Jess recently wrote a letter to The Guardian newspaper on the subject of ‘giving every child the opportunity to experience music’:

Music is part of the fabric of our society; it sits at the heart of human experience and enriches so many lives. Why, then, is it not central to our education system? This is a question I recently posed to an all-party parliamentary group on music education.

I am 20 years old and began playing saxophone, aged seven, at the Barracudas Carnival Band in Barrow-in-Furness. The funding for the centre has now been cut. I took part in the primary tuition scheme, aged 11. The funding for the scheme has now been cut. It is a running theme across the country.

Music is not an add-on, a “soft” subject or a luxury – it is absolutely essential to our existence. Every child deserves the opportunity to experience its benefits.

Until music is held in the same regard as the “core” subjects of our curriculum, our society will be worse off. We need joy, empathy and hope on this planet more than ever, and depriving children of the opportunity to develop musical skills is to set ourselves up for a fall.

Despite the many brilliant schemes and initiatives to encourage young musicians (Every Child a Musician, Awards for Young Musicians and Sistema, to name but a few), we are reaching a crisis point. We are in danger of crushing creativity, innovation and expression.

Learning an instrument can teach and develop so many fundamental life skills. It promotes discipline, empathy, determination and cooperation as well as providing a sense of community and worth.

Music has changed my life. It is a huge part of who I am. I have learned so much about the world through music and the inspiring figures I have met through it. I feel I have a duty to help ensure that others can benefit from its magic. Let us make it available to every single child.

Jess Gillam
Ulverston, Cumbria

If you agree with Jess’ sentiments perhaps you would consider sharing the letter by visiting The Guardian’s website, or by writing to your local MP.

Saxophonist Jess Gillam has been selected as one of WQXR’s ’19 for 19′, celebrating outstanding talent in the field of classical music. Anyone that’s been following Jess’ social media recently will know that last month she popped over to America. This included a performance at the launch of New York’s WQXR classical music radio station’s ’19 for 19′, “an annual list of the most exciting classical artists on the planet”.

’19 for 19′, is described by WQXR as “a group of artists we love that includes long-time heroes, established favorites and newcomers set for stardom”. You can read more about ’19 for 19 and the artists selected here.

After her sensational performance at last night’s BAFTAs, inspiring young classical saxophonist Jess Gillam announces the release of her debut album ‘Rise’ on 26th April on Decca Classics. It is a collection of pieces which showcase her phenomenal talent and diverse musical taste, ranging from Marcello and Shostakovich to David Bowie and Kate Bush. Fans can also relive her BAFTA performance as she releases ‘Theme from Love Story’ as a brand new digital single (out now) – watch the music video HERE. You can follow this link to preorder now.

20 year-old Jess says:To record an album has been a huge ambition of mine for a very long time so I can’t believe it’s actually happening! I’ve learned a lot through the recording process and the whole album consists of music I love so I am very excited to share it; I really hope you enjoy listening!”

Jess Gillam is not only renowned for her musicianship, but also her passion for music education. Yesterday, she wrote an open letter in The Guardian, calling on politicians to support music tuition in schools, as funding cuts continue to threaten the opportunities for children to learn an instrument and develop a greater understanding of the arts. “Music has changed my life,” wrote Jess. “I feel I have a duty to help ensure that others can benefit from its magic.”

Jess Gillam’s new album ‘Rise’ reflects her own musical journey and the pieces which have inspired her in her career. She recorded it with the BBC Concert Orchestra and chamber musicians, as well as celebrated guitarist MILOŠ, who features on the track ‘Flow My Tears’ – a transcription of the familiar Renaissance lute song by John Dowland.

The album includes beautiful cover versions of songs by two of Jess’s biggest heroes: Kate Bush’s ballad ‘This Woman’s Work’ and David Bowie’s timeless ‘Where Are We Now?’. There are also familiar hits from the world of film, such as ‘Closing In’ by John Williams (as featured in Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film Catch Me If You Can), Michael Nyman’s ‘If’ (from The Diary of Anne Frank) and the bonus track, Francis Lai’s ‘Theme from Love Story’.

The recording also features two of Jess’ signature pieces: ‘Pequeña Czarda’ by Pedro Iturralde, which she played in BBC Young Musician 2016 wind category final, and Darius Milhaud’s ‘Brazileira’ from Scaramouche, which she performed to great acclaim at the Last Night of the Proms – described by BBC News as the “indisputable highlight” of last year’s spectacular event at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

There is a brand new commission on the album from Jess’ teacher and mentor, acclaimed saxophonist John Harle, who also produced the recording. He has written a new piece for Jess called ‘RANT!’ which is based on traditional folk tunes from her home county, Cumbria. John says: “‘RANT!’ is a portrait of Jess Gillam – her energy, her sound and her presence, painted in music from her own part of England. A ‘rant’ in the tradition of English Folk music is an energetic dance, and means ‘to make merry’, which is exactly what Jess does, both in her fearless live performances and in the exuberance she has brought to the recording studio for this album. Jess is a completely unique phenomenon on the music scene, and ‘RANT!’ is an endeavour to try to capture some of her power, panache and pizzazz at this very early stage of what will surely be a glittering career.”

‘Rise’ also features virtuosic encores and popular classical works, such a saxophone version of Marcello’s Adagio from his well-known oboe concerto, Wiedoeft’s charming Valse vanité and a new arrangement of Shostakovich’s Waltz No.2 from his second jazz suite – as featured in Stanley Kubrick’s 1999 film Eyes Wide Shut. Plus there are two popular songs: the traditional Russian folk tune ‘Dark Eyes’ in a new version by John Harle; and Kurt Weill’s impassioned Je ne t’aime pas.

Hailing from Ulverston in Cumbria, Jess Gillam is blazing a trail in the music world with her outstanding talent and infectious personality. She is the first saxophone player to sign an exclusive recording deal with Decca Classics and has already released a series of digital singles on the label.

Jess first caught the public eye during BBC Young Musician 2016 when, at the age of 17, she made history as the first saxophonist to reach the final of the competition. She made her BBC Proms debut at the Royal Albert Hall in 2017 and returned the following year as part of the BBC Young Musician 40th Anniversary Prom. She also performed at Proms in the Park in Hyde Park before dashing across to the Royal Albert Hall to perform in the Last Night of the Proms.

Jess’ concert career continues to go from strength to strength. She started 2019 by making her US debut in Washington DC and was also named one of WQXR’s ‘19 for 19’ Artists to Watch, playing at the launch event in New York. Her international dates include performances with Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra (Sweden), L’Auditori Barcelona (Spain), Argovia Philharmonic (Switzerland), Tampere Philharmonic (Finland) and the Lucerne Festival. She also appears extensively in recital throughout the UK and performs with orchestras including the BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia and Manchester Camerata. She is a champion of new music for saxophone and there will be a number of new commissions written for her over the coming years.

Hooked on saxophone from a young age, Jess is keen to give people from all backgrounds access to classical music and has set up her own concert series in Ulverston, bringing world-renowned musicians from across the world to her hometown. She is also a patron for Awards for Young Musicians, a charity which offers promising young performers support to progress their musical talent. Jess continues to be mentored by internationally-renowned saxophonist and producer John Harle.

Jess talks eloquently about music and has already made a number of high profile media appearances in the UK. She contributes to programming and presenting on TV and radio, and hosts the BBC Young Musician podcast alongside bassist Sam Becker and pianist Zeynep Özsuca. She also featured in a TV documentary celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the BBC Young Musician competition. Throughout the 2018 Proms season, Jess appeared in a weekly slot on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme alongside broadcaster James Naughtie, and she has presented an episode of Saturday Classics on BBC Radio 3.

A free spirit in style and character, Jess Gillam is constantly seeking new opportunities for the saxophone and is always pushing musical boundaries. With her debut album ‘Rise’, there looks to be no stopping this bright and adventurous young musician as she reaches the latest milestone in her flourishing career.

Rise track listing:

  1. Pedro Iturralde – Pequeña Czarda
  2. Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work *
  3. Alessandro Marcello – Adagio (from Oboe Concerto in D Minor) *
  4. Darius Milhaud – Brazileira (from Scaramouche)
  5. John Williams – Escapades I. Closing In (From Catch Me If You Can) *
  6. Michael Nyman – If (from The Diary of Anne Frank) *
  7. John Harle – RANT! *
  8. David Bowie – Where Are We Now? *
  9. Kurt Weill – Je ne t’aime pas
  10. John Dowland – Flow, my tears (feat. MILOŠ)
  11. Rudy Wiedoeft – Valse vanité
  12. Dmitri Shostakovich – Waltz No.2 (from Jazz Suite No.2)
  13. Trad. – Dark Eyes
  14. BONUS: Francis Lai – Theme from Love Story

* BBC Concert Orchestra play on the following tracks: 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8

Click here for a copy of this press release.

Jess Gillam’s new track Pequena Czarda is released digitally on 23 November on Decca Classics.

“I’m so excited to share a brand new track with you today – Pequeña Czarda by Pedro Iturralde! This is one of my all time favourite pieces to play, I perform it regularly and you may have seen me play it at the BBC Young Musician 2016 Woodwind Category Final, so I’m incredibly excited to be able to finally release it for you all to listen, along with a brand new music video.”

Use this link to stream or purchase Pequena Czarda.

Or you can watch her latest video here:

Jess will be back in her home town on the 15 June to play at the 15th Ulverston International Music Festival. She performs Glazunov’s Concerto in E flat major for Alto Saxophone and String Orchestra Op. 109 in an evening titled ‘Serenades & Concertos’. It also features the Festival’s Artistic Director, pianist Anthony Hewitt playing Shostakovich’s Concerto no. 1 in C minor Op. 35.

The Festival has played an important part in Jess’s musical life. Firstly helping to inspire her interest in music and then latterly as a platform for performances. “We’re incredibly lucky to have such a fantastic gathering of musicians from all of the world in my hometown. The quality is so high. I’m just sorry that I’m going to miss Nicholas Daniel’s recital!”

The Ulverston International Music Festival runs from 6 – 16 June. The full Festival brochure is available here:

UIMF1831 2018 Festival Brochure

Tickets available from corohall.co.uk