Sarah Watts

Tim Kliphuis Photo

Sarah Watts studied clarinet at the Royal Academy of Music with Angela Malsbury and Victoria Soames Samek (bass clarinet). Sarah then decided to specialise in the bass clarinet and continued her studies at the Rotterdam Conservatorium with Henri Bok, funded by the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and a Leverhulme Trust Studentship. Sarah was awarded the Exxon Prize for the best classical music student in Rotterdam.

Among the awards Sarah has won are the UK Howarth Clarinet Competition (2000), the Hawkes Clarinet Prize (RAM, 2001), the Sir Arthur Bliss Chamber Music Prize (RAM, 2000) and the Faber Prize, UK Performing Australian Music Competition (2001 – recital broadcast on ABC radio). She was also a finalist in the wind section of the Royal Overseas League Competition in 2000.

Sarah specialises on the low clarinets and has premiered many new works for the bass and contrabass clarinet, gaining an international reputation as an artist, teacher and researcher on these instruments. Sarah enjoys putting together collaborative programmes that often combine with different art forms and help to make new music accessible and enjoyable for all audiences.

She has performed solo repertoire across the UK, Ireland, Asia, Europe and the Americas and has attracted composers including Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Piers Hellawell and William Sweeney to write works for her. In January 2003, Sarah performed a solo bass clarinet recital in London’s Purcell Room as part of the Park Lane Group Young Artist Series.

Sarah is Director of Performance at Sheffield University and hosts bass clarinet courses on the Isle of Raasay in Scotland, as well as running and tutoring on other wind chamber music courses. Sarah has given workshops on bass clarinet technique at many establishments around the world. She taught bass clarinet at RNCM from 2012 until 2022.

Sarah performs with Hard Rain Ensemble, rarescale and SCAW and is exploring music for narrator and clarinets with voiceover actor Jon Iles. She has completed a PhD in bass clarinet multiphonic analysis at Keele University and has published Spectral Immersions; A Comprehensive Guide to the Theory and Practice of Bass Clarinet Multiphonics via Metropolis publishers.

Sarah’s pioneering one-clarinet performances include Feed the Beast – a 50-minute solo performance for contrabass clarinet with audio narration and visuals, Ten Wee Drams – an hour's programme of new works by Scottish composers written about and for the Isle of Raasay, Dracula Bite-Size – an original 60-minute adaptation... bringing the undead to life... and Dolphy Fused, celebrating the life and work of the great bass clarinettist Eric Dolphy. With pianist Antony Clare, Sarah performs INTO THE DEPTHS, works for basset horn, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet from the Classical period to modern day.

Sarah is an Henri Selmer Paris artist, a Vandoren UK artist and a Silverstein Ligature artist.

In 2016, she was made an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM), London.