For some, worldwide touring and critically acclaimed albums would be satisfaction enough. Not for YolanDa Brown, she wears many hats, musician, broadcaster, author, philanthropist and wears them… with passion and full of vigour.
YolanDa is a double MOBO Award winning saxophonist and composer, her music is a delicious fusion of reggae, jazz and soul. She is currently composing music for the iconic Sesame Street and an animated series called Bea’s Block, as well as Netflix for CocoMelon Lane.
She has toured with The Temptations, Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, Beverley Knight, Billy Ocean and collaborated with artists such as Snarky Puppy’s Bill Laurance, Omar, Kelly Jones from Stereophonics and Rick Astley.
A champion for the importance of music education, YolanDa is Chair of Youth Music, on the national council of the Arts Council, a trustee of PRS Foundation, an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and London Music Fund, a champion for the children’s mental health charity Place2Be. She also sits on the advisory board of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Six by Southbank for the Southbank Centre.
The Department of Education and DCMS in 2021, invited YolanDa to sit on the advisory panel for the National Plan for Music Education, published in June 2022 to positive response. “My dream is that EVERY child has access to music making and benefits from the joy that music emits. The NPME will in many ways support this; from the young child having their first musical experience, to the next generation of aspiring musicians who need to be inspired and motivated to pursue the plethora of career opportunities within the music industry.”
During the pandemic with Sony Music and Twinkl, YolanDa rolled out her bespoke online music lesson plans for teachers, parents and pupils in primary schools nationwide, over 30 000 children have used the resources. In 2018 along with James JP Drake, she launched the "Drake YolanDa Award" offering grants to emerging musicians between the ages of 16 – 30.
YolanDa graduated with first class honours studying an Undergraduate Masters degree in Operations management from the University of Kent, followed by a Masters in Methods of Social Research, she studied a PhD in Management Science for four years, before taking a hiatus from her thesis to pursue her music career. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the University of East London in 2011.
An eclectic broadcaster working across TV and Radio, including her eponymous series for CBeebies, "YolanDa’s Band Jam", which won the Royal Television Society NW award as Best Children’s Programme. For the BBC Proms she hosted the Ella and Dizzy Centenary, as well as Last night of the Proms, Gospel Choir of the Year and Songs of Praise for BBC One and BBC Young Jazz Musician of the year. Host of the London Philharmonic Orchestra podcast Offstage, which was nominated for a 2022 British Podcast Award.
Over on the airways, she hosts YolanDa Brown on Saturday on Jazz FM and BBC Radio 4’s ‘Loose Ends’ with Clive Anderson, can be heard regularly on BBC Radio 2 or on the plane as part of British Airways inflight entertainment.
You may have also spotted her flexing her general knowledge muscles on such shows as ‘University Challenge’, ‘The Hit List’, Richard Osman’s ‘House of Games’, ‘Celebrity Mastermind’, ‘Pointless Celebrities’ and Gareth Malone’s ‘All Star Music Quiz’. She even got to indulge her other passion of classic cars on ‘Celebrity Antiques Road Trip’, scouring the country for hidden treasures.
An entrepreneur too, she launched the “London Saxophone Festival” in 2018, currently in its third edition. YolanDa loves to drive fast cars around race tracks in her spare time and can even rattle off a Rubik’s Cube in around five minutes (on a good day).