Gillian Blair is an award winning Saxophonist from the Wirral. She graduated from the RNCM with a First Class BMus(hons) degree in 2014 and a Masters degree with distinction in 2016 under the tutelage of Rob Buckland. Her studies were generously supported with scholarships from the Oglesby Charitable Trust, the Helen Mackaness Award and the Countess of Munster Trust. Upon completing her undergraduate degree, she was awarded the Tim Reynish Award for outstanding contribution to the RNCM. During her studies, Gillian has received tuition and appeared in masterclasses with internationally acclaimed artists including Vincent David, Arno Bornkamp, Johan van der Linden and Timothy McAllister, as well as studying at the prestigious 2015 'European University of the Saxophone' in Gap, France. Gillian has won competitions including the 'International Young Musician' Competition at the 2015 Llangollen Eisteddfod, the D'addario Single Reed Competition, the RNCM Solo Woodwind Prize, the inaugural Charles Scarratt Award for Young Musicians and the RNCM's Sir John Manduell Prize. She was a finalist in the prestigious RNCM Gold Medal Competition, was highly commended 2013 RNCM Concerto Competition, was a finalist in the 2014 competition and has recently been selected as a finalist agin in the 2016 competiton. She has received awards from the Rushworth Trust, the EMI Music Sound Foundation and the Loan Fund for Musical Instruments. As a soloist, she has performed recitals around the country including the RNCM Lunchtime Concert Series and a performance of ‘Requiem 77’ by Kevin Malone at the Manchester Palaver Festival. She has appeared as a guest soloist with the RNCM Percussion Ensemble, the RNCM Saxophone Orchestra and the Virr String Quartet, as well as performing concerti by Jacques Ibert and John Williams. Gillian has commissioned several solo works, the latest of which, In Somnium by Lucy Pankhurst was premiered at the RNCM in November with Pianist Hayley Parkes. In August, Gillian will give a performance of 'Orbit 1a' by Emily Howard at the BBC Proms which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The Polaris Duo was formed with Harpist Elinor Nicholson in 2011 and the duo has since been exploring an eclectic range of repertoire and possibilities for this unusual instrumentation which has included collaborations with several international composers, and performances including Heswall Arts Festival, the RNCM Monday Lunchtime Concert Series and the world premiere of Andy Scott’s ‘Sonata for Saxophone and Harp’ at the 2012 World Saxophone Congress. They won 2nd prize in the 2015 British Harp Chamber Music Competition where Gillian was also awarded the prize for 'Best Wind Player'. Gillian is a member of the Borealis Saxophone Quartet, with whom she has performed regularly throughout the UK including performances at St John’s Smith Square, Kings Place, the Bridgewater Hall and the 2012 BBC Proms Festival which was broadcast on Radio 3. The quartet reached the finals of the 2012 RNCM Concerto Competition and the 2014 Royal Overseas League Chamber Music Competition. They have commissioned and premiered several new saxophone quartets by composers including Gary Carpenter and Tom Harrold, and a concerto for Saxophone Quartet and Strings by Lucy Pankhurst. The quartet won the 2013 Apollo Saxophone Quartet/RNCM Saxophone Ensemble Prize, the 2013/14 June Emerson Launchpad Prize and the 2013 Trevor Wye Memorial Prize. Following this success, they competed against other prize winning RNCM Ensembles in the Christopher Rowland Chamber Music Prize and were named 'RNCM Ensemble of the Year 2013'. In 2014, the quartet premiered 4 new works by RNCM composers at the RNCM Gold Medal Competition, 2 of which feature on the quartet’s debut album; ‘The North’, which was released in October 2014, following their first international tour to Serbia. The quartet were selected as Park Lane Group Young Artists 2014/15 and gave performances at the Royal Festival Hall and the Purcell Room where they premiereda PLG commission; 'Borexino-Borealis' by Darren Bloom. Most recently they premiered a new work by Lucy Armstrong at St Martin-in-the-Fields and have been selected as artists for the Live Music Now scheme. In addition to performing with the RNCM Symphony, Wind and Concert Orchestras, Gillian has performed with ensembles including the European Union Youth Wind Orchestra, the Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra, the Soundscape Chamber Orchestra and has performed, recorded and given workshops with the Commonwealth Youth Orchestra. She is a member of the Tenor Saxophone Collective, a saxophone orchestra made up of internationally reknowned tenor saxophonists including Arno Bornkamp, Andy Scott and Niels Bilj. Gillian has performed as an extra with several professional orchestras including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic's 'SuperOrchestra' and the Orchestra of Opera North.
A flawless and accomplished performance...she excelled in shaping the long lyrical phrases
an impeccable display of technical mastery....her obvious passion was beautifully controlled, and her meticulous artistic attention to detail could be heard in the shaping of every melodic phrase