Early Years & Influences

Born in Canberra, Australia, Sarah was exposed to music straight from the womb. Her father, Ayis Ioannides, a professional conductor and scientist, and mother, Gwyneth Woollard, a teacher, linguist and musician, guided and cultivated Sarah’s love of music, dance, language and travel in her formative years.

The arts have been important in her family for generations and through her grandfathers, one an architect and the other a music theorist and composer, Sarah inherited and developed a keen sense of structure and a philosophical interest in the music and the visual arts.

Early exposure to live orchestral performances and extraordinary symphonic recordings stimulated Sarah’s voracious interest in the exotic sound world of the orchestra.

As a young teenager Sarah continued her studies of the violin, piano, French horn, but this was clearly not enough as she then added singing, recorder, saxophone, guitar, viola and composition. All to slightly varying standards!

Weekly visits to the Surrey Performing Arts Library in Dorking, the birthplace of Ralph Vaughan-Williams, provided exposure to a vast array of recordings.  Her passion for music soon overshadowed her great love of collecting fossils, stones, shells, stickers and erasers enabling her to eventually annex other rooms in the household including the bathroom closet and cupboard under the stairs. Now not only did she have a wonderful music collection but also a variety of hiding places as needed in Ashes Hollow.

During these years, Sarah developed an equal passion for vocal music singing in church and school choirs. Frequent visits to her father in Germany provided Sarah with an insider’s view of the opera world while observing her father conduct rehearsals and performances.

Encouraged by her violin teacher and mentor, Elizabeth Ovenden at Cranleigh School, Sarah began to fully realize her calling. As a result she buried herself in her studies both on her three primary instruments and academically. Her hard work paid off as she won a place at Oxford University.


Extensive music courses and performance opportunities prepared Sarah to win a place as a violinist in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and the National Youth Chamber Orchestra.  Working with these orchestras, Sarah became acquainted with internationally renowned conductors and she was inspired to begin private conducting studies at age 17, first of all with her father, Ayis Ioannides.

Whilst at the National Youth Orchestra courses, Sarah formed her first composer collaboration with fellow orchestra member Daniel Hewson performing the world premiere of his Mirror in the Sahara for violin and piano.

At Oxford University, Sarah was able to explore her talents as both instrumentalist and conductor. She held positions as concertmaster of the Oxford University Orchestra, Oxford Contemporary Music, and simultaneously took up positions as Music Director of the Oxford Philharmonic, Somerville/Worcester Orchestra and Choir, and later conductor of Oxford University Opera, Oxford Chamber Orchestra. At the age of 18 Sarah conducted her first symphony program and at 20, her first opera Die Entführung auf dem Serail. From that point on there was no turning back…

Sarah conducting Oxford Phiharmonic in the Sheldonian Theatre