Biography

JESS GILLAM
Saxophone

“Gillam…spreads joy” The Times
“Gillam is the real thing, deserving serious attention” Artsdesk 

Hailing from Ulverston in Cumbria, Jess Gillam is animating the music world with her outstanding talent and infectious personality. After performing at the Last Night of the Proms in 2018 and having her performance described as “the indisputable highlight” by BBC News, Jess continues to grow her international career as well as presenting on TV and Radio. Jess is passionate about inspiring and bringing joy to people through music and has continued to do so throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. In May 2020 Jess appeared as a special guest at the Royal Albert Hall’s VE Day 75 Commemoration and in July she returned for a performance as part of the ‘Royal Albert Home’ series. While in lock-down Jess launched her Virtual Scratch Orchestra, inviting musicians of any standard to come together to play music virtually with her. The orchestra played music by David Bowie and The Beatles as well as a Christmas special of Leroy Anderson’s ‘Sleigh Ride’. Over 2,000 people from around 30 different countries took part across the two projects, aged 2-94, playing a huge range of instruments. 

Recent highlights (before the impacts of COVID-19) have included performances at the Last Night of the BBC Proms Japan, with the Minnesota Orchestra, and at the Lucerne Festival. This season Jess continues to perform throughout the UK and Europe in recital, as well as with Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Hallé, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Jess is one of European Concert Hall Organisation’s Rising Stars for season 2020-21. 

Jess is the first ever saxophonist to be signed to Decca Classics and recently released her second album, ‘TIME’, which shot to No.1 in the Official UK Classical Charts, as did her debut album ‘RISE’. Jess curated the album to mirror the arc of energy in a passing day and the constant orbit of our existence. The album includes music by Nyman, Björk, Brian Eno, Anna Meredith and Thom Yorke, as well as two new commissions from Luke Howard and Will Gregory. 

Jess is featured on ‘Good Night Songs for Rebel Girls,’ an album released at the end of 2020, celebrating extraordinary women in music and created in partnership with Rebel Girls, the global multi-platform edutainment brand focused on inspiring and instilling confidence in a generation of girls around the world.

Jess is also a presenter on TV and Radio. She became the youngest ever presenter for BBC Radio 3 and hosts her own award-winning weekly show and podcast called ‘This Classical Life’. She has also been a guest presenter for BBC Radio 2 and co-hosted a miniseries for BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. In 2019 Jess presented five BBC Proms live on television. She has been the recipient of a Classic BRIT Award, was the first ever saxophonist to reach the final of BBC Young Musician, and in 2019, performed live at the BAFTAs to millions of viewers at home. In 2020 Jess has been nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award.

A free spirit in style and character, Gillam is a passionate advocate for the power of music in society, often combining her concert engagements with educational and social projects. She is a patron of Awards for Young Musicians and a trustee for the HarrisonParrott Foundation. Jess is a Vandoren UK Artist and became the youngest ever endorsee for Yanagisawa Saxophones aged just 13. She continues to promote her own concert series, bringing international talent to her hometown of Ulverston.

Here are a selection of recent media quotes about Jess:

“Gillam…spreads joy”
The Times

“Gillam is the real thing, deserving serious attention”
Artsdesk

“A true inspiration… she frankly rocks”
Huffington Post

“Jess Gillam was the indisputable highlight of the Last Night of the Proms.”
BBC News 

“Irrepressible, unpretentious, outrageously virtuosic…she talks about music as well as she plays it. If I were the culture secretary I would be drafting her immediately, and sending her into every school in the UK.”
The I

“I’d happily listen to the lyrical and liquid music-making of this perky 22-year-old under any social conditions. She really is a wonder…She’s a live wire; she directly communicates.”
The Times

“…with a performance that combined emotional warmth with humour and terrific dexterity”
The Guardian

“…she had the Royal Albert Hall in the palm of her hand.”
The Telegraph