Soprano Saxophone Jess Gillam

Jess Gillam is celebrated as a leading figure of the saxophone. With her electrifying performances, vibrant stage presence and magnetic personality, the ‘uniquely mercurial’ (The Times) Jess Gillam has been invited to play on the world’s major stages since becoming the youngest ever soloist to perform at the Last Night of the Proms and was hailed for her ‘effortless virtuosity and limitless expressiveness’ (Arts Desk). Equally at home behind the microphone, Gillam has shattered glass ceilings as the youngest ever presenter for BBC Radio 3 with her award-winning weekly show, This Classical Life.

Passionate about broadening the repertoire for the saxophone, Jess Gillam gives the premieres of various works in the current and forthcoming seasons; this includes Glasslands by Anna Clyne (co-commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic, Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y León, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, NAC Orchestra Ottawa and Naples Philharmonic). Further premieres include the world premiere of Dani Howard’s Saxophone Concerto with London Chamber Orchestra and the UK premiere of Karl Jenkins’ Stravaganza with BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Gillam is Artist in Focus with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and The Glasshouse International Centre for Music for the 2023/24 season and continues to be Associate Artist of the Royal Albert Hall and Artistic Partner with the Manchester Camerata.

Highlights of Gillam’s concerto appearances have included performances with the BBC, DSO Berlin, Gothenburg, Iceland, Lahti and London Symphony Orchestras as well as the London, Royal Liverpool and Munich Philharmonics, among others. Further afield, concerto highlights in the US have included the Houston Symphony and Minnesota Orchestra. This season sees Gillam debut with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Dresden Philharmonic Orchestra as well as return to the NDR Elbphilharmonieorchester, performing James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto under Marin Alsop. She also tours with the Manchester Camerata (including a debut performance at the Enescu Festival) and appears with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Hallé and BBC Concert Orchestra.

On the recital stage, Jess Gillam is seen performing across Europe, the US and beyond. As an ECHO Rising Star in 2022/23 season, Gillam has appeared throughout Europe’s most prestigious concert halls, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw (where she will return in June 2024), Wiener Konzerthaus, Konzerthuset Stockholm and Barcelona’s Palau de le Musica. She has also performed recitals at the Kissinger Sommer, Schleswig-Holstein and Heidelberger Frühling music festivals. Following her Carnegie Hall debut in the 2022/23 season and recital at the Aspen Music Festival, she returns to the US this season and makes her Boston Celebrity Series debut.

Jess Gillam loves to collaborate and bring people together to enjoy sparky and energetic performances. She formed her band, the Jess Gillam Ensemble, in 2019. Their bold, uplifting and open-minded approach is rooted in classical music but takes inspiration from different musical worlds. Gillam’s carefully curated programmes provide a new spin on C.P.E. Bach, groove in the music of John Harle, Anna Meredith and Barbara Thompson as well as folk infusions and soaring melodies through works by Sakamoto, J.S. Bach and Björk. Since their launch, the ensemble released their chart-topping album, TIME, and have performed throughout the UK and Europe to largely sold-out audiences at venues and festivals including the Wigmore Hall, Latitude Festival, Mozartfest Augsburg, and the Bath Festival.

Alongside her performance work, Gillam is a keen TV and Radio presenter. Her weekly show on BBC Radio 3, This Classical Life, is in its fifth season and has garnered high praise from The Guardian who wrote: ‘There are many more established presenters who lack Gillam’s warmth and impressive ability’. In 2020, This Classical Life was awarded the ARIA Award for Best Specialist Music Show. As a guest presenter, Gillam has worked for BBC Radio 2, co-hosted on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and presented at the BBC Proms and BBC Young Musician of the Year.

As an exclusive recording artist with Decca Classics, Jess Gillam is the first and only saxophonist to be signed to the major label. Both her albums have reached No. 1 in the UK Classical Music Charts and her debut album, Rise, was listed in The Times’ Top 100 albums of 2019. Her second album, TIME, was released to critical acclaim in 2020; ‘Gillam’s agile soprano saxophone soars impressively… before gliding gracefully in and around a hive of textural activity that builds up to a frenetic ending’ (Gramophone on her recording of Michael Nyman Where the Bee Dances).

In 2016, Jess Gillam made history after becoming the first saxophonist to reach the Finals of BBC Young Musician of the Year. She has been the recipient of a Classic BRIT Award, a The Times Breakthrough Award nominee and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2021 for Services to Music. Returning to her roots in Ulverston in Cumbria, Gillam continues to promote her own concert series in her hometown, inviting internationally renowned artists, a series she founded at age 12. She is a patron for Awards for Young Musicians, Music in Secondary Schools Trust, the London Music Fund and is a member of the Council of the Royal Philharmonic Society. Gillam is a Vandoren UK Artist and became the youngest ever endorsee for Yanagisawa Saxophones aged just 13.