Thoughts, News and Events

Saxophonist | Educator | Conductor | Mentor

2021 Markham Awards

It’s the time of year when I announce the recipients of my Markham awards.

I established the Sarah Markham Saxophone Award in 2013 to recognise the achievements of my outstanding graduating students; five years later I established the Ralph Markham Achievement Award in my late father’s name to recognise students who had achieved great personal success and development in their saxophone playing.

Students from Leeds Conservatoire, the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and the universities of Durham, Huddersfield and Sheffield have all received awards over the last eight years, and I am delighted to have been able to celebrate the success of my students from all those institutions.

The Sarah Markham Saxophone Award 2021 for outstanding graduating student is awarded to Matthew Bartlett. Matt has just completed his degree at Durham University. For the first eighteen months of his degree Matt would regularly travel to have lessons with me, the remaining time has been studying remotely with a combination of zoom lessons and shared recordings. Because of the restrictions I was not able to attend Matt’s final recital, but I was able to watch him in his final sound check. His final recital performance of Debussy’s Syrinx, Bonneau’s Pièce Concertante Dans L'Esprit Jazz, Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Yoshimatsu, Buku by Jacob TV and ending with a small jazz set with his friends forming a rhythm section showcased the versatility of Matt’s playing and the scope of his musical interests. Matt intends to take some time to continue to develop his playing and will spend some time in Canada over the next year.

The Ralph Markham Achievement Award 2021 for personal achievement and development is awarded to Will Gibbon. Will has just completed his studies at Leeds Conservatoire. Will spent four years at Leeds Conservatoire, beginning with a Foundation Year before embarking on the three year degree course where Will majored in classical saxophone with a minor in jazz. As well as studying with me as his classical saxophone teacher and playing in classical ensembles from duo to quartet, Will also studied jazz saxophone and played in numerous jazz and pop ensembles. Will is a talented drummer and many times would arrive to his saxophone lesson with his sticks because he had just come from a drumming session. For his final recitals Will performed in a jazz ensemble to fulfil his minor in jazz requirement; in his classical recital Will performed Ganba by Anne Boyd on baritone saxophone, Concerto for Stan Getz by Richard Rodney Bennett on tenor saxophone and Buku by Jacob TV on alto saxophone. Will has established himself in the Leeds music scene and is busy with session work on both saxophone and drums with an increasing number of live gigs now that restrictions are easing.

Both Matt and Will studied with me from the age of 16, Matt as a student at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and Will privately. It has been a joy to watch them both develop as people and musicians, and it is a source of great pride that both these musicians have recognised that good saxophone playing encompasses all genres of music.

Matt and Will receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a Pianica (a three octave keyboard played like a wind instrument) from Yamaha, and a work of their choice from the Saxtet Publications catalogue. I am grateful to Vandoren, Yamaha, and Saxtet Publications for their support of my awards.

Online Saxophone Event: Sunday 27th June 2021

My annual Saxophone Day didn't take place as usual in March 2021, it would have been my eighth annual saxophone day. I have been waiting to see if it was feasible to put on some sort of live event, but it's not possible because of the pandemic and social distancing. Instead, I have organised an online event, consisting of three sessions: a recital, a workshop, and a talk.

You can access the three sessions on my Saxophone Day page. There will be three videos, going live at 1:00 pm, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm on Sunday 27th June. The videos will be available for a period of seven days.

My recital will take place in St Paul's Hall at the University of Huddersfield. I'm looking forward to performing music in a large space; I've had a strong connection to these works over the last year. One of the few positive aspects of being in 'lockdown' is that I (along with many of you), have been nudged to explore avenues that I wouldn't normally have the time to do so. Instead of performing with my pianist, or my ensembles, I have focused more on solo saxophone repertoire.

I've enjoyed playing The Four Elements by Victor Herbiet: it's composed by a saxophonist, and he clearly understands how to make the saxophone depict the elements Earth, Water, Wind and Fire in this programmatic solo work. Over the last few months I have heard one of my students, and an ensemble at Leeds Conservatoire play Syrinx by Debussy. This reminded me of the numerous times I've performed Syrinx over the decades, and so I decided to revisit this piece in this recital.

I love the music of Bach. I wanted to include Bach in this recital. I've chosen the Cello Suite No.1, because again, this is a piece I have played many times over the years. I haven't played it recently as the last time it was at my father's funeral; I'm ready to approach it again now and I'm looking forward to performing it on the baritone saxophone.

I also wanted to acknowledge my previous saxophone days in this online event. I'll be playing Trilog by Philippe Geiss, who was my guest at the University of Huddersfield Saxophone Day in 2016, Mrs Malcolm by Richard Ingham (my guest in 2018) and Solstice by Charlotte Harding, who was my guest last year in March 2020, just a week or so before lockdown. 

In November I worked with saxophonists online in a workshop that I created called Faster, Longer, Higher, Louder. The aim of the workshop was to explore how a performer might develop techniques, and reinforce basic concepts, in order to develop confidence in their playing. I'm happy to share this workshop with you on the 27th June.

The online event will finish with a conversation with Jérôme Laran, exploring what we have learnt from this difficult period, and how we might start to return to a more usual music world. Jérôme is an internationally renowned saxophonist based in Paris, we have worked together many times and I value his opinions and expertise very highly. He was my very first guest at my annual Saxophone Day in 2014.

Album launch: Quirk Saxophone Quartet with Richard Ingham

I am very excited to share with you Quirk’s latest recording: Nine Pieces for Five Players. The album contains nine original compositions by Richard Ingham. The Quirk Saxophone Quartet (soprano Sarah Markham, alto Kenneth Wilkinson, tenor Chris Jolly, baritone Sarah Hind) were joined by Richard on soprano saxophone to record the pieces.

Nine Pieces for Five Players was originally commissioned by and written for the Plume Wind Quintet. When I asked Richard if he would write something for saxophone quintet, he decided to rework these pieces for two sopranos, alto, tenor, and baritone saxophone.

Several of the movements were performed in Zagreb at the World Saxophone Congress. We were very excited about the blend of sound created with the quintet of saxophones, which prompted Richard to arrange the rest of the movements. Each movement is very different, and the whole album incorporates many musical styles. Five of the movements feature a member of the ensemble as a soloist with the others accompanying.

There is jazz, latin, funk, folk, as well as contemporary classical influence throughout the album.

View the launch video on the Quirk Music website.

The album is available now at the Quirk Music store, direct from Largo Music, on Apple Music (iTunes), Amazon, and Spotify.

The Markham Awards 2020

The academic year is coming to a close and it’s time for me to announce the recipients of my Markham Awards for 2020.

In 2013 I decided to recognise the achievements of my outstanding graduating students and created the annual Sarah Markham Saxophone Award. Later, in 2018, I established the Ralph Markham Achievement Award in my late father’s name to recognise students who had achieved great personal success and development in their saxophone playing.

Students from Leeds College of Music, the Royal College of Music Junior Department, and the universities of Durham, Huddersfield and Sheffield have all received awards, and I am delighted to have been able to celebrate the success of my students from all those institutions.

This year both of my award winners hail from the Royal College of Music Junior Department.

The Sarah Markham Saxophone Award for outstanding graduating student is awarded to Jasmine Brown. Jasmine has studied with me for six years. I’m very proud of Jasmine; as well as being a talented student she is also my goddaughter. I am grateful to Jasmine’s parents, Katie and Steve, for encouraging Jasmine to attend the RCM Junior Department to enable her to study with me. Jasmine has a scholarship to begin her studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in September.

The Ralph Markham Achievement Award for personal achievement and development is awarded to Rosemary Ball. Rosemary has been attending the RCM Junior Department for nearly two years. She arrived as a first-study composer, second-study trumpeter, and third-study saxophonist, having had only a handful of lessons prior to starting studying with me.

Rosemary has shown remarkable achievements in the last year. Having passed her grade 7 with distinction at the end of 2019, Rosemary decided against working towards grade 8, preferring to delve into more modern music and aspects of technique. Rosemary is now performing works such as Yoshimatsu’s Fuzzy Bird and Lauba’s Balafon, repertoire that would challenge many final year degree students. I’m happy to report that Rosemary is now a first-study saxophonist at the Junior Department and I am looking forward to working with her for another two years.

Both Jasmine and Rosemary receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a voucher for the Yamaha London Store, and a work of their choice from the Saxtet Publications catalogue. I am grateful to Vandoren, Yamaha, and Saxtet for their support of my awards.

Looking back...

2018-19 was a really busy year.

I returned to Greece to play at the International Greek Saxophone Festival in Larisa, this time with my quartet; Quirk, in duo with Kenneth Wilkinson, and also as a soloist. Being with the Greek saxophone community and enjoying the festival is very inspiring: I’m excited to have been invited back in 2020.

I had an exciting weekend performing Ibert’s Concertino da Camera with the London Sylvan Ensemble, a group of amazingly talented and committed musicians. The next day I joined Paul Turner at the Swindon Recital Series 25th Anniversary Concert to perform Walton’s Façade with the MORE ensemble. It was interesting to be a ‘soloist diva’ on the Saturday night and switch to working within an ensemble on the Sunday afternoon.

I invited ensembles to be the focus of my Sixth Annual Saxophone Day at the University of Huddersfield. I welcomed Equinox, Yorkshire Saxophone Choir, and my saxophone student alumni to join me and Quirk. Only a few days later, at the Sounds Like THIS Festival in Leeds I was a soloist again, sharing the billing with inspirational contemporary violinist Aisha Orazbayeva.

There’s also been a lot of travelling. I took my partner Kenneth to Amherst Massachusetts to show him where I studied for two years during my masters degree in performance at UMass. We stayed with Professor Emeritus Lynn Klock, my former teacher. Hanging out with Lynn was great - we did our scales together bringing back student memories! We went to visit the UMass saxophone studio, now in the very capable and gentle hands of Jonathan Hulting-Cohen.

There’s lots more that I won’t bore you with; a wonderful trip to Barcelona with my partner and mum enjoying the works of Gaudí, a recording in the highlands of Scotland with Quirk…

It’s odd that my dad hasn’t been around to see what I’ve been up to.

It’s almost a year since my dad died and I’ll be travelling with my mum to France where I last spent time with him. It’s not planned, as a family we don’t do grand gestures of mourning, but I am glad circumstances mean that I’ll be back in Trédion for a day or two to remember him.

Markham Awards 2019

My academic year is almost over and I've been spending some time reflecting on the year and planning my saxophone awards. This is the seventh year I have made an award to a graduating student; I'm very proud of all my students and, although I enjoy giving special mention to some, all my teaching is rewarding. The new Ralph Markham award, created in memory of my dad is particularly special. He was a great support to me, my brother, and the students that he taught. We did not have to be the best, but he helped us to find our own path, be independent, and do what was right for us. I have many students who work hard and have an exciting future ahead of them in music as performers and also as peripatetic woodwind teachers or community leaders. I enjoy encouraging them to find their own voice, just like my dad did.

Rianna Henriques is the 2019 recipient of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award. Rianna has been studying with me at the Royal College of Music Junior Department since 2015. Rianna is an outstanding musician, performing successfully on both saxophone and flute. As well as my award, Rianna has also been awarded the junior department’s Sally Wainwright Woodwind Prize 2019. From September Rianna enters the senior department of the Royal College of Music as a BAME scholar, studying saxophone and flute as joint first study.

Last year I established The Ralph Markham Achievement Award in honour of my father’s life and the endless support he gave me during my musical career. The 2019 recipient is Megan Broadley. Megan has just completed her second year at the University of Huddersfield studying flute, also taking saxophone lessons with me. She is a key member of the University of Huddersfield Saxophone Ensemble. Megan studies privately with me alongside her regular university studies and will this month take her ABRSM diploma. Megan has earned this achievement award in recognition of her independent study, consistent work and huge improvements to her playing in a relatively short space of time.

Both Rianna and Megan receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a voucher from the Yamaha London shop, and a piece of solo saxophone music from Saxtet Publications.

The Markham Awards 2018

I am delighted to announce that Konstantinos Raptis is the 2018 recipient of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award.

Kostas has recently completed his Masters in Music (Creative Musician) at Leeds College of Music, having previously studied as an undergraduate with me at the University of Hull. Kostas is an exciting player, combining a knowledge of classical saxophone, production skills and maintaining the musical influences of his home country: Greece.

My father, Ralph, died in September 2018. In honour of his life and the endless support he gave me during my musical career, I am establishing an award in his name: The Ralph Markham Achievement Award.

I am very happy that Pui Ying Sze (known as Joanna) is the first recipient of the Ralph Markham Achievement Award. Joanna has recently completed her Masters in Music Performance at the University of Sheffield with me. Originally from Hong Kong, Joanna has decided to stay in the UK to further her saxophone studies, and has just begun a one year advanced diploma at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. Joanna’s dedication to her playing, her hard work during her Masters, and her energy and enthusiasm for all her new experiences in the UK make her a perfect recipient for this new award.

Reflections on the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival

I’ve spent some time reflecting on my wonderful visit to Lárisa for the Sixth Greek Saxophone Festival. What an amazing and inspirational experience.

Arriving at a beautiful city, staying in a luxurious hotel, and enjoying a welcoming dinner with the organisers was a great start. What I didn’t expect was the sense of togetherness, support, enthusiasm, excitement, and a sharing of ideas that I would experience over the next couple of days.

There were five levels of competition resulting in frantic last minute practising by children and adults of all ages getting ready for their chance on stage. The competitions are set by level of playing, not age, which opens up the opportunity for all amateur players to challenge themselves and take part.
Practically every saxophone teacher from all areas of Greece attend the event, supporting their students. It is a real hive of activity, with set works at all levels and a chance to play with a pianist. It is a fantastic opportunity for all students to aim high and perform as well as they can.
The event has been held in several different cities over the years; the organisers are keen to reflect that this is an event for the whole of Greece and its saxophone community. But the city of Lárisa clearly enjoys hosting the event - on the Saturday evening there was an outdoor ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition. It was warm enough (even though it was still the end of March) for everyone to be outside enjoying the live music, with a healthy dose of competition sprinkled on top!
I thoroughly enjoyed performing in the ‘International Special Guests’ concert. Working with Greek pianist, Stefanos Ntinapogias was a delight - putting together Nigel Wood’s Man-Mou with a couple of short rehearsals is no mean feat! I also played Glass by Graham Fitkin, Trilog by Philppe Geiss, and Estudio Tongolele by Gabriela Ortiz. Estudio Tongolele is from a collection of seven characteristic pieces for solo alto or soprano: ‘Saxiana Presto’, edited by Nicolas Prost and published by Gérard Billaudot. Mimmo Malandra from Italy, and Nino Dimov from Macedonia also performed in this concert.
I had the privilege of working with the students in two workshop sessions. Rarely have I worked with such engaged students, all trying out the techniques I showed them with energy and commitment. I used two compositions by Kenneth Wilkinson to illustrate breathing and support ideas; Fragile Dyads uses multiphonics, and Clockwork is an extremely delicate piece. Both sessions ended with a performance of these works - a tribute to the students’ focus after only an hour’s workshop session!
One of the highlights for me was listening to the Greek saxophonists perform in their concert. The sense of camaraderie, friendship, and enthusiasm for playing was clear. They were playing for each other and for their students. They were showing what they loved to play, sharing new repertoire they had discovered in the last year, and collaborating together. From a quartet made up of a teacher and his students, to trios, duos, solos, a beat box baritone saxophonist, and finally an improvised work using loop pedal and involving anyone who wanted to join in.
Thank you to Stathis, Thanos, Kostas, and the Greek Saxophone Association for inviting me to be a part of this wonderful festival. It was a coming together of the Greek saxophone community, and the positive energy was inspiring. Finally, many thanks to Yamaha for helping to make my visit there possible. I know I will be back to that beautiful country very soon - you won’t be able to keep me away!

Saxophone Festival of Greece in Larissa

We’ve just arrived in Larissa ready for the annual saxophone festival that begins tomorrow in the conservatory of music. We arrived in Greece a couple of days ago and have spent an amazing couple of days discovering Athens.

The new Acropolis museum is fantastic, designed to mimic the proportions of the Parthenon. The manager of the hotel we stayed at recommended we visit the museum first and then walk around the site which was a great idea. We were able to imagine what it would have looked like when it was built two and a half thousand years ago. Wandering around Athens we saw loads of street sellers, artists, and buskers playing all kinds of music including a jazz guitarist who played with great simplicity and amazing feel. We joined in a group photo after being beckoned by some incredibly happy people from Taiwan, only to slowly realise we might have accidentally joined some kind of Taiwanese sect! After promising to meet them the next day we hurriedly left...

Our host for the festival, Stathis Mavrommatis, was kind enough to drive us north from Athens to Larissa. The festival starts tomorrow and I’ll be adjudicating one of the saxophone competitions and also meeting my pianist and will have a chance to rehearse. On Sunday I’ll be giving a master class, and performing in a concert along with the other international guests, Nino Dimov and Mimmo Malandra. We will then form the jury of the highest level competition.

This annual festival sees the whole saxophone community from Greece getting together. I’m excited to see and hear what’s going on in this welcoming country.

Snowbound Skype

Yesterday was a tough day for me. I really hated that for the first time in 15 years of teaching at the Royal College of Music Junior Department I was prevented from teaching because of the weather. A combination of icy roads in my area, and the East Coast mainline advising people not to travel made it the only sensible decision.

I don't like my students missing their regular lessons and had a bit of a brainwave. Sometimes when students can't meet me, I give a lesson using Skype or FaceTime. The sound quality is quite good over FaceTime and Skype and it is the next best thing to a regular lesson. From my home in Huddersfield I decided that this might work for the students at the Royal College of Music in London. Many of my students live close to London and did make it in, so I was delighted that I was able to give some of them Skype lessons yesterday. The salsa section of Catherine McMichael's Sapphire was transported to my music studio in Huddersfield effortlessly.

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Sarah Markham


Saxophonist Educator Conductor Mentor


Sarah is a Yamaha and Vandoren performing artist.

Sarah Markham


Sarah Markham's teaching practice welcomes students of all ages and abilities. Focuses include preparing students for music college, and helping amateur musicians get the most from their playing. Sarah is a specialist in helping students with performance anxiety issues.

Quirk Duo


The Quirk Duo is saxophonists Sarah Markham and Kenneth Wilkinson. Between them they have a performing career spanning sixty years, enjoying many genres including solo recitals, opera, orchestral, jazz, pop and chamber music. The Quirk Duo is a distillation of those experiences, an exploration of possibilities.

Quirk Saxophone Quartet


The.Quirk Saxophone Quartet is made up of like-minded saxophonists:

Sarah Markham - soprano
Kenneth Wilkinson - alto
Chris Jolly - tenor
Sarah Hind - baritone

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