Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music and who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My very first teacher was Melinda Atkins, who taught me from when I was six until I left Sydney for London aged 18. She influenced me in every way and I am forever grateful for her selfless dedication. Musically, she taught me that the saxophone can accommodate any musical voice, in any genre. She also taught me that if I had a dream and worked hard enough, I could do anything I wanted.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Probably the limitations of the repertoire – however, expanding it has been one of my greatest joys, so it works both ways.
Of which performances/recordings are you most proud?
In 2004 I won a competition in Sydney, and the final was held at the Sydney Opera House, with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. I think about 400 family and friends were in the audience that night, and it meant a lot, to many of us.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
My arrangement of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto No. 1 has been the most challenging piece of my career so far, and it’s always a thrill to perform.
What do you do off stage that provides inspiration on stage?
Listen to music, particularly when traveling. There’s something about listening whilst looking out the window of a plane – it just opens up the imagination and lets me dream. Also, taking my repertoire for a walk – working through it in my head, away from the technical challenges of the instrument.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Much of my repertoire is new, so quite often it will be based around what new pieces I am premiering.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
Anywhere with a magical acoustic – especially when I’m playing with musical soulmates.
What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music’s audiences/listeners?
Start at the grassroots. I’m always amazed that when I play to a group of primary school children. They will be totally absorbed by a lengthy piece of solo Bach – whereas a popular theme tune will lose their attention after 20 seconds. Children are like sponges – they are attracted to the complexity of classical music – and they just haven’t been told ‘not to like it’ yet.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
The times when I’ve been playing with a musical soulmate – someone who listens acutely, and understands phrasing in the same way as I do. Those moments are the best.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
See above! Those moments are what it’s all about.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Delve deep into your heart to find your true passion – then dedicate everything you have to it.
What has lockdown taught you as a musician?
Should’ve been a plumber
Having been very active online in 2020 performing and filming an unique project called ‘Solo Sessions’ – a stunning collection of new music written by prolific international composers during the pandemic, Amy is currently releasing a series of beautiful singles for Sony, recorded just before the first lockdown. Alongside this, Amy continues to promote ‘optimal breathing’ giving online workshops and creating an online series of Breathing Workshop videos that are being released from her own YouTube channel.
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.
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.
(Image credit: Christian Mushenko)