Hailing from Ulverston in Cumbria, Jess Gillam is animating the music world with her outstanding talent and infectious personality.
She has been forging her own adventurous path since she shot to fame becoming the first saxophonist to reach the finals of BBC Young Musician and the youngest ever soloist to perform at the Last Night of the Proms. Passionate about inspiring and bringing joy to people through music, Jess invites audiences on journeys of musical discovery through her electrifying performances and eclectic programming.
As well as performing around the world, Jess is a presenter on TV and Radio. She became the youngest ever presenter for BBC Radio 3 with the launch of her own weekly show This Classical Life. The show is in its fifth season and in 2020 won the prestigious ARIA Award for Best Specialist Music Show. She has been a guest presenter for BBC Radio 2, co-hosted on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme and has presented the BBC Proms and BBC Young Musician of the Year. Keen to explore the creative output of her home county, Jess presented a series of Cumbrian Chats on BBC Radio Cumbria.
Jess is keen to broaden the repertoire for the saxophone and gives a number of premieres in 2023/24 including the new saxophone concerto Glasslands by Anna Clyne with co-commissioners/conductors BBC Philharmonic Orchestra (Mark Wigglesworth), Orquesta Sinfonica de Castilla y Leon (Elena Schwarz), and Naples Philharmonic Orchestra and NAC Orchestra Ottawa (Alexander Shelley), following the world premiere in February 2023 with Detroit Symphony Orchestra (Han-Na Chang). Jess also gives the world premiere of Dani Howard’s Saxophone Concerto with London Chamber Orchestra, the UK premiere of Karl Jenkins’ Stravaganza with BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Nil Venditti) and joins Royal Northern Sinfonia for concerts across the season as their 2023/24 Artist in Focus. Further highlights include debuts with Dresden and Szczecin philharmonic orchestras and Sinfonia Cymru, and a return to NDR Elbphilharnonieorchester (James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto with Marin Alsop), Manchester Camerata (on tour, including a debut performance at the Enescu Festival), and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, The Hallé and BBC Concert Orchestra. In recital, Jess returns to Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw and makes her Boston Celebrity debut, also travelling to Canada for a residency in March 2024 at Mount Allison University.
Highlights of 2022/23 featured a four-stop recital tour of North America including Jess’ Carnegie Hall debut, performances at the Kissinger Sommer and Schleswig-Holstein music festivals, and debut appearances with London Symphony Orchestra (Gianandrea Noseda), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (world premiere of Jenkins’ Stravaganza with Giancarlo Guerrero), NDR Elbphilharmonieorchester, Houston Symphony and Aspen Music Festival. As a 2022/23 ECHO Rising Star Jess also gave recitals across Europe’s leading concert halls, including Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Wiener Konzerthaus, Konzerthuset Stockholm and Barcelona’s Palau de le Musica. Jess has performed concerti with Minnesota
Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Iceland Symphony, Lahti Symphony, London Philharmonic, BBC Scottish Symphony and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic orchestras, among others.
Jess is the first ever saxophonist to be signed exclusively to Decca Classics and both of her albums reached No.1 in the UK Classical Music Charts. Her debut album, Rise, was listed in The Times Top 100 albums of 2019. She has been the recipient of a Classic BRIT Award, has been nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2021 for Services to Music.
The Jess Gillam Ensemble returns this season after a successful UK 14-concert summer tour in 2023, featuring London’s Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, Snape Maltings, Saffron Hall, le Rosey Concert Hall, West Wicklow Festival, and the Ryedale, Petworth and Newbury festivals. The group of eight musical friends have a bold, uplifting and open-minded approach - although they are rooted in classical music, they take inspiration from many musical worlds. Jess is joined by Ciaran McCabe and Michael Jones (violins); Eoin Schmidt-Martin (viola); Gabriella Swallow (cello); Sam Becker (bass); Elsa Bradley (percussion) and Leif Kaner-Lidstrom (piano). Together, they aim to take audiences on a voyage of discovery in an electrifying programme inspired by showcasing the diversity, dynamism and versatility of the saxophone.
Jess is an Associate Artist of the Royal Albert Hall and continues to promote her own concert series, bringing international talent to her hometown of Ulverston. She is a Vandoren UK Artist and became the youngest ever endorsee for Yanagisawa Saxophones aged just 13.