Alumni ProfilesIONA ALLAN (VIOLIN 2016)

With two ballet dancers as parents, Iona Allan grew up in a house that was always filled with classical music. It was of course only natural that she learnt all forms of dance, with tap being her favourite. But it was starting violin at the tender age of four that Iona would find her true passion. 

This passion would see her complete a Bachelor of Music in Advanced Performance from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (QCGU), studying under the tutelage of Michele Walsh. A testament to her training, she managed all of this without completing her final year of secondary school. Breezing through a short bridging course, she was accepted for early entry into the Queensland Con at just 16.

This continued drive led her to the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). Here, she delved into a wide variety of repertoire from baroque to contemporary, which equipped her with the tools to tackle all kinds of repertoire quickly and efficiently. She says that she continues to use the skills and knowledge from ANAM’s Health and Wellbeing program to this very day, helping her to understand her body and mind, prevent injury and maintain a healthy life-balance.

She also recalls performing side-by-side with the Aurora Orchestra at the 2014 Melbourne International Arts Festival, as one of her favourite projects whilst at ANAM. The level of playing from the ensemble left Iona truly inspired, and sought to encourage Iona to pursue her dreams of overseas study. Working with her teacher, Dr Robin Wilson, the pair spent much Iona’s final year preparing for international auditions. “I knew I wanted to complete a Masters in London,” Iona says. ANAM was the perfect preparation for an exciting international leap.

“Without ANAM, I wouldn’t have had the confidence, experience or repertoire to succeed in auditions, or as a freelance musician.”

After successfully auditioning for both the Royal College of Music (RCM) and the Royal Academy of Music, Iona pursued a Master of Music Performance at the RCM, studying with Gabrielle Lester (founding member of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe), through the assistance of scholarships from the Tait Memorial Trust, the RCM and the Ena Williams Award through Griffith University. During this time, she became a founding member of Australia House Ensemble and Quartet Solasta, and she was winner of the 2018 Boconnoc Chamber Music Award.

Since completing her studies in 2019, Iona has remained in the UK, performing as a freelance musician with orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, and recording major movie soundtracks with the London Contemporary Orchestra. Other highlights included performing chamber music at Buckingham Palace, performing as a soloist for the Coronet Theatre’s Outside In Festival in Notting Hill, co-leading the Bath Festival Orchestra, and working with historically-informed ensembles such as Florilegium, Noxwode, and The Hannover Band.

But it was performing with the Aurora Orchestra, that Iona feels the most pride. These days, since Iona played with them at ANAM, they’re known for their pioneering performances of large-scale works, with all musicians performing completely by memory, without sheet music. “I was first asked to play with them in 2022, and I wasn’t sure how I would be able to memorise a whole symphony! But once rehearsals started, everything became easier – it was like playing chamber music but on a very grand scale. I absolutely loved it!” Iona has performed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and even Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring by memory, citing the latter work as “easily the most inspiring and satisfying to accomplish.”

“There was such a wonderful connection between the musicians on these projects, it was truly the most rewarding experience."

In 2022, Iona obtained a permanent position in the first violin section of the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland, before winning her current position in 2023 as a permanent member of the second violin section of the BBC Concert Orchestra in London. Iona finds the diversity of the BBC Concert Orchestra’s work truly invigorating – performing everything from symphonic concert repertoire, staged operas, overseas tours, blockbuster performances at London’s BBC Proms, right through to live radio pop sets with some of the world’s biggest stars.

Iona’s enthusiasm is infectious as she talks about her busy career and her upcoming performances. It is indeed hard to imagine Iona without her true passion – the violin!

Words by Laura Panther (May 2024)
Image credit: Broadway Studios London

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