Jess Gillam receives Master of Performance from Guildhall School of Music and Drama

I never especially enjoyed my graduation day. Twenty-seven years ago, me and my parents journeyed from Suffolk for the late morning ceremony. I’d lost the tickets. I was also reeling from having to return to post-University life, back in my old bedroom, resentful of my suddenly curtailed freedoms.

The ceremony saw me and my peers processing up to the stage in the Great Hall to shake hands with a person we’d never seen before, look out on a see of proud faces, before walking off the other side and walking past the congregation.

It felt like a ramshackle experience, one everyone assuming would be full of pomp. An hour or so later we handed back our gowns and mortarboards, exchanged goodbyes with friends and headed off.

All this is nothing in comparison to what this year’s music graduates have endured: a year of interrupted tuition, distanced learning, and nothing but practise. And to top it all they didn’t get the chance of closure with a formal ceremony.

Undeterred, saxophonist Jess Gillam donned her gown and mortarboard after ‘receiving’ (presumably in the post) her Masters of Performance from Guildhall School of Music and Drama during the conservatoire’s virtual graduation day on Friday 26 March 2021..

After extended studies with her teacher-composer and (its fair to say) mentor John Harle, Gillam’s graduation bookends the COVID year during which her second album release Time ended-up being the idea soundtrack for a year misaligned experiences.