Conductor – Anne Kimber

Anne has been connected with the PSO for many years, first as a player and subsequently as conductor (only the sixth in over 140 years of the orchestra’s existence).

As a flautist her musical activities have ranged widely in the South West, performing with groups such as the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Opera South West, New Devon Opera, the South West Sinfonietta and many others.

She also manages the Dartington Festival Orchestra as part of the Dartington International Summer School and has been a mentor for the renowned South West Music School.

As conductor of the PSO she has helped to draw performances of real power and vibrancy from the players, enabling it to become the most accomplished group of its kind in the South West.

PSO Conductor & Musical Director Anne Kimber awarded Honorary Degree by Plymouth Marjon University

Professor Rob Warner was delighted to award Plymouth Symphony Orchestra’s Conductor, Anne Kimber, with the degree of Master of Arts Honoris Causa on Sunday 26 June 2022 at the University’s first ‘Prom on the Quad’ event.

The University is empowered to confer honorary degrees upon persons who have achieved great distinction in their professional and personal lives and made outstanding contributions to the fabric of our society.

A number of nominations were considered for this year’s honorary degrees and we were unanimous in wishing to recognise Anne’s significant achievements by awarding the Degree of Master of Arts Honoris Causa, the highest level of award the University is authorised to bestow.

Professor Warner said ‘The University wishes to recognise Anne’s dedication to both the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra, and the Dartington Festival Orchestra, but equally her overall contribution to the field of classical music within the region. We believe she offers an excellent role model for our students and would be an admirable ambassador for the University’.

Leaders of the Orchestra

Catherine Smith

Cath was born and brought up in Havant, near Portsmouth. Her father Tony is a keen amateur cellist, so she grew up surrounded by music. Cath took up the violin at the age of 9, starting initially with weekly lessons at school in a group of four. She ‘got the bug’, largely due to the enthusiasm of her teacher Graham Frewer who introduced her to the joys of ensemble playing.

Cath was fortunate to benefit from many other musical opportunities including membership of the Hampshire County Youth Orchestra, and chamber music coaching whilst she was still at school, which have provided a great foundation for her ongoing musical exploits. At 18, Cath left home for Birmingham to study Medicine, and managed to keep up her playing by joining the Birmingham Philharmonic orchestra. Qualifying as a doctor in 1995, after junior doctor jobs in Birmingham and Nottingham, Cath moved to Plymouth in 1997 and soon managed to track down the PSO. After playing for a couple of seasons, unfortunately on calls and medical exams meant that she was unable to keep up her PSO commitment. For the next decade her only sorties into classical music were to lead the annual Peninsula Doctors Orchestra concerts.

Having settled into her post as a consultant radiologist, and started a family, Cath was able to rejoin the PSO in 2013. ‘I missed playing with the PSO – our programmes are varied, interesting and there is usually something to challenge and stretch us. The players are friendly and support each other. It’s also a great way to unwind from my day job.’

Dave Adams

Dave Adams has been a member of PSO since he moved to Plymouth in 1992. He grew up in Salisbury where the vibrant amateur and professional music scene provided the ideal backdrop to the early days of his musical development. He started playing violin and piano at the age of 8 and was particularly inspired by his violin teacher, Daphne Moody, and Alan Harwood, head of music at his secondary school, who provided him so many opportunities to experience music of different styles – from madrigal groups and chamber music to full size oratorios and concertos.

After three years studying Physics at Bristol University, a year as a volunteer conservation officer and teacher training at Oxford University, Dave moved to Plymouth to take up a post at Devonport High School for Boys where he is now Deputy Head. Since then Dave has played violin and guitar in several orchestras and folk clubs, and can occasionally be seen playing fiddle in his son’s rock band in local pubs and festivals. However, the one constant musical membership throughout this time has been the PSO. ‘Playing wonderful music is just part of PSO’s attraction for me – it’s also given me a really close set of friends and a great social life.’ When he’s not making music, Dave also enjoys mountain walking and dinghy racing.

Dawn Ashby

Dawn has been playing with the PSO for over 20 years, originally at the back of the second violins and gradually working her way towards the front of the first violins.

She began learning the violin at the age of 8, after being offered lessons in primary school, and took full advantage of the many musical opportunities offered to her throughout her school career, culminating in membership of the Leicestershire Schools Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. Dawn chose not to pursue a full-time career in music, but after graduating from Plymouth with a degree in Environmental Science, continued to study the violin with Hans Kassier for over 15 years.

She has attempted to play many other stringed instruments, and even learnt the harp in school in order to escape hockey lessons, but has always wanted to play the cello. So during one late night eBay shopping trip she bought a viola, so she could learn the Elgar Cello concerto (arranged for viola by Tertis) without the need for cello technique! So, watch out cellists, if the PSO ever plays the Elgar, Dawn will be vying with you to play the solo part in rehearsals!

Dawn has led several local orchestras including the University of Plymouth Orchestra and South West Sinfonietta, where she played with several eminent soloists (including Craig Ogden, Natalie Klein and Julian Lloyd Webber) and performs regularly with several orchestral and chamber ensembles throughout the southwest.

She now shares the leadership of the PSO with two other members of the orchestra and will be found leading the viola section when not playing the violin.