Sally Beamish was born in London. Initially a viola player, she moved from London to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer. Her music embraces many influences: particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music. The concerto form is a continuing inspiration, and she has written for many soloists, including Tabea Zimmermann, Håkan Hardenberger and Steven Isserlis.
Her music is performed and broadcast internationally, and since 1999 she has been championed by the BIS label, who have recorded much of her work. Recent commissions include 'Dance Variations': Percussion Concerto No 2, for percussionist Colin Currie, with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, Scottish and Swedish Chamber Orchestras, and Stanford Lively Arts, California. Her string quartet for the Elias Quartet, 'Reed Stanzas', received its premiere at the 2011 BBC Proms, and won the 2011 RPS award in the Chamber-Scale Composition category.
She is one of the PRS 20x12 Cultural Olympiad composers, and her work with The Times columnist Melanie Reid, 'Spinal Chords', was premiered in Southampton and London (Queen Elizabeth Hall) in 2012, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, featuring Juliet Stevenson as narrator.
Her new concerto for Scottish fiddle and harp, 'Seavaigers', was premiered by Chris Stout, Catriona McKay and the Scottish Ensemble, at Celtic Connections 2012, Glasgow.
In February 2012 Sally Beamish was BBC Radio 3 Composer of the Week; and in July, Branford Marsalis premiered a new sonata at the World Saxophone Congress in St Andrews.
Sally is the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow, a Creative Scotland award, and the Paul Hamlyn Award. She is also a visiting lecturer at Leeds College of Music.
In 2012, Beamish's music was featured at festivals in Lincoln, Presteigne and Trondheim. In 2013 her opera with Clara Glynn, 'Hagar in the Wilderness', will be premiered at the Presteigne Festival. A new dance piece using poems by Hafez, 'The Intoxicating Rose Garden', with choreographer/ dancer/singer Michael Popper, toured Scotland in Autumn 2012. It featured film and artwork by Jila Peacock and Laurie Irvine, and was commisioned by Red Note.
With composer Alasdair Nicolson, Sally Beamish co-directs the annual St. Magnus Composers' Course in Orkney.