Meet the Stars: Berlin Philharmonic Brass
Sarah Willis was born in Maryland, USA and holds dual British and American citizenship.
Her father’s work as a foreign correspondent took her family around the world and they lived in the USA, Tokyo and Moscow before moving to England when Sarah was 13. She began playing the horn aged 14 at school and then attended the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She went on to study full time at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where her teachers included Anthony Halstead and Jeff Bryant.
Sarah later studied with Fergus McWilliam in Berlin, where she became 2nd Horn in the Berlin State Opera under Daniel Barenboim in 1991. During this time, Sarah played as a guest with many top orchestras performed worldwide as a soloist and in various chamber music ensembles.
In 2001, Sarah Willis joined the Berlin Philharmonic, becoming the first female member of the brass section. As well as her work with the orchestra and
her masterclasses, which take her all over the world, she has recorded various acclaimed albums including the Brahms Horn Trio, `Horn Discoveries ́ the Rosetti Double Horn Concertos as well as the much celebrated CDs, Opera! and Four Corners! with the Berlin Philharmonic Horns. Her latest solo album, “Mozart y Mambo” was recorded in Havana in January 2020. It went straight to number 1 in the classical charts and also reached the pop and Latino charts. The accompanying video has been viewed over 10 million times online.
Sarah is involved in many of the Berlin Philharmonic education projects and especially enjoys creating and presenting their Family Concerts. She interviews conductors and soloists for the Digital Concert Hall and in 2011, she presented live to 33 million viewers during the Final Concert of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.
Sarah is passionate about music education and makes full use of digital technology and social media to reach audiences worldwide. She was chosen to be one of the first testers of Google Glass and used this experience to see how new technology could be used in classical music.
Sarah runs a popular series of online interviews known as the “Horn Hangouts”, is a regular broadcaster and interviewer on TV, radio and online and fronts the classical music programme Sarah´s Music for Deutsche Welle TV. She moderates the DG International Podcast series for Deutsche Grammophon and her latest award-winning documentary films, “Mozart y Mambo” and “A World without Beethoven?” was broadcast worldwide on Deutsche Welle TV.
Sarah’s contributions to classical music were recognised at the highest level in the UK when she was made an MBE – Member of the Order of the British Empire – by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in the Queen’s 2021 Birthday Honours List for services to charity and the promotion of classical music.