Our Team

Carole Bestvater, Director & Founder


Carole Bestvater founded the Strong Harbour Strings program after spending a long time thinking about and experiencing how music and community are connected.  After completing undergraduate studies at Brandon University in music, Carole moved to Providence, RI to participate in a unique Fellowship at Community Music Works.  CMW is an after school program hailed for its innovative approaches to music education and performance, and being part of the Fellowship inevitably steered Carole to initiate a project based on similar values and philosophies about music, education, and social change.

When Carole moved to St. John’s in 2011 to pursue graduate studies at Memorial University, the idea to start a community music program was already starting to develop.  As was always her vision, Carole created the Strong Harbour Strings Program, a program modeled closely after CMW.  Strong Harbour Strings is a mentoring artist program based in the belief that communities in need can be strengthened through the learning and sharing of music. Strong Harbour Strings endeavors to create equal access to music enrichment for children and youth, providing experiences that will inspire and impact the lives of everyone involved.

Arlan Vriens, Violinist/Violist


Arlan Vriens is a violin and viola performer and teacher based in St. John’s, NL. He performs regularly as the Associate Concertmaster of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. Since 2014, he has been a violin and viola teaching artist with the Strong Harbour Strings Program, a particularly rewarding part of a busy schedule.

Arlan holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in violin performance from the University of Alberta and Memorial University, respectively. Currently, he conducts ongoing research into historical violin pedagogy as a federally-funded student researcher at Memorial University.

Despite the notorious weather of St. John’s, Arlan’s upbringing in icy Edmonton, AB toughened him up enough not to complain. Most of the time.

Peter Ko, Cellist

peter koAs one might assume, perhaps, Peter Ko is a cellist (and not a “big-violin-ist”). He performs as the cellist of the Strataphoria String Quartet, a member of the NSO, and as a soloist. Hailing from the opposite corner of the continent, Peter made the move from San Diego to St. John’s to study at Memorial University with Dr. Vernon Regehr. Prior to this, Peter has had the unique opportunity to study at UCSD, one of the world’s forefront contemporary music institutions. There, he had the privilege of studying with pioneering cellists Ashley Walters, and the legendary Charles Curtis.

Along with his studies in all things music and beyond, Peter has maintained an active role as a teacher in his community. He has taught students of a wide range of skill and age, and was a proud member of the NYO New Youth Orchestra teaching faculty in San Diego. He finds teaching to be an enriching experience for both himself and the student.
Maria Cherwickmaria-cherwick
Music has taken Maria Cherwick from coast to coast and around the world as a performer of both classical and folk music. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Brandon University, and is currently pursuing her Masters of Music at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has performed with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, and is a member of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to classical violin, Maria is also well versed in a variety of styles of fiddle playing, including Ukrainian, Newfoundland, Irish, Scottish/Cape Breton, Old Time Canadian, and Bluegrass. She also writes her own tunes which draw elements from her many influences. You can find her performing frequently around St. John’s with a number of bands.
Daniel Fuchs
daniel-fuchs-photoDaniel Fuchs, Montreal-born violin performer and teacher, recently moved to St. John’s in order to pursue his Master’s degree at Memorial University. Since the completion of his undergraduate degree at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, Daniel has performed in numerous professional ensembles including the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, and currently performs regularly with the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra. Throughout his undergraduate studies, Daniel held numerous leadership roles and was appointed concertmaster of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, McGill Sinfonietta and Montreal Youth Orchestra. An avid chamber music player, Daniel has participated in several chamber music festivals such as the Toronto Summer Music Program and the Tuckamore Young Artist Program, during which he performed frequently, sharing the stage with notable musicians such as Mark Fewer and Jonathan Crow. Outside of classical music, Daniel is a member of ensemble Siach Hasadeh that arranges and performs traditional Jewish music from Eastern Europe. Daniel joined the team at Strong Harbour Strings in Fall 2016 where he enjoys sharing his passion for music through teaching.