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Sarah Francis was born in London. She was a Foundation scholar at the Royal College of Music and won a Boise scholarship to study in Paris. She started her career as principal oboe in the BBC Welsh Orchestra. She has broadcast regularly for the BBC since the age of 19 in recitals and concerto performances including the Proms, where she performed 'Ariadne', the concerto composed for her by Gordon Crosse. She has played all over the United Kingdom and frequently in the South Bank concert halls, and has toured and broadcast in Germany, Holland, Italy and Switzerland.

Her first solo recording was of Britten's 'Six Metamorphoses after Ovid', which Britten invited her to play at the Aldeburgh Festival and which she has now recorded commercially three times. Her solo recordings for Decca, Hyperion, Chandos, Unicorn-Kanchana (now available on the Heritage label) and Naxos include the oboe concertos of Albinoni, Handel, Telemann, Krommer and Mozart and 20th century British repertoire by Bax, Britten, Holst, Jacob, Alwyn and Rubbra. Her recordings have been featured many times on Radio 3 and Classic FM.

Major works dedicated to Sarah Francis include concertos by Gordon Crosse, William Mathias and Anthony Payne. She has given masterclasses at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow, the Amsterdam Conservatory, the Cologne Hochschule and the Geneva Conservatoire, as well as at conservatories in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Kiev and Melbourne. She is a former Chairman of the British Double Reed Society and has served as juror in the Prague Spring oboe competition.

She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music.