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Iona Brown Edit Profile

violinist , Orchestra director

Iona Brown, OBE, was a British violinist and conductor.


Elizabeth Iona Brown was born in Salisbury and was educated at Cranborne Chase school, Dorset.


Studied with Hugh Maguire, London, Remy Principe, Rome, Henryk Szeryng, France.


Her parents, Antony and Fiona, were both musicians. From 1963 to 1966, Brown played violin in the Philharmonia Orchestra. In 1964, she joined the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, working her way up through the ranks to become leader, solo violinist and director in 1974.

She formally left the Academy in 1980, but continued to work with them for the rest of her life. In 1981, she was appointed artistic director of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. She directed the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra from 1987 to 1992.

She was dismissed as conductor because of an inability to commit to more than six weeks per season with the orchestra due to her other posts, a decision she protested. Brown ultimately returned as the orchestra's principal conductor from 1995 to 1997 following a change in the orchestra's leadership. From 1985 to 1989, she was guest director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

As her health declined and her arthritis progressed, she shifted her focus from the violin to conducting, ending her violin career in 1998. In her last years, she was chief conductor of the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra of Denmark. From 1968 to 2004, Brown's principal residence was in the Wiltshire village of Bowerchalke.

When she took part in the BBC Radio 4 program Kaleidoscope, explaining how hard it was to play her signature piece The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams, she said that the singing of larks she heard during long walks on nearby Marleycombe Down influenced the way she played it. She died of cancer in 2004 at age 63 in Salisbury.


  • She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1986, and in June 2003 was made an honorary Doctor of the University by the Open University.