ULVERSTON saxophonist Jess Gillam has had a busy year - and she has no plans of stopping yet. 

From a young age she was known in the area for her musical prowess, as an attendee of the Royal Northern College of Music while still in secondary school. She became a national star as 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. 

She released two albums as the first saxophonist to be signed to Decca Classics, and she was awarded an MBE for her services to music. She has performed her music across the Atlantic this year, at Carnegie Hall in New York and Aspen Music Festival. 

Alongside her musical endeavours, she has also become a successful broadcaster, hosting her show 'This Classical Life' on BBC Radio 3. We managed to find time in her packed schedule to ask her a few questions before she returns to The Coro on December 9 to perform 'A Festive Evening' with her ensemble. 

The Westmorland Gazette: Jess attended the Royal Northern College of Music while she was still in secondary schoolJess attended the Royal Northern College of Music while she was still in secondary school (Image: Robin Clewley)

Do you enjoy coming back for your hometown gigs? You still do them quite regularly. 

I love coming back home and playing at the Coro and I try to come back as much as I can and am really excited to be back in December! The Coro was the first stage I ever performed on in the South Cumbria Music Festival so there’s always a special kind of feeling playing on there. I love organising and promoting concerts at The Coro and there was such a great atmosphere at the Christmas show with my band last year so I can’t wait to do it again!​ 

What have been some highlights for you this year?

It’s been a really busy year which has been so full of great music and collaborations – I love getting to travel to new places and meeting new people. Particular highlights this year have been touring with the Manchester Camerata in Romania, playing a summer tour with the Jess Gillam Ensemble and performing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. I’ve also really enjoyed meeting lots of people on my BBC Radio 3 show ‘This Classical Life’.

The Westmorland Gazette: Jess presents a Radio 3 show alongside her musical endeavours Jess presents a Radio 3 show alongside her musical endeavours (Image: Robin Clewley)

What are you planning to do next year? 

I’m excited to have a busy year of travelling and concerts! I will give the world premiere of Dani Howard’s new Saxophone Concerto with the London Chamber Orchestra which I am really looking forward to and I am playing a lot in the UK next year too. I will be an Artist in Focus for Royal Northern Sinfonia and Sage Gateshead in 2023/24. As well as a Christmas concert in December this year, I will also perform Glazunov’s Saxophone Concerto, conducted by Chloe van Soesterstede in concerts at The Sands Centre, Carlisle (9 May), Sage Gateshead (10 May) and Kendal Leisure Centre (11 May). 

I join the Hallé and Estonian conductor Kristiina Poska in March at The Bridgewater Hall (20, 21 & 24 March) to perform John Harle’s Briggflatts which is inspired by toe-tapping Cumbrian folk-tunes. 

What can audiences expect to see from the festive evening? Why have you gone for the Christmas theme (other than the date)? 

We’ll be playing a big range of festive tunes as well as some warming wintery pieces. We are inspired by classical music, folk, pop, rock and alternative artists and we always try to put on a show packed with energy and fun as well as some beautiful and reflective moments. Hopefully see you there, we can’t wait!