Diving into podcasting

The mind of Jess Gillam, music, podcasting, and more!

Saxophonist, podcaster and international performer, Jess Gillam has many well-earned titles. Gillam is the Bragg artist-in-residence at Mt. A’s Department of Music  this year. The Bragg Women Music Opportunities Fund, established by John Bragg, is a fund which offers various opportunities for music students, including an annual one week residency of a professional musician as well as scholarships and summer program funding.  The artist then performs and works alongside the young artists at the school in the form of various talks, masterclasses, workshops, class visits, and one-on-one sessions..  Gillam has worked as a saxophonist since she was seven years old and has been podcasting since she was 16. I had the pleasure of getting to speak to Gillam about podcasting, how she got into it, and some tips for future podcasters.


Jess Gillam never expected to become a podcaster. She knew from the time she was 13 that she wanted music (saxophone) to be her future, but sometimes one thing leads to another and you end up in some unexpected place. When she was 16, Gillam entered the BBC Young Musician competition, in which she eventually became a finalist. In the interview portion, Gillam showed a natural talent for radio and TV. Her camera and microphone confidence  was an amazing asset. After seeing her in interviews, the BBC offered Gillam the chance of a lifetime as a young teenager: to run her own BBC Radio show. In fact, she is BBC Radio 3’s youngest ever presenter. Since that fateful day, Gillam has been running various shows and learning on the job for over five years. Her current BBC podcast—called This Classical Life— airs every Saturday on the BBC.


As a successful podcaster, Gillam had many tips for beginners, starting with discussing her own process in podcasting. “Research everything! Then, build up a storyboard like a TV show! Then maybe a rough script. Always be open to being flexible once you talk to[the interviewee].” Podcasting can be hard, especially when trying to formulate the perfect question and reveal the best side of the person you are speaking to. Showing how they shine in their own light can be hard, but Gillam seems to have it down to a science. “With interviews, it is all about curiosity! Really, really listen! Passion really opens up people’s minds. Go back to the thing where you see the spark in their eyes.” That insight from Gillam makes it even more impressive as to how you can get to know someone through what they love.. 

Gabriel Theriault – Argosy Illustrator

 Gillam also spoke to her experiences balancing two successful careers in performance and podcasting.  “Sometimes they compliment each other. They have the same application to create a bridge between the person here and the listener.” Gillam smiled the whole interview, showing her open personality. It is clear  what the BBC saw in her, the way she can make a story interesting, and her thoughtful responses make her perfect for podcasting and musical performance. Gillam’s performance career is as impressive as that in broadcasting. She has toured internationally since she was 16, earning a Member of the Order of the British Empire from Queen Elizabeth II, all by the age of 25. 


Getting the chance to speak with Gillam was a wonderful experience. Asking her questions about her life before and during podcasting shines a light on how different your life can be from what you expected. When that was mentioned, she grinned and exclaimed, “there is so much learning to be done forever! How am I living my dream? How am I doing what I love?” That really shows how life can become beautiful, even if it is different than you expected. Gillam’s gracious podcast tips and experience have been an exciting blessing to hear and, hopefully, some future podcasters get the chance to see her tips.

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