Calling the tune

YolanDa Brown successfully combines management science studies and an award-winning career as a jazz musician

December 11, 2008

Last week was a double celebration for YolanDa Brown: she officially upgraded from an MPhil to a PhD in management science at the University of Kent, and she had a solo concert at London's Cadogan Hall, featuring special guest Mica Paris.

Ms Brown, who already has a first-class undergraduate masters in European management science and a masters in social research methods from Kent, is also one of the UK's most talented young musicians.

She won the "best jazz" category of the MOBO 2008 awards, was nominated for the Urban Music Awards, and spent last month supporting Motown legends the Temptations in concerts across the UK.

Her PhD supervisor, John Mingers, director of research at Kent Business School, said that when she started her research, "she sometimes said that she was playing the saxophone that evening".

"I presumed that she just played in small venues somewhere. I was absolutely staggered when I saw a video on YouTube of her filling the Hackney Empire. It's fantastic that she is able to do that as well as work at the highest level of academic study."

Ms Brown admits that combining study and performing is not easy. "But when you're passionate about something, you make it work, and put it down to time management," she said. "I've got great support. When deadlines are pressing at the university, my manager understands, and when I'm on tour, my supervisor understands."

And she feels she cannot complain after a "whirlwind month" with the Temptations.

"It was wonderful - I've grown up with them and Motown music. They've been going for years, non-stop performing, and they've still got so much energy."

She took up the saxophone around 13 years ago. "It was therapeutic when I went to university. I would play when I was happy and play when I was sad - all these emotions that come from university life. I just played for myself."

But she became interested in performing during an Erasmus year in Spain included in her first degree. As part of a multilingual group, she used music to link people together.

She began performing solo as an undergraduate, but never contemplated abandoning her studies. She felt she wanted to delve more deeply than had been possible in her dissertation, and successfully applied for a postgraduate grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.

She plans to continue to combine management science and music. "I was thinking of management consultancy, but I'm still interested in building up methodology, so I don't know whether I'll stay in academia."

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