I interviewed Agnieszka Nalazek as part of SWEMF’s Zoom ‘String Afternoon’ on May 1st this year. Agnieszka had obtained a prestigious Queen Elizabeth Trust Fellowship to study historical instrument making at West Dean College and is focusing on viol making.

During the interview, she told us about her training and of the serious impact the Covid-19 outbreak has had on this.

She showed us slides of West Dean and told us what an inspiration the College has been with its beautiful grounds, wonderful areas for students to socialize and a very well equipped workshop for the instrument makers. She loved working with renowned viol maker Shem Mackey and said what a wonderful teacher he had been and how much she admired his incredible skills and his knowledge of viols.

Sadly, the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 led to restrictions being imposed at the College and later that year the College was shut. There had been planned trips abroad, a Christmas concert and lessons with Alison Crum. All these were cancelled.

Agnieszka continued working on her viol from home with some input from Shem. She managed to finish her first viol which is a beautifully decorated tenor instrument based on a model by Shem.

Shem Mackey has said that Agnieszka is one of the most naturally gifted and hardworking students he has taught. She has now obtained funding from the QUEST to return to West Dean College in the autumn to continue her Foundation Degree in Arts on Musical Instruments.

Aga lives in Bath and is looking forward to more contact with SWEMF’s viol players. She has lessons with Alison Crum and looks forward to playing with us before long.

– Marilyn Pocock