YolanDa Brown - British Saxophonist and Broadcaster - 30
About YolanDa Brown
Life’s intended path is often affected by timing and sudden opportunity. The fortunes of YolanDa Brown, for example, although always driven by her talent, intelligence and facility to get things done, have at crucial moments offered up some unexpected options
As a child, she’d tried piano, violin, drums, oboe and more before settling on saxophone as the instrument closest to her own musical voice. Later, as an academic, she notched up two masters degrees in Operations Management, began a PhD and learned Spanish to fluency, only then veering decisively back to music when her part-time gigs as interval entertainment on London’s comedy circuit blossomed into a first sell-out solo concert at the Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars.
She’s christened her 2012 debut recording, with characteristic humour, ‘Posh Reggae’.
Aside from the awards and tours throughout the world, she has hosted her own shows on Sky, BBC Radio 2 and for British Airways’ in-flight entertainment. She’s been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of East London, has taken tea with the Queen and Prince Phillip and loves to drive fast cars around race tracks in her spare time.
It was great to see and hear YolanDa play in my home town and I am very appreciative that she took the time to come out to my place for this interview. A special thanks to Mat Taylor at Yamaha Australia for helping to coordinate this opporunity!
- Touring in Australia.
- Travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Coming to music after another career.
- Learning to play by ear.
- Working with a manager for early success.
- Using social for brand building.
- Balancing private life with visible professional activities.
- Playing what you want.
- Students challenging teachers.
- Thoughts on music exams.
- Working in TV and Radio.
- Communicating with the band.
- Developing a unique selling point.
- The satisfaction of winning over an audience.
- YolanDa’s Website
- YolanDa on Facebook
- YolanDa on Instagram
- Derek Brown Interview
- Apollo Bay, Australia.
Transcript of Podcast Interview with YolanDa Brown
Please enjoy the transcript of this podcast episode. With thousands of words in each episode it might contain a few A.I. typos and may also have been edited for clarity.
Barry Cockcroft 0:00
So YolanDa thank you very much for coming to my tiny little town here in Australia.
YolanDa Brown 0:05
Loving it, Absolutely loving it. Thank you.
Barry Cockcroft 0:08
It’s unusual for us to have, other than at the pub, a guitar and a vocalist, to have any musicians visit the town at all. So it’s been a real privilege to have you come.
YolanDa Brown 0:19
Oh, I didn’t know that. But no, we’ve been welcomed with, with open arms. And it’s been wonderful to do a workshop to start off with and then share our music with the school really, really good. And everyone was getting involved, which is good.
Barry Cockcroft 0:33
Obviously on tour around Australia. Yes. So you must be pretty busy with that. I’ve been a bit curious because obviously on the news, travel is getting questioned a bit now. How are you doing?
YolanDa Brown 0:45
You know, I’m taking it in my stride if that’s possible is I think it’s very easy, not just coronavirus, but with everything else that’s going on in the world. It’s very easy to sort of get your heart going in and start feeling fear I think you just have to trust that I’m meant to be here. I meant to meet you. I meant to be an Apollo Bay at the festivals and you know, have faith. So I trust that I’ll be safe. And my family.
Barry Cockcroft 1:16
As musicians, we really get to play in one place. You’re always moving somewhere else. My theory is that once someone has heard us they don’t want to hear us again. So we have to go somewhere else.
YolanDa Brown 1:26
They’ll never see us again.
Barry Cockcroft 1:31
Now, something that’s fascinating for me about your development really that I can’t decide whether you’ve done things backwards, or if everyone else has done things backwards, because you’ve come to music after studying other things.
YolanDa Brown 1:46
Barry Cockcroft 1:47
And you’ve developed your career, sort of by getting the gig and then working towards it and I think that’s fascinating. And also, I think we can learn a lot from that, because the mentality that I see a lot is practice, practice, practice, get as good as possible. And then maybe, maybe maybe we can play music. Yes. And that could be 10-15 years of work. And I really question that because not many people make it through. And it seems, from what I’ve heard of you that you’ve done things very differently. And perhaps you could describe that.
YolanDa Brown 2:21
Absolutely, yeah, I thought 15 years ago, I was going to be a management consultant. And I was studying a PhD in operations research at the University of Kent in England. And I always had music I played the piano from the age of six, went under the violin the drums and found the saxophone when I was 13. And before that, I had a very traditional musical upbringing. So you know, as you say, practice, practice grades, grades, grades, some recitals, but it really was about the lessons practice, do an exam. Move on to the next one.
And the 13 I asked my parents if I could play the saxophone, and the The school gave me the saxophone over Christmas holidays. So I learned to put it together knowing I was going to start my lessons in the January, let’s put it together started playing along with the radio workouts on Christmas carols made my way through the book. I played Pink Panther at the end of a guess when at the end of the book. And so when I started the lessons in the January, I went to the class and the teacher said, right, we’re gonna start page one, this is be as actually look what I can do. And I love playing along with this track.
My dad has a vinyl at home, let me show you. And it was almost like, the teacher went blank. Like, this is not what we were taught about teaching music. So she said, Okay, that’s great. So you could do grade five in that straightaway back to grades. So I did that past and got back to the lessons and she said right. Now that you are going to carry on you need to have grade five theory. This is following the English exam system. So we’re gonna Stop playing saxophone in the lessons and do the theory exams until we can take grade six. And I said, This doesn’t make any sense over Christmas holiday, I had so much joy of just playing for myself in the room. improvising. I didn’t know I was improvising at the time, but just finding tunes finding notes, how they fit together, how it made me feel. And none of that was being reciprocated in the lesson. And so I decided to stop learning with stop learning traditionally, and play for myself.
And music was always a hobby. So it wasn’t that I was thinking I was losing out on anything. In fact, I thought I was gaining I was able to play my feelings. express myself the way I wanted to with the instrument. And I never really saw it as a career. I don’t think I’d ever been exposed to seeing a musician come into my school like I’ve just done here at Apollo Bay and do a workshop or you know, show what it would mean to travel the world or you know, music is as a career. It was always a hobby, and over a holiday between it while doing my PhD, so we fast forwarded quite a lot. And I always had the saxophone. My parents bought me the saxophone, which was great. So I could take it with me to university, but it was a way to go to a jam session and meet people. It was never, never for, for studying, you know.
And then I met a band during a Christmas, sorry, during the summer holidays while I was doing my PhD and during the horn section, and over the summer, we played some festivals around London, and I thought this is really cool. I could do this. I could wake up every day and play the saxophone. This feels good. But then, feeling Limited is a difficult word but hearing things that I wanted to play, but couldn’t quite do it because technique is one thing that I had skipped. I was playing and technique was something that I just was picking up, you know. Almost like driving with bad habits, I was like the, you know, should be driving with your hands, it’s tended to like on the clock. Whereas instead I was just doing what I felt.
And the manager then said to me, You know, I can manage you as a solo artist, there’s definitely something here when when you’re playing, people are really enjoying enjoying the interaction. And so then we made the conscious effort to start building ulanda Brown bat brand. And, of course, then, I haven’t come through a conservator. I don’t know the music industry. I don’t know anybody in the music industry. We don’t know booking agents, we don’t know anything. And so we’ve had to grow an audience organically. And so that was there. 2007 we booked the Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars London, like a 700 capacity theater. And I’d been paying sort of variety shows if I can put it that way. comedy shows I’d be the musical interlude, and sort of really building up an audience that way and letting them know that I had this concert coming up, and it sold out. And we thought, Wow, so an audience here. Let’s try 900 seats and see what happens. And so a couple months later, we booked Kentucky Hall in Sloane Square. so wonderful.
We’re talking about acoustics. And with this beautiful room were in here, but in Cadogan Hall is a beautiful place to play. And 900 people turned up. And again, you just think there’s something here, you know, and bit by bit started building an audience and it’s not easy. It’s it’s organic. It’s, it’s different. Yes, as you say, because it’s not coming through the traditional channels. We don’t have a booking agent or a promoter that’s pushing. We did everything ourselves, but at the same time in this day and age with social media, back then I think all we had was MySpace.
You can actually then speak to your audience directly and let them know where you are. And sort of 15 years later, keeping on being an independent artists making my own music, recording my Music and just trying to shout as loud as possible from the rooftops that I’m here. It’s something different. It’s the style of music that feels natural to me. And for me music is about communicating. And so I just want to be able to communicate with an audience that wants to hear it. And luckily enough, it’s it’s been growing and growing, and I’m really enjoying it.
Barry Cockcroft 8:20
I did say on social media, you have a large following. Now, you’re not the first Brown I’ve had on this podcast. I’ve talked with Derek Brown in the States, and we had a lengthy conversation about building brand identity, particularly through social media channels, and Derek’s case, particularly through YouTube. How important has this aspect of building your identity been not just through music, but through the platforms that we have available?
YolanDa Brown 8:49
I think it’s important to stay connected. You know, now, with social media, the world is becoming a smaller place. So I can I was speaking to people in Australia before ever played in Australia, people were able to see the clips that I was putting on social media and in different countries before I’d ever played this. So when we’re setting off on tour, you can easily tell them, okay, people from Melbourne that I’ve been speaking to for six years, finally, I’m coming to you. And it’s really great because I signed CDs at the end of every show. And actually, you’re having conversations, people are coming to get the merchandise signed or to meet you. It’s a deeper thing of I enjoyed the show. Thank you so much for coming. It’s like, Oh, I saw when you posted about this, and how’s this going? And how they’re presenting? How’s the TV show going? You having a really in depth conversation? And I guess you feel that the audience know you a bit better
Barry Cockcroft 9:41
Are you surprised sometimes what people know about you?
YolanDa Brown 9:44
Yes, I think I am also very wary of social media. So for me, I like to communicate what I want to communicate. Now. I hold on very closely to my privacy. So I wouldn’t necessarily post about family or what I’m eating You know, that’s not how I choose to use social media. And I understand that when you do, you do get more followers because people do want to see the inside of your life. But at the same time when you want to close that door, you don’t always have the option. So, so yeah, so I am quite private in terms of my private life.
But of course, sharing where we are what we’re doing in different places around the world, that sometimes the only way some people get to see it, having a TV show and showing what’s behind the scenes and you know, where the cameras are and things like that. Some people have never been to a TV studio. So that’s lovely. And so the conversations do direct towards my work and my career. But it is lovely to know that people see what I’m doing on a day to day basis.
Barry Cockcroft 10:44
I’ve been really interested lately in this idea of the reclusive musician, because I think musicians need some peace and quiet to work on their craft. And it’s this irony of you have to have some time alone, before you can stand in front of hundreds of people. So you’ve got this dual character where you need alone time but you also need this very public persona where people following you and essentially paying you as well. Yeah, it’s an important part of it. Like for me it’s very important turn off things. I’m working on some music I don’t really want some interruptions. It’s hard enough to find a bit of time that’s quiet anyway. So turn things off. How do you approach your involvement with that?
YolanDa Brown 11:30
For me, it’s having the work me and a home me. And in music there is a work me in home me too. As I say, my sort of journey in learning the saxophone and learning my voice has been the reclusive person anyway, because that’s been me in my room, playing my emotion or and transcribing very, very rarely was transcribing a solo or playing along to a song that I like. That is my alone time. I don’t necessarily put that on the stage. And the same with social media, I have a family I have two daughters, I’ve got a seven week old, and a six, a six year old. And so that’s my my home and husband of course.
And you know, that’s my home time. And I think it’s important to have have that balance, we call it work life balance, don’t we, and that it’s the same in music, you you have the music that you create, for others, to enjoy and to, to be involved with and to interpret. But you can also have a music time that is for you, where you’re trying out something new or just looking out a beautiful window like here playing, what’s the scene, whatever comes out comes out, it’s not recorded, it’s not. It’s not going to be used for anything. It’s just for that moment. And if you can have both of those, I think you can maintain quite a happy existence is when they bleed into each other or you lose one that.
Barry Cockcroft 13:00
I got to hear you play this morning — live — which was wonderful. And it seemed to me that, although you’re improvising, that seems too formal the time, it seems exactly that you’re playing what you feel like. Yeah. And that seems different. Improvisation sounds like something you would go and do. Whereas Playing how you feel something you might express. And I like the way that you just weave the ideas that come to you into what you’re playing at the time. Would you say that’s your style? Is that your thing? I think it is
YolanDa Brown 13:30
Yeah, I think I see the saxophone is my voice. And having said about the instrument that I played, or was introduced to growing up the piano, the drums, the violin, playing the saxophone, the only distinguishable feeling I could ascertain was that everything I was playing on was playing on the piano and I had to find the room where the piano was and make sure that I had that time and they had to leave it when you know someone else wanted to play or being queued for dinner or something like that. The same with the drums. You can’t play at this time. Or you have to go to the drum room or have to be at home. Where’s the saxophone, it was portable For a start, that was new for me. I had to use my wind to to make a sound. And then it instantly became a voice.
And so I think I’ve always played in a way the lyrics are in my head, but the the sound and the notes that come out are what I would be saying. So it wouldn’t necessarily sound like an improvised solo, but it’s me speaking, you know? And I guess yeah, that is my style. And it’s something that in workshops, I like to try with musicians because we are taught formulaically, how to play music. It’s this chord and you can play these notes and then you can mix it with this. But actually, what if you just wanted to make a squeak? That there is no notation for that? You know, what if you just wanted to play a sub don’t just have the sound of air for a moment in a solo? How do we How do we express that? When when we’re taught, there’s no, there’s no reason why that can’t be part of the music.
And so for me that that that is the style that I taught myself, I guess and how I how I, the sound that came out when I play the saxophone. And that’s what I tried to recreate, especially for this beginner level that I met today, for example, they had one lesson, they’ve bought me over from England to do a workshop for an hour with 25 children that have only had the instrument for one lesson. Some haven’t even played it yet. There’s no reason why we can’t make music together. And by the end of it, they were doing trills. They were bad. They were playing whatever they felt.
They might not know the names of the notes, but the sound that they were making was joyful. They felt that they were putting a stamp on to the base that the band was playing, they got to play with the band and for me, that is making music because You can inhibit that sometimes when it’s like, well, you can’t play with the band just yet. You’re not quite ready. You know, let’s go and play the for 25 minutes. And I think there are different ways to learn. And it was wonderful to see them trying something new and putting themselves out there.
Barry Cockcroft 16:15
Do you think your own experience of being held back a little bit by your first teacher, or being not held back so much, but as being sort of funneled into a traditional model? How do we balance the structure of traditional learning with the freedom of creativity? And would you have anything to say to teachers. What should I do when a student comes along? Who needs that bit of space?
YolanDa Brown 16:39
Exactly, and that’s exactly it. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Some people do respond better to traditional sense of music making but when a student comes along, that you can see is outside of that remit or sort of the joy leaves their eyes. Stop saying, play this game. I think it’s important to balance both because you do need the technique and you do need the discipline. And you do need that traditional form of, of music, making that basis, the tools to be able to express yourself. Because there are times when I have to go back and research something, because I can hear it in my mind is something I want to say, but my fingers won’t do it, or my embouchure won’t do it or whatever. So we need to have a balance of both.
And I think for the teachers, I speak a lot of teaching conferences, especially for music and we always have to tap back into what brought us to music in the first place. What made us fall in love with music in the first place. And many times it can be, you know, imagine your most joyful moments listening to music could be at a wedding. It could be when you were doing your first dance or it could have been when you were playing in an orchestra. But when you get back to the passion and the joy that you have And music. It will allow you to sort of go off course golf piece for a little bit because you know that the the main lesson learning is happening. I think that with teachers they’re worried about am i have i ticked off everything that’s meant to be happening in the syllabus or you know, have I gone through every single page and done done it in the exact order that they’ve prescribed.
Today we were learning staccato, you know, in a book, there might be some exercises you play, follow these tunes and follow this notation. But why can’t we go outside for a minute with our instruments and pretend that we’re frogs leaping across the river with a set of 10 year olds who are just picking up their instrument, they will always remember that, you know, not saying that. I think it’s just finding diverse ways to learn, also keeps our young people engaged and keeps beginners who are who are trying to reach out for those wonderful sounds that they have And have inspired them to stay engaged. because music is not always easy. You know, there are times when you have to push through, there are times when you have to try different things to learn it, you might have to change your equipment or whatever.
So to make it fun for a moment, would keep them engaged. And I think that when I look back now, to my lessons, if there was at least one lesson, a month, where it was like this is jam time, you know, we’re going to do all the normal stuff, but this In this lesson, you can dictate what you want to do, or I’m going to bring in a drummer and you just jam along for half an hour. Maybe I would have stayed, I don’t know. But you do have to sort of tailor I think tailor music making to the individual.
Barry Cockcroft 19:48
The UK is responsible for something like half of the world’s music exams. Is there space in in the UK for what you’re talking about, or is it a really dominant system that doesn’t leave much room to move.
I believe so. And I think that we’re in a time now, where we’re understanding that people work in different ways. I think that’s another thing. You can’t just teach one way and expect everybody to go down that route. And now there are different ways to learn. There are different organizations you can join different groups that you could learn from. So I know I have faith, I believe, I believe that I believe that there will be a time where, you know, people can learn in different ways. There are jazz grades now, not just classical grades, you know, so we’re moving towards a time where, yeah, different different needs.
I guess the other development too is the inclusion of improvisation inside of a formal exam. Yeah. That’s interesting. Does it belong there? Or is improvisation really something that should be done spontaneously with people?
YolanDa Brown 20:55
Yeah. That was always a question I had, you know, even when we used to Rap poetry growing up. How do you judge a piece of poetry unless you’re told, you need to write this in Roman couplet, so you need to, you know, write it in stanzas or four lines. You know, if you’re given a set directive of how you’re meant to do something, then you can judge it. But if it’s just write a poem, someone could write a tree full stop. And that could be a worldwide poem. That could be award winning for him. But you might get an F for that on a GCSE. So I think there are, it’s quite hard to grade improvisation unless you’re saying, This is this chord structure and I want you to follow it. It’s hard to grade improvisation. I think if you’re talking about expression. We’re talking about traditional improvisation then of course, but expression is a different thing. And I think it’s quite hard to look around.
Barry Cockcroft 21:59
Perhaps we don’t have the right to judge or assess someone’s creative efforts like that.
YolanDa Brown 22:05
Yeah. And I think we are living in a world where there’s so many different types of people, different backgrounds, different lived experiences. And you can choose where you want to hear music. So, you know, if something’s not jazz enough, or something’s not bluesy enough or not classical enough, it’s fine. But there might be an audience for that. And let the audience enjoy it. You know, if we’re talking about industry, and there is space, I believe, for every every music maker, because you will find an audience that likes to hear it. And that’s the audience that you play to.
Barry Cockcroft 22:41
Now you’ve got a band touring with you, a wonderful band, and I noticed on stage you interact a lot with the different musicians. Often individually, you’ll take it into and work your way around. Is that to highlight them or is it to give you something to feed off? I mean, what’s your approach with that?
YolanDa Brown 23:00
For the performance we just did, I think I did it more for the students to hear all of the instruments. And so in a concert of course, based in jazz as well, everyone will get a solo. Or if some feels like a piano solo, you know, point the finger of doom at my piano player and he’ll take off. So yeah, it was a lot more concentrated and what you saw at the school but I think it is important because we have our setlist but actually what we’ve been through that day traveling for hours on the road to Melbourne or I don’t know, turned on the news and heard that there’s the outbreak is even worse, will we be living in Sydney for the next couple of weeks. All of those things come out in our music.
So whether when we play the head of the song, I can feel I can kind of I can feel the energy of the band and somebody might have something to say, Rick on base might have something to say so say it, you know, and I think that’s when No two shows are the same. Even though we have our setlist even though we have the album repertoire to play, no two shows are the same. We have an audience that are coming for that particular event. And it’s nice and actually it helps me because I when I meet people at the NSA, this is my sixth show this year and I’m like, Oh, God, we could change that the setlist. But for them, the show is different every time because everybody’s got something different to say everybody’s going through something different. So it’s nice that way. It’s nice that everyone should get their moment to speak.
Barry Cockcroft 24:36
Now you’ve branched out into other forms of media besides playing the saxophone. How important has that been; one to your profile as a musician, but perhaps the other way around as well? Does your saxophone playing affect your TV personality and your following?
YolanDa Brown 24:52
Yes, I guess the saxophone playing got me the jobs in the first place which is wonderful to know because I never seen Or as I say, as a as a career. So the fact that becoming a musician and choosing to go full time as a full time musician has birthed all these other careers has been has been great to know, I guess as well unprecedented because I don’t know, I wasn’t following anybody else’s path like I can become a jazz musician, and that’s gonna lead to that, but at least for that, we’re just rolling with it. So even you know, playing at the Proms, for example, in London. And the film crew came and said, they wanted me to film a short VTX about the art of performing. And this had nothing to do with saxophone playing I do I take my saxophone with me, No, leave that at home. This is a presenting job. And I did that I really enjoyed it.
I guess communicating in a similar way as I would on the saxophone with an audience but through speech, something I haven’t had to do before. I do speak a lot on stage though, and I like to explain to an audience what the songs about where I’m going to be going with it and then follow me because I have no words. So it was nice to be able to speak down down the lens. And from that his whole broadcast career has just blossomed. And I love it. I really do, from presenting TV shows, like gospel choir of the year or young jazz musician for the BBC, and through to getting my own TV show for children.
And it’s wonderful actually, that those two worlds collide because it’s a music based show for preschool, age and upwards. And to be able to present and speak and show passion and joy for other people’s music making, but also be able to make music myself I play the saxophone on the show, have a house band and we have a special guest Come and join us so the person could play any instruments. We’ve had the sitar, the harmonica through two traditional instruments, the piano violin drums, the didgeridoo we’ve had. And it’s lovely to be able to give back as you know, I do workshops wherever I go. So it’s lovely to be able to do that through the TV screen and of course, reach more people bydoing that.
Barry Cockcroft 27:10
Now I’ve got a few rapid fire questions that I love to ask everybody. Everyone’s got a different way of answering the same question. So is there anything that you believe that other people disagree with? Oh,
YolanDa Brown 27:23
Oh goodness – rapid fire.
Other people disagree with?
Unknown Speaker 27:29
Well, I’m thinking musically.
YolanDa Brown 27:31
Musically, all right. Well, I believe that it’s kind of on a statement you said, yes, you should continue to build yourself practice practice, but I believe that you should share along the way, and that goes into my entire life as well. You don’t have to wait to be a multimillionaire to give back. You can give back along the way. So I think music is about sharing. We are creatives share with the audience along the way.
Barry Cockcroft 27:58
If you could only play One Piece now on which piece would that be?
YolanDa Brown 28:03
Oh, that’s an interesting one. I never think of music in pieces. I just think of it as it could be a long improvised piece. So, I’m going to say, I’m going to say Summertime actually, and with many interpretations
Barry Cockcroft 28:23
As you demonstrated before!
If you just had one hour to practice, how would you spend your time?
YolanDa Brown 28:31
One hour to practice? If I was here in this room, it also depends where I am actually. Because practice is always different depending on where you are. If I was here, and looking at the ocean, I probably start with some long notes just to get some nice, calming breaths out. If I only had one hour, I just play what I felt, I wouldn’t stress on myself.
Barry Cockcroft 28:58
So it would be Improvised.
YolanDa Brown 28:59
Yes it would be immprovised.
Barry Cockcroft 29:00
Now if we learn from our mistakes, is it okay to make mistakes?
YolanDa Brown 29:04
Absolutly. Yeah. And if you believe in jazz, none of it was ever mistake.
Barry Cockcroft 29:12
Before you walk on stage, is there anything that you do personally that will help you to perform at your best?
YolanDa Brown 29:20
Hmm. Take a deep breath. Take a deep breath and don’t think about anything else. Because I find that everything is so subjective. Who’s in the front row. ogling at you can change if you’re thinking about that can change how you play. As you know, I play with amplification, mostly because we play in concert halls or festivals or whatever. So the sound might have changed. My ears might have changed depending on how long I’ve had to prepare. So it’s just take a deep breath. Knowing that whatever when you go out there, it might be totally different. But be in the moment
Barry Cockcroft 29:58
Being on tour, I guess you saying have different situations all the time. What’s the most unusual situation you’ve come across while you’ve been playing?
YolanDa Brown 30:05
I love these questions. And sorry to cut you. But you know, these questions are… when when it happens when something like that happened. Someone’s gonna ask me about this one day. I think the thing that I love most, probably changing the question a bit, but I love when an audience member I can see everybody in the audience and I can see audience members that aren’t quite converted yet thinking. It doesn’t really play jazz. I don’t really get it what what I’m hearing because my wife is dragged me.
And then by sort of some three, when their faces start to change, and they relax into anything like this, and then by the last song, they’re up and dancing. I think that transition is a lovely thing that I love to see
Barry Cockcroft 30:51
Resistance is futile.
YolanDa Brown 30:53
This is it, this is it.
Barry Cockcroft 30:56
Now looking back, is there a piece of advice you could give your young yourself that you would have loved to have heard?
YolanDa Brown 31:02
Yeah, I think I would have just stayed with my teacher. Everything that I’ve done of course I never thought I’d be a musician so it was always a hobby. And I could just play what I learned this a hobby is there’s no pressure now that it’s a career and I think I could have always learned the way that I could have taught myself the way I’ve taught myself and still stayed in the traditional music making it doesn’t have to be either or, and that’s what I’m telling students now. It doesn’t have to be either or do what you’re doing and then on the outside if it if it’s not embraced where you are, either move somewhere else or do it in your spare time is enough time to go round.
Barry Cockcroft 31:49
Do you think it takes a student with a lot of individuality and self belief, to be able to question the authority their teachers like that?
YolanDa Brown 31:58
Maybe there is actually musicians do. Yeah,
Barry Cockcroft 32:01
You know, it’s what a musician is.
YolanDa Brown 32:03
Yah. When a musician, and I’m talking about a performing musician that cuts through, they are that because they’ve decided to go against all the odds, otherwise, we will be playing the same piece of music. You know, I was like my dad had promoted some concepts in Spain and he brought Michelle Camilla, over to to play in the National Theatre. And I remember him saying to me, practice all that you can now because when you start touring, you don’t get that freedom. And it washed over my head, you know, but actually, you can do when you’re in the midst of learning so to speak. You can do whatever you want. You can go to a lesson, have the lesson as the lesson is planned, and outside do make whatever music you want to make and learn from both, you know, so yeah, I think there’s space for both.
Barry Cockcroft 32:53
I have to ask you this because I think you kind of exemplify this idea. Do you have something that you could advise other saxophone players as to how they can differentiate themselves? Beacuase, I come from a classical music background, and there’s a certain sort of generic playing that we all share, and then to actually differentiate yourself and be different and unique and attract an audience is the big question. Is there anything that you’ve found or you could advise to people developing that could help them stand out from the crowd?
YolanDa Brown 33:27
Yeah, I think what you know, when I was studying Management Science before that was studying business and when you think of a product, and it’s so strange to think of yourself that way, but if, if your dream is to become a touring musician and your own rights and be the headliner of your brand, you have to start thinking of yourself as a product and it’s the weirdest thing because we’re creatives you know, we were talking about making music and and making it the best piece of music.
It can be but for the consumer, sometimes they don’t care, which is a really horrible thing to say, but I’m going to tell you the truth. They don’t care how many hours you’ve practiced. They want a product that they can buy into. They know what they’re going to get, and they can enjoy it be a classical, VHS beat, whatever. So you have to find your unique selling point. You know, I met a wonderful young classical saxophonist in in London recently. And he was saying to me, I’m just I’m just trying to get the purest sound I can get. And I said, That’s fantastic. What’s your dreams? I want to be a touring musician. I want to play in all the concert halls around the world. So I said, Okay. He said, I’ve got to get this pure sound first. So if you stay home and try and get that pure sound life is gonna pass you by it. There’s no reason why you cannot tour and still find the pure sound on your days off. If that’s what you want to do.
So what is your unique selling point then? You know, and he has. He had Oh, wonderful. unique selling point in the fact that of his age number one of the repertoire that he played in the people that he played for, and it could be could brand himself up in a way. And we do have to put our business heads on is called the music business for a reason. There’s a business side to it. And it feels crude sometimes. And you know, now I have a wonderful team around me from managers to booking agents. And if we’re in a planning meeting, I’m talking about YolanDa Brown with a capital D. I’m not taking any offense. You know, I’m talking about the brand. But then when I go home, I get to practice and they’re not involved in any of that. So I think my words of advice is, yes, the music is important. Your sound is important, the practice is important. But as much time and energy that you spent on that is the same amount, if not more time, you need to spend on creating a product and a brand and the persona that an audience would want to buy into. Why would they want to buy tickets to your show, if they have See how many hours you practice? That’s not. That’s not what they’re seeing. They’re seeing a poster. They’re seeing interviews. They’re seeing your personality and your persona. And how do you get that across to them as quickly as possible
Barry Cockcroft 36:10
That is great advice.
YolanDa Brown 36:11
Barry Cockcroft 36:12
And YolanDa, thank you very much for taking some time out of your busy touring schedule to speak to us.