Thursday 5 March 2020, London – Jess Gillam, chart-topping saxophonist and now award-winning broadcaster, accepted her gold award for ‘Best Specialist Music Programme’ for her weekly radio series on BBC Radio 3, ‘This Classical Life’ at the 2020 ARIAs last night.

Fighting off stiff competition from Gilles Peterson’s Radio 6 Music show and Absolute Radio Stories, Jess joined fellow radio presenters Greg James (Radio 1 Breakfast Show), Emma Barnett (BBC Radio 5 Live) and Mistajam (BBC Radio 1Xtra) as GOLD winners across 23 categories.

Accepting her award from broadcaster Zoe Ball onstage at the London Palladium, Jess spoke confidently and with her characteristic enthusiasm for classical music: For me, music is about reaching as many people as I can… I’m very passionate about encouraging the next generation, making sure we can keep on sharing this hope and joy that [music] creates. These are the things that bring us hope, and we need them more than ever.”

Speaking after her win, Jess said she was very surprised and absolutely delighted to have won for ‘This Classical Life’, thanking her listeners, guests and the production team at BBC Radio 3 for their guidance and hard work. In reviewing the show, The Guardian noted that ‘there are many, more established presenters who lack Gillam’s warmth and impressive ability.’

Decca Classics’ star saxophonist Jess Gillam has released a 3-track EP exclusively on Apple Music. Jess, BBC Radio 3’s youngest ever series presenter, is the first female classical artist to release a Christmas EP exclusively for Apple.

Recorded at London’s Tileyard Studio space, the EP features three classic festive tracks: two new arrangements of evergreen favourites ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and ‘Silent Night’, and a stunning soprano saxophone solo of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, each perfectly showcasing Jess’s “extraordinary, subtle control of tone and phrasing” (Times) and “faultless technique” (Daily Mail).

‘Jess Gillam At Christmas’ will be exclusive to Apple Music subscribers for two months from 15th November. You can find more information here.


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Martin/Blane, arr. Elspeth MacKay)

Alto Saxophone – Jess Gillam
Viola – Oscar Holch
Cello – Matthew Sharp
Double Bass – Sam Becker
Piano – Ming Liu

Silent Night (Gruber arr. Benjamin Rimmer/Alex Maydew)
Soprano Saxophone – Jess Gillam
Piano – Ming Liu

Auld Lang Syne ( arr. Peter Riley)
Soprano Saxophone – Jess Gillam

On Thursday 28 November at The HopBarn, Jess Gillam will perform a special concert to raise money for Awards for Young Musicians (AYM). This special event has been offered due to Jess Gillam’s continued support and patronage to Awards for Young Musicians (AYM). Through their means-tested programmes AYM support more than 400 talented young musicians from low income families per year, with funding and other help.
“AYM’s practical support and their belief in me throughout my teenage years was invaluable. Music has the power to transform lives and AYM recognise that.”
For this concert, Jess will be accompanied by pianist James Baillieu, who himself is a celebrated musician and has received numerous awards for his song-writing, whilst performing across the UK, Europe and the US. All proceeds from this concert will go to AYM.
More information is available on the ‘Concerts‘ page.

BBC Music has announced its plans for TV coverage of the BBC Proms, including the addition of Jess Gillam to presenting duties.

Extensive coverage of the world’s largest classical music festival – which runs July 19 to September 14 – will be available across BBC TV and Radio. Twenty-five Proms concerts will be screened on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four and CBeebies, alongside the full coverage on BBC Radio 3.

Following her performance at the Last Night of the Proms in 2018, Decca-signed Jess Gillam will join the core presenting line-up of the BBC Proms television coverage, alongside Katie Derham, Suzy Klein and Tom Service. 

The 21-year-old saxophonist and broadcaster became the youngest-ever permanent presenter on BBC Radio 3 in April, fronting her own weekly programme This Classical Life. She has performed at the BAFTAs and the National Portrait Gallery Annual Gala.

Gillam said: “The BBC Proms is a truly incredible celebration of music and at any Prom, I am completely taken by the electric atmosphere and connection created between performer and audience. Making my festival debut in 2017 and performing at the iconic Last Night of the Proms in 2018 are both highlights of my career so far, so to be returning as a presenter is really exciting!”

Head over to the Presenting page for a full list of Proms concerts that Jess will be presenting.

“Burning with passion for her instrument and classical music” **** from The Times
“Destined, undoubtedly, for greatness” Daily Telegraph

Photo | Rob Whitrow

On Friday 3 May, Jess Gillam debuted at the top of the Official UK Classical Chart with her critically-acclaimed album ‘RISE’, released on 26 April on Decca Classics. This remarkable achievement makes Jess the youngest saxophonist ever to hit the No.1 spot of the classical charts. An instrument which is often forgotten in the classical world, the 20-year-old star has brought the saxophone into the spotlight, and back to the top of the charts. This totally unique album showcases Jess’ phenomenal talent as well as her diverse musical taste, with tracks ranging from John Williams and Shostakovich to David Bowie and Kate Bush.

On hearing of her chart success, Jess said: “If someone had told me – when I first picked up a saxophone in the Barracudas Carnival Band in Barrow-on-Furness – that I would get a classical number one for my first album release, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years! It has been so exciting to record my debut with the team at Decca Classics, and special thanks to the producer John Harle, BBC Concert Orchestra and Miloš for being a part of ‘RISE’. Music has been such an important part of my life and the tracks included on the album are very personal to me, so it’s overwhelming that there has been such an amazing response to it so far. “

After previously making music history as the first saxophonist to reach the final of the BBC Young Musician competition in 2016, Gillam very quickly went on to make her BBC Proms debut in 2017. Following this, last year she undertook a Last Night of the Proms double-performance, starring at Proms in the Park before dashing over to the Royal Albert Hall the same night to step onto the stage in front of an international television audience. Since then, Jess has been invited to perform at such prestigious events as this year’s BAFTA ceremony – at which she brought the room to a standstill with her playing – and the National Portrait Gallery Annual Gala as well as international debuts in Finland, Switzerland, Spain, and the USA where she performed in New York as a chosen artist at the launch of WQXR’s 19 for 19 campaign.

Managing Director of Decca Classics, Dr Alexander Buhr, said: “Huge congratulations to all of the wonderful musicians who worked on this album, and first and foremost to Jess – a uniquely talented and inspiring artist. We are very proud to have her in the Decca family and I am certain she’ll be a major force on the label for years to come.”

Earlier this year, Jess wrote an open letter to The Guardian setting out her pledge to advocate for young people to continue to receive help and support in music education through local and national initiatives. Speaking up for other students, she called on politicians to support music tuition in schools as funding cuts continue to threaten opportunities for children to learn an instrument.

Making good on this pledge, in release week, Jess gave one-to-one sessions and workshops with young musicians up and down the country who are recipients of funding and tailored support from Awards for Young Musicians (AYM), a national music charity which supported Jess as she was learning her craft. Throughout the year, alongside her packed international performance schedule (details below), Jess will continue to work with schools and young people nationwide, where she hopes to pass on some of her infectious enthusiasm and passion for classical, and non-classical, music. 

This triumphant chart news comes at the end of a busy month for Jess – she launched her new BBC Radio 3 series ‘This Classical Life’ in April, as the youngest presenter in the history of the station, which features other young musicians and creatives in the industry discussing their favourite music, from Bach to Beyoncé, and has been met with glowing reviews:

“It’s a breath of fresh air for the genre, which has been labelled inaccessible and elitist – so no wonder Jess is one of its secret weapons.” – Total TV Guide, April 2019

“Hugely personable and talented, [Jess] represents this network’s determination to spotlight exciting young musicians.” – The Sunday Times, March 2019

She has proved that her stratospheric ascent is not only down to the dedication she has shown to excelling at her instrument, with playing described as “extraordinary” (The Times), but also her warm and approachable personality.

Jess Gillam has performed for Royalty and in the country’s finest concert halls, where her “dazzling” displays of musicianship have wowed the public and critics alike. However, on album release day last week she chose to launch her debut disc in her hometown of Ulverston in Cumbria at her parents’ tearooms where she grew up, which was full to bursting with local supporters.

“When I got the chance to record my first album, I wanted it to reflect music that I really love. Like many people, David Bowie was one of my musical heroes and with my new album Rise released on the 26th April, I’m proud to release a video single of his 2013 song ‘Where are we now?’. It was shot in Berlin (where else?) and you can view it here“.

‘Where are we now?’ is also available on Rise, released on Friday 26th April. You can pre-order via this link.

“It’s out there! I absolutely loved presenting my first ever radio show – ‘This Classical Life’ – on Saturday 6 April. It will be a weekly show on BBC Radio 3 at 12.30pm every Saturday. If you missed the first episode with drummer and television composer Ollie Howell, it’s available on BBC Sounds!”

“Our choices include Dvorak’s New World Symphony, a film score by Quincy Jones, a mesmerising piano miniature by Nadia Boulanger, and some classic Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Look out for some of my future guests including pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, double bassist Sam Becker, and former ‘BBC Introducing’ pianist and sound artist Belle Chen. ‘This Classical Life’ is also available as a podcast on BBC Sounds and you can visit the show’s page here“.

“I really hope you enjoy it”.

A revamped Saturday schedule showcases the distinctive BBC Radio 3 musical offering and features a brand new weekly programme This Classical Life, fronted by rising star saxophonist Jess Gillam, who recently wowed audiences at the Baftas and was the highlight of the Last Night Of The BBC Proms in 2018.

The 20 year-old former BBC Young Musician finalist – who will be the youngest presenter on the station – will be joined each week by her contemporaries to select and discuss their favourite pieces from across the musical spectrum, giving an insight into the musical influences on young performers.

Confirmed guests include 22 year-old pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, double bassist Sam Becker, former BBC Introducing pianist and sound artist Belle Chen, and film and television composer Ollie Howell. This Classical Life will immediately precede Radio 3’s popular Saturday lunchtime programme Inside Music, giving audiences the unique opportunity to hear from different musicians on Radio 3 every Saturday, all sharing their own insights and perspectives on their favourite music. The first episode of This Classical Life will air on BBC Radio 3 on Saturday 6 April and will be available as a podcast on BBC Sounds.

Jess Gillam says: “I’m so excited to be joining BBC Radio 3 as the presenter of This Classical Life. Music is such a huge part of my life, and I can’t wait to share all my latest and greatest discoveries with fellow musicians who will be joining me on the show, as well as with listeners at home.”

As part of this year’s ‘Love Classical’ festival at the Royal Albert Hall, Jess will be performing Michael Nyman’s Where the Bee Dances together with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

On Tuesday 30 April, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Rising Stars of Classical, presents the music of Mussorgsky, Rodrigo, Glinka, Dvořák, Rachmaninov, Nyman and Stravinsky, performed by some of the UK’s most brilliant young musicians.

Soprano Lauren Fagan, guitarist Sean Shibe and star of the Last Night of the Proms, saxophonist Jess Gillam are all brought together under the baton of yet another rising star, conductor Jamie Phillips.

A varied repertoire will also include arias by Rachmaninov and Stravinsky, the famous Concierto de Aranjuez, and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

This concert is one of the headline events of the Royal Albert Hall’s 2019 Love Classical season, which celebrates some of the most distinctive and original voices in classical music today.

For more information about this concert, visit the Royal Albert Hall’s website.