Thoughts, News and Events

Saxophonist | Educator | Conductor | Mentor

New Year Update

I feel very lucky to be starting 2023 relaxed and in practise. I took some time at the end of 2022 to rest and recuperate after a busy few months of performing and teaching. I enjoyed getting back to basics with my scales and exploring repertoire plans for the new year.

Over the past year I have increasingly been using my tablet when reading music; when I buy a piece of music I try if possible to get a digitised copy. I prefer having all my repertoire, studies, and technique books to hand when I’m both practising and teaching. This is my way of staying focussed as I can choose to work on the most appropriate technical aspects of my playing for the day. It’s much easier to see (age I’m afraid…) using a lit screen and the ability to zoom in to a page. I do have to turn the pages more often (especially in landscape mode), made easier by using a bluetooth foot-pedal. Gone are the days of struggling to read the notes and the excuses when I make a mistake! 

In February the Quirk Saxophone Quartet will be bringing our eclectic sound to the newly transformed performance space at All Saints Church in Netherthong near Holmfirth. We have created a joyful mix of music, including works by Ravel, Mendelssohn, Bob Mintzer, Philippe Geiss and our own Chris Jolly. The challenge when working with my Quirk colleagues is matching our sounds as we change from classical to jazz to funk.

I’ve just changed my soprano jazz mouthpiece: I am now playing on a Vandoren V16 number 6 opening, rather than my previous V16 with an 8 opening. The smaller mouthpiece chamber of the 6 enables me to produce the sound I want with the control I need. This concert precedes our planned recording session in April. We’ll be recording Chris Jolly’s quartet Smudge amongst a few other works.

In March I celebrate the tenth year of my annual Saxophone Day. On Sunday 5th March I will be hosting a Play-Day in the beautiful St. Paul’s Hall at the University of Huddersfield. There will be four different playing sessions, each with their own music to explore. The sessions will be led by myself, Chris Jolly, Richard Ingham, and Rob Ironside. You can find out more here.

April sees my return to Greece for the inspiring International Greek Saxophone Festival. I will be giving a recital, running a workshop, and also be a jury member for the saxophone competition. I have decided my programme and I am looking forward to sharing my music with the students and teachers of the Greek saxophone community. It’s always an absolute pleasure to see and hear my friends at the festival.

2022 Markham Awards

I’m very happy to announce the recipients of my Markham Awards for 2022.

This is the tenth year of my Sarah Markham Saxophone Award which I started in 2013 to recognise the achievements of my outstanding graduating students. As I come to the end of academic year I enjoy reflecting on all that my students have achieved and what their future plans are.

When my dad died in 2018 I wanted to do something to honour him and so I established the Ralph Markham Achievement Award. My father was a teacher and he always encouraged his students, my brother, and me, to find our own way in life and to carve a path that was right for us. This award reflects that, and recognises students who have 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, Sheffield, and York have all received awards over the last ten years, and I am delighted to have been able to celebrate the success of my students from all those institutions.

The 2022 recipient of the Sarah Markham Saxophone Award is Rosemary Ball. Rosemary has studied saxophone with me at the Royal College of Music Junior Department since 2018. When she first arrived at the Junior Department, Rosemary was a first study composer and self taught saxophonist, having only played the saxophone for a couple of years (Rosemary is also an accomplished trumpet player). Rosemary and I embarked on a journey, with Rosemary re-auditioning a year later to become a first study saxophonist. It was clear Rosemary had a natural affinity with the saxophone, and it has been a joy to guide her through the first part of her learning these past four years. Rosemary’s many recent successes include: reaching the final of the RCMJD Peter Morrison Concerto competition (playing Dubois Saxophone Concerto), winner of the RCMJD Gordon Turner competition (playing Debussy Syrinx and Yoshimatsu Fuzzy Bird Sonata), and winning the top category competition at the International Greek Saxophone Festival (playing Boutry Divertimento). Rosemary continues her studies with a scholarship to the Royal College of Music in September 2022.

The 2022 recipient of the Ralph Markham Achievement Award is Lucy Havelock. Lucy has studied with me at the University of York since 2019, and her love of saxophone playing has seen her work on many core works in the classical saxophone repertoire, as well as contemporary music. From the start of her degree in 2019 Lucy would volunteer to perform whenever an opportunity arose; this inspired her love of contemporary music and free improvisation. When Covid forced Lucy to work alone she bought herself a loop pedal and began experimenting with sounds and audio layering. Lucy made many recordings and ensured that she was able to continue performing, albeit in a different way. She commissioned and premiered several new works for solo saxophone and also for saxophone and loop pedal. Lucy was the president of Chimera, the University of York’s contemporary music group. In continuing to develop both her playing and her love of music administration she is looking forward to starting a postgraduate course in Europe.

Rosemary and Lucy share a love of music and performance. Both of them are open to the exploration of all genres of music, and they work hard to create opportunities to perform and connect with other musicians. I am very proud of all that they have achieved.

Rosemary and Lucy receive a cash award from me, reeds of their choice from Vandoren, a Venova (a ‘casual’ wind instrument with the range of a recorder using a saxophone mouthpiece) 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.

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.

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!

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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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