Interview: Sarah Ioannides

The Conductor

Photo courtesy Mark OlenckiAustralian-born conductor Sarah Ioannides grew up in the United Kingdom playing numerous musical instruments, including violin. Her talent earned her a chair in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. She earned master’s degrees from Oxford University and Juilliard School of Music before becoming the music director at Tacoma Symphony Orchestra. We asked Ioannides to put down her baton and tell us a little about her life.

Q: You play many instruments. How did you get your start?
A: Piano was my first instrument, of course before that one learns to sing as a kid. From there the recorder … That developed alongside the opportunity to start violin lessons when I was 7, and piano already at 6, and shortly after that I was interested in playing brass instruments.

Q: It seems a lot of children are forced by parents to play music; was it that way for you?
A: It was definitely my choice. In fact I ended up giving up the piano for a while to focus on other instruments, and that was the one I wish I had kept up. As a conductor, score reading is very important and of course I do still play the piano and score read, but I think I’d be much better if I hadn’t missed those four or five years of my youth.

Q: What kind of music is on your playlist?
A: My playlist is focused in a variety of directions and most of it is work-related. I am also interested in women. I am interested in everything from Broadway to jazz; I’m also a big fan of Queen (and) Madonna.

Q: Are your kids musically inclined like you?
A: Yes … (Music) inspires children. It gives them confidence, it gives them a new skill, (and) it introduces them to concepts of math and, obviously, fine motor skills.

Q: You attended Juilliard School of Music, which has a reputation for greatness, but also for presenting an immense challenge to students. Describe that experience in one word?
A: Honor. You are surrounded by incredible high-level musicians from all over the world … You know most of these musicians will go on to do great things, and most of them absolutely do.

Q: What can we look forward to at the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra? 
A: We are doing “Water Passion After St. Matthew.” Water Passion is literally a piece using water as an instrument. We are also doing a U.S. premier of Django Reinhardt’s music … (with) Grammy award winners (and) local talent. We are going to expand our classics programs to Gig Harbor.

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is a staff writer at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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