Robert Ibell was born in Dannevirke and brought up in Palmerston North. He began learning cello at Saturday Morning Music Classes, and played in the Manawatu Youth Orchestra and Manawatu Sinfonia. While training as a school teacher in Palmerston North he learned cello from Judith Hyatt in Wellington.
From 1986 to 1992 Robert lived in London, studying cello with Tania Hunt, Derek Simpson and Christopher Bunting. He played at music schools and in masterclasses (where his teachers included Alexander Baillie, Steve Doane, Anner Bylsma and Steven Isserlis), taught, gave recitals and played in professional and amateur orchestras.
Since 1993 Robert has been a member of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. He teaches cello and is an experienced chamber musician. He is a member of the Aroha Quartet, square piano and cello duo Hammers & Horsehair, and contemporary music group Stroma. Robert is also a member of indie/folk/rock band Milkthistle. He performs regularly in lunchtime concert series and for Chamber Music NZ, and is a Recording Artist for Radio NZ Concert.
Rachel Thomson enjoys a varied career as a chamber musician, teacher and collaborative pianist. She began her piano studies with her mother before continuing with Judith Clark, going on to complete a B.Mus (Hons) and a BA in English Literature at Victoria University. As a recipient of both an Arts Council grant and a Fulbright Graduate Award, she went on to study at the Cleveland Institute of Music, gaining a Masters then Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance.
Rachel has won various awards both at home and in the United States, including the NZ National Concerto Competition (1993) and the East Central Division of the MTNA Young Artist Competition (USA, 1997). However her heart has always been in collaborative work, with part of her overseas study specialising in piano duo. Chamber music continues to be one of the most enjoyable elements of her career, and since her return to New Zealand Rachel has been part of a number of ensembles to tour under the auspices of Chamber Music New Zealand. More recently she has formed the Koru Trio, a piano trio with NZSO members Anne Loeser and Sally Isaac.
Rachel has been a national recording artist for Concert FM, and also recorded for Trust Records with flutist Bridget Douglas. She has worked as an orchestral pianist with the NZSO for many years, and has also worked with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington. She runs a busy teaching studio in Wellington, and is an active member of the IRMTNZ.