Guitar Foundation of America (2017, 2019).

Helen’s passion for research has grown since becoming a Winston Churchill Fellow. Her analysis of successful whole-class guitar teaching programmes in the USA has allowed her to lay the foundation for an ensemble-based guitar curriculum in the UK. She is exploring the ways in which her studies of guitar curriculum might play a role in an integrated cross-discipline approach within the wider Expressive Arts, which reflects the new Curriculum for Wales.

Helen is currently Co-Investigator on a project to develop an accessible guitar aimed at broadening access to the instrument for people with physical disabilities and special educational needs.

Link to Churchill Fellowship report:

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