Since their formation at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in 2021, the Aestus Quartet have established themselves as a dynamic ensemble that is recognised for their warmth and sensitive musical approach. The name “Aestus” is Latin for sea tide and is inspired by the opening of one of the staples in their repertoire: Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 2. 

The Aestus have recently been appointed Studio Quartet at the RNCM and are 2023-2024 Britten Pears Young Artists. They look forward to performances this season with organisations such as Ilkley Concert Club, Winchester Chamber Music Festival (as Quartet in Residence), Grantham Music Club, Saddleworth Concert Society, Britten Pears “Chamber Futures”, Tickhill Music Society, and First Light Festival. 

In 2023 the quartet both opened and closed the Lake District Summer Music Festival’s  Emerging Artist Series. Passionate about making classical music inclusive and accessible, they worked with the Festival’s artistic director Stephen Threlfall to deliver a series of workshops in schools and community centres. 

In the 2022-2023 season, the quartet additionally made appearances at series including Southwell Music Festival, Festival Ravel “Young Talents” (Bayonne, France), Enys Chamber Music Festival (Cornwall), Wrexham Classical Music Festival, BBC Philharmonic Young Artist Series (Bridgewater Hall), Buxton Pavilion Arts Centre, and Lymm Chamber Music. As part of the Hans Keller Forum, the quartet gave a final concert at the West Road Concert Hall, University of Cambridge, and performed in a lecture recital: “Behind the Music: Pre-compositional Thought in Benjamin Britten’s Second String Quartet” presented by Nicky Swett. 

The Aestus are recipients of the RNCM Weil Prize, finalists in the RNCM Christopher Rowland Ensemble of the Year Prize among others, and members of Chamber Studio UK’s inaugural Hans Keller Forum in 2022-2023. They are grateful to have been mentored by international artists including Donald Grant (Elias Quartet), Petr Prause (Talich Quartet), David Waterman (Endellion Quartet), Jeremy Young, Richard Ireland, John Myerscough (Doric Quartet) and Alasdair Beatson. 

The members of the quartet come from diverse backgrounds and have unique interests outside of performance. Leda Mileto, violin I, is from Italy, has formally trained in Dalcroze Eurythmics, and is passionate about learning languages and movie culture. Chris Karwacinski, violin II, is from the UK, holds an additional degree in mathematics, was part of the national karate team, and happens to be an excellent tuba player. Beth Willett, viola, is from the UK and is interested in research and the intersection of music with other academic disciplines as well as ballet in which she is formally trained. Canadian-American cellist Clara Hope Simpson holds a degree in chemistry in addition to her music degrees and enjoys creating traditional Ukrainian egg art. 


Leda Mileto, violin I


Leda Mileto is a violinist born in Rome, Italy and currently based in Manchester, UK. She has performed and recorded in venues such as Bridgewater and Stoller Hall, as well as national and international contexts (Italy, Poland, Austria, France) alongside renowned artists from a young age. 

While in Manchester, she has had the opportunity to play alongside Daniel Pioro, Sir Mark Elder, and Ning Feng, as well as members of the Elias Quartet, Manchester Camerata, and Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Most recently, she learnt with and performed alongside Abel Selaocoe as well as Aleksey Igudesman for Stauffer Academy Summer Music Festival (Cremona, Italy) as strings leader. She was awarded first prize in competitions including the Chroma Prize (Rome, Italy) and Napolinova International Competition (Naples, Italy). 

Leda has been educated thoroughly in music through the Dalcroze approach, and has just completed her Foundation Award with Dalcroze UK, now embarking on the Intermediate year of professional training. She was featured in the International Conference of Dalcroze Studies in 2021 with her work, tutored by Dr John Habron, on the connections between M. Heidegger’s philosophy of “being there”, the Dalcroze approach to embodiment and presence, and historically informed instrumental practices. Leda has recently been appointed tutor in violin, Eurhythmics, foundation singing and improvisation by the Junior department of the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). 

Leda currently studies privately in London with David Takeno. She obtained her Master’s degree from the RNCM supported by the Charles Greenhough Award and has recently completed a Postgraduate Diploma there with a scholarship. Leda also performed in James Ehnes’ masterclass at the RNCM. She has performed as an RNCM Baroque Soloist and led the RNCM Opera Orchestra in Johnathan Dove’s “Mansfield Park” under the baton of Lee Reynolds in spring 2023. As a leader, she has also enjoyed contact with Cremona International Music Academy and Festival (with faculty from the Longy School of Music, Boston, MA), where she led the Festival Strings. 

Leda completed her undergraduate studies in Rome and a specialist course at Fiesole School of Music. She is deeply grateful to her teachers Felice Cusano, Edoardo Zosi, Carmen Staffieri, and the Klimt Piano Quartet. 

 Leda plays a 1781 Joseph Gagliano violin with a Noel Burke bow, both on generous loan from the RNCM. 

Chris Karwacinski, violin II

United Kingdom

Chris Karwacinski, from London, has always had a passion for all aspects of violin playing, both in ensembles and as a soloist. 

Chris is enjoying a wide-ranging career in orchestral playing and has performed with orchestras such as the BBC Philharmonic, Manchester Camerata, Sinfonia Viva, and British Sinfonietta playing a mixture of classical, period, and modern music. Chris has performed at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican, the Sage Gateshead, Symphony Hall Birmingham, and the Bridgewater Hall. 

Recent solo experiences include reaching the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) Norman George Violin Prize final and being selected to perform in a masterclass for Augustin Hadelich.

In addition to his work as second violinist of the Aestus Quartet, Chris is also a member of the Velaris Piano Quartet and Duo Stringendo, a violin and guitar duo. 

Chris recently completed his Master’s of Music in Violin Performance at the RNCM, with Professor Benedict Holland. He has a diverse academic background and achieved his undergraduate degree in Pure Mathematics at King’s College London, whilst simultaneously studying privately with violin professors Simon Fischer and John Crawford.

Chris is also a tuba player and has previously been principal tuba of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and principal E flat tubist of championship section band, Redbridge Brass.

Chris has a history of teaching both music and maths. This includes work as a music and maths teacher/coordinator at a St. Mary’s Hare Park Private School, running classes with the Brentwood Cathedral Song School, and tutoring mathematics privately from GCSE to foundation degree level. 

Chris currently plays a 1847 Giovanni Dollenz violin which is generously loaned to him by the RNCM.


Beth Willett, viola

United Kingdom

Beth is an enthusiastic chamber musician, most notably as the Violist in the Aestus and Innsӕi String Quartets. With these ensembles Beth has participated in prestigious international festivals, and has been prize-winner or finalist in several competitions. Alongside chamber music Beth is also a passionate orchestral musician who has performed with the UK’s leading orchestras, including the BBC Philharmonic, the Northern Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Collective, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Beth is committed to improving access to classical music and spent a year working with the Music in Secondary Schools Trust (MiSST), which brings free music tuition and musical instruments to secondary schools in areas that are considered to be socially and/or economically underserved. Beth also works with the Royal Northern College of Music’s Young Strings programme to deliver music tuition to young children aged 6-12. Beth particularly values this work for its creative approach to music tuition using the Dalcroze and Kodaly methods.

Beth completed both her postgraduate (2022) and undergraduate (2020) studies at the Royal Northern College of Music under the guidance of Vicci Wardman and Susie Mészáros, receiving a first-class result in both degrees. During her postgraduate studies Beth was generously supported by the Stephen Bell Charitable Trust and the Albert Cooper Music Trust, and received a generous scholarship from the RNCM.

Beth plays on a 2004 viola made by Kai-Thomas Roth.


Clara Hope Simpson, cello

Canada/United States

Clara Hope Simpson is a creative and versatile cellist who is passionate about both performance and teaching. She has performed as a soloist in venues including Wigmore Hall, Stoller Hall, and Kodak Hall. Clara won the 2021 Barbirolli Cello Prize for a performance that was applauded by Peter Dixon, Principal Cellist of the BBC Philharmonic, as “sensational” and symphonic in approach.  She additionally won the Musicales Prize at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), as well as the cello concerto competition at the Eastman School of Music. Clara has been awarded the Exceptional Global Talent Visa from Arts Council England. 

She has been principal cellist of numerous ensembles, collaborated with composers including Anna Thorvaldsdottir and Anna Clyne, attended chamber festivals across North America and England, and performed with groups including the Elias Quartet, Manchester Collective, and Manchester Camerata. Clara has studied Dalcroze and pedagogy, has taught cello extensively, and is an Ambassador with the Benedetti Foundation.

Clara holds a Master of Performance from the RNCM, a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music, a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from the University of Rochester, and entrepreneurial training from the Institute for Music Leadership. She is forever grateful for the support of her primary teachers: Hannah Roberts, Steven Doane, Rosemary Elliott, and Mara Finkelstein.

Clara plays a circa 1860 German Cello on generous loan from the Carlsen Cello Foundation and is grateful for the support of the Dorothy Stone Award. 



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