Double bass Teaching in Portugal: History, Actuality and Good Practices

Round Table

In the last few decades, the Portuguese community of double bass players has grown exponentially, due to the increased number of music schools. From north to south, we now find the presence of double bass classes in various educational systems. The reflection of this work is clearly visible through those who have since then become professionals, teaching double bass or holding orchestra positions, nationally and overseas. This panel aims to portray this evolution and the work carried out by schools and teachers in our country, presenting known influences, ways of working, relevant initiatives and people who have played an important role in this process.


About the speakers

João Francisco Gonçalves, Double bass

João Francisco Gonçalves was born in 1992 in Trofa, the city where he currently resides. He was admitted at Escola Profissional e Artística do Vale do Ave in the academic year of 2004/2005, in the Double Bass class taught by Professor Nuno Arrais. In 2008/2009 he transferred to Professor Rui Fontes double bass class. In 2010 he finished the course and enrolled at University of Minho in the Double Bass class taught by Professor Nuno Arrais. In the academic year of 2016/2017, he began his Masters degree in Music Teaching at the University of Minho, completing it in 2018. During his career he was part of numerous orchestras, including Orquestra Artavinhos, Orquestra Artave, Orquestra Aproarte de Sopros, Orquestra Aproarte Sinfónica, Orquestra Nacional de Ópera, Orquestra da Universidade do Minho, Orquestra do Festival Harmus, Orquestra Orfeão de Leiria, Fundação Orquestra Studio, Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Portuguese Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera in Heritage Orchestra being directed by maestros such as Luís Machado, Emílio de César, Ernst Schelle, António Saiote, Cesário Costa, Rui Massena, Jean-Marc Burfin, António Cassuto, Joana Carneiro, Graça Moura, Kevin Wauldron, Vítor Matos, Joseph Vella, among others. In Chamber Music he had the pleasure of working in different formations, from duos, to string orchestra, to early music quintets, where he worked with teachers such as Mafalda Nejmeddine, Toby Hoffman, Rui Fontes and Luís Machado. He actively participated in several MasterClasses where he worked with illustrious double bassists, including Catalin Rotaru, Michael Wolf, Massimo Giorgi, Petia Bagovska, Dan Styffe, Vladimir Kusnetsov, Gabriele Ragghianti, among others. He actively participated in orchestral excerpt workshops and improvisation workshops, where he worked with Rafael Centeio, Gjorgji Cincievski, Giampaolo di Rosa, among others. As a teacher he continued to improve his skills participating in courses and complementary training such as ESTA – 2020 International Conference and Jornadas Pedagógicas de Violoncello in 2022. Currently he is a double bass teacher at Centro de Cultura Musical.


Margarida Castro, Double bass

Margarida Castro was born in Braga, Portugal. She started learning the double bass from the age of 6, at Conservatório de Música Calouste Gulbenkian (Braga), with Cristina Costa. From ages 12-18, she attended Escola Profissional Artística do Vale do Ave (ARTAVE), under the tuition of Alexandre Samardjiev, graduating with the highest distinction and consequently appearing as a soloist with the school’s symphony orchestra. That same year Margarida was invited to join the double bass class of Thomas Martin, at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London), where she was supported by a foundation scholarship. Margarida went on to complete both her Bachelor and Master’s degree in orchestral performance at the Royal College of Music with distinction, while supported by this institution through a Soiree D’Orr Scholarship and Henry Wood Award, as well as by the Martin Music Scholarship Fund (Philharmonia Orchestra), Albert Cooper Music Charitable Trust and Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (Portugal).

Margarida was part of the European Youth Orchestra and Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, as well as the student schemes of the English National Opera, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. She then went on to be employed as 2 nd Solo Double Bass at the Royal Danish Orchestra/Opera, during their 2014-2015 season. In 2014, Margarida was also appointed as Associate Principal Double Bass of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO), a position she held from 2015-2023.

As a freelance double bass player, Margarida has been invited as a guest to perform in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Handel Players, English Chamber Orchestra, Gulbenkian Orchestra (Lisbon), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Britten Sinfonia, Philharmonia Orchestra and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. More recently, she appeared as both principal and co-principal double bass with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Orchester de la Suisse Romande (Switzerland). Margarida’s orchestral career has seen her collaborate with conductors such as Lorin Maazel, Sir Colin Davis, Sir Roger Norrington and Sir Antonio Pappano. She has also appeared as a chamber musician alongside pianists Benjamin Grosvenor and Angela Hewitt, as part of the RSNO chamber series and the Edinburgh Festival.

As a pedagogue, Margarida has lectured Double Bass both at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of Glasgow and taught younger pupils at Sistema Scotland. She has also coached the double bass sections of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland (NYOS) and Young Musician Symphony Orchestra (YMSO).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Margarida completed a Master of Science in psychology, at the Manchester Metropolitan University, an accredited degree by the British Psychological Society. She graduated in 2022 with a distinction, having conducted her dissertation’s research on the musician-instrument relationship and self-identity of professional classical musicians. Earlier this year, Margarida was awarded a fully funded Doctoral Research place at the Guildhall School of Music – in partnership with Loughborough University – where she is currently studying psychological safety in elite performance training.


Nuno Arrais, Double bass

Nuno Arrais studied double bass at the Escola Profissional Artística do Vale do Ave, the Academia Nacional Superior de Orquestra de Lisboa and the Escola Superior de Música e Artes do Espetáculo do Porto. Master in Psychology and Musical Pedagogy from the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences – Universidade Nova de Lisboa, he is a researcher at LAMCI – Laboratory of Music and Communication in Childhood at CESEM/FCSH, contributing to several publications in the area of ​​musical teaching and human development. He taught at the Professional School and Music Academy of Viana do Castelo, at the Professional Artistic School of Vale do Ave, at the Aveiro Calouste Gulbenkian Music Conservatory and at the Arteduca Music Conservatory of Vila Nova de Famalicão. In terms of training and teaching, he also collaborated with the Escola Superior de Educação de Lisboa, the Piaget Institutes of Almada and Viseu, the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Universidade Católica Portuguesa do Porto. He is frequently invited to lead double bass masterclasses in Portugal, Spain and Italy, and to join juries in double bass competitions. As a musician, he collaborated on several projects at the Companhia de Música Teatral and performs regularly with different chamber and orchestral formations. He is a founding member of the ESTA European String Teachers Association Portugal, where he helps to promote the exchange of information and the organization of training for string instrument teachers. Currently Nuno Arrais is teaching at the Calouste Gulbenkian Conservatory of Music in Braga and is Guest Assistant at the Department of Music/ILCH – University of Minho.


Sérgio Barbosa, Double bass

Sérgio Barbosa began his studies of Double Bass in 1991, with Jorge Carreiro, at the Professional and Artistic School of Vale do Ave, having later studied with Professor Alexandre Samardjiev. He completed the Degree in Double Bass under the guidance of Florian Pertzborn, at the School of Music and Performing Arts, and the professionalization in service at the University of Aveiro. He attended several Seminars, Workshops and Masterclasses as a participant, namely with Yuri Axenov, Duncan McTier, Klaus Trumpf, Michael Wolf, Gottfried Engels, Paul Elison, Bernard Sales, among others. Over the years he has also regularly attended several events related to double bass, from contests to festivals, courses, internships, etc. As a complement to his training, he also attended early music seminars, with Richard Guilt, Double Bass Jazz workshop with Professor Alberto Jorge and mini-double bass course with Professor Claus Freudenstein. As “Young Awarder”, he presented himself at the 1stº national double bass meeting in 1995. He was double bass soloist at the Orchestra do Norte, Tutti at the National Orchestra of Porto, Sine Nomine and Musicare orchestras, and participated as a guest in several Portuguese orchestras and chamber formations. He performed solo and chamber music recitals throughout the country, as well as in Spain and Brazil. He was a member of several chamber music formations, including “Vedi il Mare”, “Soaensemble”, “Portotango”. Over the years, he has been a juror of several national and international contests, having recently been a jury of the “Recital Music 2021 (and 2023) Composition Competition” contests, an international composition contest for double bass solo. He regularly promotes the participation of students in contests, where it has had several award-winning students. It has also contributed over the years to the enrichment of the repertoire of the instrument, through arrangements, transcriptions and editions for the double bass, both as a solo instrument and in chamber music. He guided Double Bass Suits in various stages of youth orchestras, guided orchestra internships, directed double bass ensembles, taught double bass and chamber music masterclasses in several schools, from the north to the south of the country. Over the last few years he has also promoted several activities related to the Instrument, namely Masterclasses, Double Bass Ensemble Workshops, Exchanges and Meetings, being as an example co-founder of the National Encounters of Initiation to the Double Bass, having co-organized the 1º of these Meetings, in 2018 at the Artistic School of the Calouste Gulbenkian Conservatory of Music in Aveiro. He was a teacher at the Professional School of Music of Viana do Castelo, from 1999 to 2008, and at ArtEduca – Conservatory of Music of Famalicão, from 2009 to 2023. Since 1997 he has been teaching at the Artistic School of the Conservatory of Calouste Gulbenkian Conservatory of Music in Aveiro.


Vítor Albuquerque, Double bass

Vitor Albuquerque began his musical studies at the Calouste Gulbenkian Music Conservatory in Braga. Completed his higher studies (college) at ESMAE (Porto) in the class of Prof. Florian Pertzborn and at ESML (Lisbon) with prof. Youri Akxenov. His artistic training continued at the “Mozarteum” in Salzburg with prof. Johannes Auersperg. He attended musical improvement courses with Duncan Mctier, Klaus Trumpf, Pedro Wallenstein, Michael Wolf, Gottfried Engels, Petia Bagovska, Massimo Giordi, Petru Iuga, Thierry Barbé, Gabriele Ragghianti, Olivier Thierry, among others. Regular invited member of the Gulbenkian Foundation Orchestra, Orquestra Metropolitana de Lisboa, Orquestra do Norte as well as several chamber groups and ensembles such as: Capela Real, Divino Sospiro, Músicos do Tejo and more recently the Orquestra Barroca do Algarve, being a regular collaborator. He was a member of the Amazonas Philharmonic Orchestra (Manaus), OSESP (São Paulo), OSB (Rio de Janeiro) and the Minas Gerais Philarmonic Orchestra (Belo Horizonte). He worked as a teacher in several educational institutions such as Academia de Música de Santa Cecília, Escola de Dança do Conservatório Nacional, Conservatório de Música de Barcelos, Conservatório Bonfim, Academia de Música de Viatodos, Conservatório de Música Calouste Gulbenkian de Braga, among others. Currently teaches at the Aveiro Calouste Gulbenkian and Maia Conservatories.