Saxophonist YolanDa Brown ‘honoured’ to become OBE after ‘pivotal’ year

Saxophonist and broadcaster YolanDa Brown has said she is “excited and honoured” to have been made an OBE in the New Year Honours list.

The 40-year-old, the winner of two Mobo Awards, is honoured for her services to music, music education and broadcasting.

Originally from Barking in London, her music brings together reggae, jazz and soul, and she has collaborated with acts such as Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, Stereophonics frontman Kelly Jones and Rick Astley.

In July, she was appointed chairwoman of the British Phonographic Industry, which represents UK record labels and organises The Brit Awards and the Mercury Prize.

Brown told the PA news agency: “It means a lot to me.

“Being an independent artist to start out with and really building a career that there was no blueprint for.

“To some people it didn’t make sense why I was doing so many different things but it’s lovely to know that that recognition has come across the board.

“That is me really, and I can hope to continue to do it.”

Brown said the honour means “even more” because it comes after a year she described as a “pivotal turning point” in her life.

Referring to the pandemic, she added: “As a musician having to be at home and not being able to tour was really hard.

“Not just because we weren’t on the road, but also I feel that it’s part of my communication, part of what I need to do, so to be back on the road was amazing.

“And at the same time of having that emotion of being back on stage and talking to an audience, I could see the audience needing it, too.

YolanDa Brown show announcement
YolanDa Brown outside the Southbank Centre in London (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“They had been missing going out and hearing live performances, so to do that with my YolanDa’s Band Jam show (for kids) and my adult show was wonderful.”

Brown, who is also chairwoman of the Youth Music national charity, praised the body for “making a difference and impact” and “filling those gaps” where schools cannot provide music education.

“I think it’s really important because there is a power in music,” she added.

“It sounds cliche but there is a power of music that just breaks through anything else that’s going on in the world.”

Brown is also an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and London Music Fund and sits on the advisory board of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

During the pandemic, she offered bespoke online music lesson plans to teachers, parents and pupils in primary schools nationwide, with an estimated 30,000 children using the resource.

Her work extends further, with her recently composing music for Sesame Street, an animated series called Bea’s Block, and the Netflix series CoComelon Lane.

As a broadcaster, she has hosted various programmes including Gospel Choir Of The Year for BBC One and the BBC Young Jazz Musician annual award.

Outside music, her hobbies include fast cars – she dreamt of being a racing driver as a young girl.