Jess Gillam

Last updated: January 18, 2023

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 third year now and in 2020 won the prestigious ARIA Award for Best Specialist Music Show. In July 2021 Jess presented a special live edition of This Classical Life at the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall. She has also been a guest presenter for BBC Radio 2 and co-hosted a miniseries for BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. Keen to explore the creative output of her home county, Jess presented a series of Cumbrian Chats on BBC Radio Cumbria.  TV presenting includes the BBC Proms and BBC Young Musician.

2022/23 season highlights include a four-stop US recital tour, featuring her Carnegie Hall debut; her London Symphony Orchestra debut, performing the John Adams saxophone concerto under Gianandrea Noseda; the world premieres of three saxophone concertos: Glasslands by Anna Clyne (with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra), Dani Howard’s Saxophone Concerto (commissioned by the London Chamber Orchestra) and Karl Jenkins’ Stravangaza with the Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Further orchestral highlights include performances with Royal Scottish National Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Manchester Camerata. 

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 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. She is Founder of the Jess Gillam Ensemble (JGE) - a small group of incredible musicians from a wide range of musical backgrounds - whose programming features a variety of genres, including works by JS Bach and Piazzolla, as well as fresh commissions from Will Gregory of Goldfrapp and Ayanna Witter-Johnson.

JGE's 2021/22 season featured appearances at Wigmore Hall, Latitude Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Snape Maltings, Mozartfest Augsburg and Liepe & Co Festival to name a few, and this season sees them perform at Newbury Spring and West Wicklow Festivals, and venues including Saffron Hall, Sage Gateshead and Rosey Concert Hall in Switzerland.  

Her infectious enthusiasm and passion for classical and non-classical music lights up every stage and she has performed in prestigious concert halls and with world-class orchestras around the globe including the NDR Hannover, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, Munich Philharmonic, Lahti Symphony Orchestra and the UK’s leading orchestras. She also enjoys touring with her newly formed Jess Gillam Ensemble bringing together a group of brilliant musicians who share her bold, uplifting and open-minded approach. Jess has performed live at the BAFTAs to millions of viewers at home.

Jess is an Associate Artist of the Royal Albert Hall, a European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) Rising Star Artist (which sees her perform at many of the top concert halls across Europe) and continues to promote her own concert series, bringing international talent to her hometown of Ulverston. 

Jess became the youngest ever endorsee for Yanagisawa Saxophones aged just 13.

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    A radical work that introduced singing into a symphony for the first time—and what singing it was!