“Dickson shows the saxophone is capable of subtlety and great beauty.”
Michael Beek, BBC Music Magazine, 5* Review of In Circles, July 2019
Twice nominated for a Grammy™ award, Australian-British Amy Dickson has been acknowledged by BBC Music Magazine as one of the world’s six best classical saxophonists ever.
She has recorded eight solo albums for Sony Music. Recognised for her remarkable, distinctive tone and exceptional musicality, she began her musical studies at the age of two and took her first saxophone lesson in Sydney aged six. Amy made her concerto debut at 16, and on her 18th birthday made her first recording as soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. That year she moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music with Kyle Horch, then at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam with Arno Bornkamp.
“She has an individual and unusual tone, luscious, silky smooth, sultry and voluptuous by turns; her phrasing is beautifully finished, her control of dynamic infinitely subtle.”
Amy made history by becoming the first saxophonist ever to win the following prizes: the James Fairfax Australian Young Artist of the Year Award (1998), the Gold Medal at the Royal Overseas League Competition (2004), the Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year Award (2004) and the Prince's Prize (2005). In 2013 she was awarded a Classic BRIT Award and in 2016 she was named Young Australian of the Year at Australia House, London.
“I have never heard saxophone playing so seductive and alluring. The Australian lass is a magician, whose playing elevated the music in her hands to a stature where one could only be beguiled.”
Amy Dickson is a brilliant interpreter of contemporary music and is devoted to the development of new repertoire for the classical saxophone. Working closely with many living composers, she has already made a substantial contribution to the legacy of the instrument’s concerto, chamber and solo repertoire.
“Music always needs great communicators, and here’s one whose captivating instrumental voice could open up a whole new world.”
Classic FM Magazine
Amy’s raison d'être is her own Take a Breath wellbeing programme. Amy conducts breathing workshops and gives school concerts wherever she can. As well as introducing children to classical music, sometimes for the first time, Take a Breath equips young children with the tools they need to recognise stress and to build resilience to help combat it, using a simple and discreet relaxed breathing technique.
See Take a Breath.
“Amy developed an immediate rapport with the children; they listened transfixed to her playing which set them up to engage strongly with Elephant Breaths. The experience of hearing 500 children alternately breathing silently and cheering classical music is not one I will forget in a hurry.”
James Waters Creative Director, Classical Music, Perth Concert Hall
During the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020, Amy Dickson began a series of online videos called the Solo Session. The films featured new works for solo saxophone, written by composers from around the world reflecting their feelings and concerns during this time. In each film, Amy interviewed the composer via Zoom, and performed the new work.
See The Solo Sessions.
In 2018, Amy world premiered a new saxophone concerto by Sir James MacMillan with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Joseph Swensen. The concerto was commissioned by Perth Concert Hall (Scotland), Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and the Aurora Orchestra. As its dedicatee, Amy went on to perform and record the work with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Nicholas Carter. She gave its London premiere with the Aurora Orchestra in September 2019. The work was released in 2019 on Amy’s album In Circles which celebrates folk music and the influence it has had on music around the world throughout history.
"Amy Dickson is not just an outstanding saxophonist, she’s a musician full of curiosity to explore the full potential of her instrument. It’s a tribute to Amy’s adventurousness that of the 20 tracks here, I hadn’t heard the music on 11 of them before. This album is popular in the sense that only the tin-eared will fail to enjoy it, but never emptily populist or condescending in the way that some classical musicians’ tribute to folk music has often been. Thoroughly recommended."
David Mellor, Classic FM, review of In Circles
In August 2019 Amy premiered the new saxophone concerto by Matthew Hindson with the Tasmania Symphony Orchestra and Benjamin Northey. Amy’s repertoire is strongly influenced by her passion for new music. She is deeply committed to the development of new repertoire for the saxophone and has already made a substantial contribution to its concerto, chamber and solo oeuvre, working with composers including Peter Sculthorpe, Huw Watkins, Steve Martland, Nigel Hess, Richard Blackford, Kenneth Fuchs, Stuart Greenbaum, Elena Kats-Chernin, Ivan Moody, Tarik O'Regan, Chris Rogerson, Toby Young, Alexis Ffrench, Jessica Wells, Carl Davis, Graham Fitkin, Graham Koehne, Martin Butler and Brett Dean. She has formed a particularly close musical relationship with Ross Edwards. Their collaboration led to the creation of a number of important works for the saxophone. His concerto Full Moon Dances was premiered in 2012. His arrangement for Amy of his oboe concerto Bird Spirit Dreaming was given its first performance in 2011. His double concerto for saxophone and percussion, Frog and Star Cycle, was premiered in July 2016 to critical acclaim at the Sydney Opera House by Amy Dickson, Colin Currie and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
Amy is devoted to championing the existing repertoire of the saxophone, regularly performing the works of Glazunov, Debussy, Schulhoff, Villa Lobos, Takacs, Ibert, Larsson, Dubois and Milhaud. She is highly regarded as a brilliant interpreter of contemporary saxophone music, including works by Williams, Turnage, Tavener, Adams, Higdon, Birtwistle, Glass, Torke, ter Veldhuis, Reich and Kancheli.
She enjoys the diversity of the saxophone and continually seeks to explore new genres. With the support of Sony Music, she has showcased a diverse repertoire, highlighting the versatility of her musicianship and the extensive capabilities of the saxophone.
In 2009, Amy’s recording of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 1 changed listeners’ perception of the saxophone. Having learned how to circular breathe, Amy approached Philip Glass for his permission to transcribe his iconic violin concerto for the soprano saxophone. Permission granted, Amy created for herself an influential signature work and a highly ambitious technical challenge, plus a new sound world for the instrument. Her recording of the concerto won several awards and was re-released in 2017 for Philip Glass’s 80th birthday. Amy’s transcription of the work has allowed her to collaborate with many different artists. In 2014 L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg invited a digital artist to map images of New York across the inside of the Palais Universitaire during Amy’s live performance with the orchestra. In 2016 there was a stunning collaboration with Amy performing her transcription with the Louisville Orchestra and Louisville Ballet, who danced alongside the musicians on stage.
Amy has always been passionate about combining art with wellbeing when visiting schools or hospices in between concerts. In 2017 she launched her own primary schools programme called Take a Breath, in the UK and in Australia. Take a Breath helps equip young children with the tools to recognise stress and anxiety and build resilience to help combat them by using a simple relaxed breathing technique called Elephant Breaths. Taking her obsession with breath one step further, and passionate about sharing contemporary music with a wider audience, Amy premiered the Take a Breath Recital in 2018; a multimedia solo project in which abstract films (David Donnelly) and short contemporary pieces interweave as audience members are asked to think about their own breath and breathing habits. In February 2019 Amy premiered her highly successful Take a Breath Schools Concert in Perth, Scotland. The script was co-written by Amy and Bill Barclay (Shakespeare’s Globe). 500 school children sat entranced by Amy and players from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. As well as repeatedly practising Elephant Breaths together, the Take a Breath Schools Concert exposes students to high quality classical music performances and true stories of triumph over adversity narrated from the stage.
Amy is honoured and delighted to be an Ambassador for the Australian Children’s Music Foundation in Australia and Children & The Arts in the United Kingdom. She is also a dedicated supporter of The Prince’s Trust.