Biography

“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, British-Australian Amy Dickson has been acknowledged by BBC Music Magazine as one of the world’s six best classical saxophonists ever. 

Dickson has recorded eight solo albums for Sony Music. Recognised for her remarkable, distinctive tone and exceptional musicality, she made history by becoming the first saxophonist to win a Classic BRIT Award, for Breakthrough Artist of the Year and in 2016 she was named the UK’s Young Australian of the Year.

“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”  Gramophone Magazine

Amy Dickson began her musical studies at the age of two and took her first saxophone lesson in Sydney aged six. She 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, then at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. 

As well as receiving the James Fairfax Australian Young Artist of the Year award, she was the first ever saxophonist to win the Gold Medal at the Royal Overseas League Competition, the Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year award and The Prince’s Prize. 

“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”   

The Herald

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’etre is her own Take a Breath wellbeing programme. Amy conducts breathing workshops and gives schools concerts wherever she can. As well as introducing children to classical music, sometimes for the first time, Take a Breath helps equip young children with the tools to recognise stress and to build resilience to help combat it, using a simple and discreet relaxed breathing technique.

“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

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, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and 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 Aurora in September 2019. 

The Concerto was released in 2019 on Amy’s latest solo 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. 

In the 19/20 season Amy will be premiering new works by Tarik O’ Regan, Chris Rogerson, Jessica Wells, Roderick Williams, Eric Whitacre, Richard Blackford, Guy Barker and Ross Edwards.

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 other composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Huw Watkins, Steve Martland, Graham Fitkin, Graham Koehne, Martin Butler, Brett Dean, Cecilia McDowall and Timothy Salter.  

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.  Frog & Star Cycle Ross’ new double concerto for saxophone and percussion was premiered in July 2016 to critical acclaim at the Sydney Opera House by Amy Dickson, Colin Currie and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

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, Amy is equally devoted to playing existing saxophone repertoire, regularly performing the works of Glazunov, Debussy, Schulhoff, Villa Lobos, Takacs, Ibert, Larsson, Dubois and Milhaud.

Amy 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. See Recordings

In 2009, Amy’s recording of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No 1 changed peoples’ perception of what the saxophone is capable of. Having learned how to circular breathe, Amy approached Philip Glass for his permission to attempt 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 Glass won several awards and was re-released in 2017 for Philip Glass’ 80th birthday. 

Amy’s Glass transcription 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 the three movements of Amy’s live performance. In 2016 there was a stunning collaboration between Amy performing her Glass Concerto transcription with the Louisville Orchestra and Louisville Ballet who danced alongside the musicians on stage.

Amy has always been passionate about combining art with well-being 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. See Take a Breath. 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.