Meet the Team

NEFS Directors

Stewart Hardy

Stewart is renowned as one of the top fiddle tutors in the UK. He is both classically trained and steeped in the traditional music of Northumberland & Scotland, which is reflected in his approach to teaching and performing. In great demand as both a private tutor, and as a workshop leader, Stewart can be found teaching across the UK and beyond, leading regular and one-off workshops, tutoring on Summer Schools and leading projects in schools. It has been a long-term aim to deliver regular, high-quality fiddle classes in the region, and to develop strong pedagogic practice amongst tutors, nurturing and celebrating the fiddle tradition of the North East of England; thus was the North East Fiddle School born.

Ali Say

Ali is a familiar face in fiddle workshops and groups across the region, but is probably best known for aiding with the administration of these projects! With a life-long interest in folk music & dance she took up the fiddle as an adult, and has enjoyed being an active participant in workshops, lessons and ensembles ever since. She is the very proud three-times holder of both the Morpeth and Rothbury Traditional Open Fiddle titles, and enjoys her leadership role with the Tyneside Fiddle Alliance. However, with an eye for detail and some knowledge of websites and social media, it is her administration skills & support that have helped Stewart make his North East Fiddle School dream a reality.

NEFS Tutors

Grace Smith

Credit: Camilla Greenwell

Grace is a dedicated music educator and is in high demand as a tutor. She has taught in many settings for a wide range of ages and experience levels, including for North East Fiddle School, National Youth Folk Ensemble, Newcastle University, Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Company, Fosbrook Folk Education Trust, music hubs and schools across the country, and worked as Producer for the 2023 Folkworks Youth and Junior Summer Schools, and Musical Director for the courses in 2024. Grace has a PGCEi in Group Instrumental Teaching from Music Masters, as well as a MMus in Music and BMus in Folk & Traditional Music both from Newcastle University, and she is committed to always developing her teaching practice through learning. 

As a performer, she can be seen with her own band, the Grace Smith Trio; their debut album Overleaf has had a great critical receptionShe is also part of French-inspired dance band, Cri du Canard, as well as playing with Katie Doherty & the Navigators. Between 2015 and 2022, Grace performed at festivals and venues across Europe with Monster Ceilidh Band, including Rudolstadt Festival (Germany), Festival des Traversées Tatihou (France), and a live performance on BBC Radio 3.
Facebook: @GraceSmithMusic
Instagram: @GraceSmithMusic
Twitter: @GSmithMusic

“If you’re looking for the exciting future of instrumental folk music, you need search no further.”

Folk Radio UK on Overleaf by Grace Smith Trio.

Kevin Lees

Kevin Lees grew up on the vibrant Newcastle folk scene having learnt classical violin since he was seven years old. With an upbringing in Scottish Folk Dance traditions and strong guidance from local musicians Kathryn Tickell and Stewart Hardy, Kevin quickly developed an ear for different genres and traditions in fiddle music and dance. His appetite for fiddle exploration didn’t stop on the Folk Music Degree in Newcastle, where he took an exchange over to Odense, Denmark to further develop his stylistic repertoire. Now, having relocated to Odense, with a Master in Folk Music in hand, Kevin is constantly exploring new traditions, embarking on further challenging projects, and passing on the music that he has so far learned, played and enjoyed.
Kevin’s YouTube Channel
The Good Tune YouTube Channel – with Sebastian Bloch

Chris Meredith

Chris Meredith grew up in the highlands of Scotland and learned from students of the late great Donald Riddle. His playing is rooted in the Scottish traditions, but imbibes many of the styles he was exposed to as part of the Newcastle Folk and Traditional Music Degree. More recently, Chris has taken up several residencies with The Belta Reivers, a folk group curating music from these isles.

The Belta Reivers – Facebook page

Niles Krieger

Niles is an experienced, enthusiastic and genre-spanning multi-instrumentalist specialising in American roots music on the fiddle, mandolin and guitar. He currently tours with Newcastle-based progressive bluegrass band The Often Herd and alternative singer/songwriter Liam Fender, while also lending his skills to several other artists as a session musician. As a tutor, he regularly leads group sessions for all ages at The Glasshouse (formerly Sage Gateshead), Core Music Hexham, Newcastle University and other venues throughout the North East and has also delivered workshops at Sore Fingers Summer School and various folk and bluegrass festivals throughout the UK and Northern Europe.
While Niles is most often seen playing bluegrass/country on the fiddle, his musical interests encompass a wide spectrum of styles and he has worked on projects that incorporate folk, blues, pop, rock, classical and improvisation.

The Often Herd – Facebook page
Niles on SoundCloud

Guest and Previous Tutors

Melissa Whitehead

Originally from the Highlands of Scotland, Melissa Whitehead is a graduate of the Newcastle University Folk Degree course. After developing a love of teaching at a young age Melissa went on to study instrumental teaching at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and now works as a private violin and fiddle tutor in the Newcastle area.

Sophy Ball

A truly wonderful performer and teacher, Sophy Ball is in extremely high demand in all aspects of fiddle playing. This sadly prevents her from being a regular tutor at North East Fiddle School, but we are delighted that she has agreed to Guest Tutor on several occasions, and she is always extremely warmly welcomed by the course participants.

Jim Boyle

Jim Boyle graduated from the University of Newcastle in 2010 and has gone on to make a name for himself as a highly respected English folk fiddle player and teacher. Working with many different musicians, his latest duo work with Dave Grey is a highly recommended listen. Jim has also recently been working with to provide instructional videos, and as part of the Urban Folk Sessions in Newcastle on a Sunday evening.