Her international career was launched through close working relationships with mentors including Vladimir Ashkenazy and Donald Runnicles. From 2009 to 2011 she was Assistant Conductor at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Fellow in Conducting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and from 2012 to 2014 Assistant Conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra where she conducted over thirty concerts per year with the orchestra, being lauded in the Australian press as “one of the big hopes for change”.
Born in Australia and a dual British-Australian citizen, Jessica Cottis was awarded a first class honours degree in organ, piano and musicology from the Australian National University and continued her studies as an organist with Marie-Claire Alain in Paris, winning awards from the Royal Philharmonic Society and Royal College of Organists. A wrist injury subsequently halted her playing career and, after reading Law, she began conducting studies in 2006, studying with Colin Metters and Sir Colin Davis on the postgraduate conducting course at the Royal Academy of Music. Cottis was awarded the Academy’s top conducting prizes upon graduation in July 2009, the same month she was appointed to her positions at the BBC SSO and RCS, and also Manson Fellow in Composition at the Royal Academy of Music.
A gifted communicator, Jessica Cottis is already acting as an inspiration to the younger generation. She has filmed projects for Play School (ABC Australia), CBeebies (BBC) and the Royal Opera House, has conducted projects with organisations such as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Sistema Scotland, and led courses for female conductors with London’s Royal Philharmonic Society.
In recent years, she has become a frequent contributor to BBC radio and television programmes. She taught Dame Jenni Murray the basics of conducting for a BBC Woman’s Hour special, and returned to the programme to speak about Verdi’s heroines. She has commented on issues faced by women in music for the World Service and the Today Programme, and contributed to programmes on architecture and acoustics. In 2012, Jessica Cottis appeared on the BBC2 series ‘Maestro at the Opera’ as conducting mentor to DJ Trevor Nelson.
In 2014 Jessica Cottis took up the position of Principal Conductor of the Glasgow New Music Expedition, and in 2015 was appointed Associate Member of the Royal Academy of Music (ARAM), an honorary award for former students who have made a significant contribution to the music profession.
Jessica Cottis makes her home in South London and spends her free time taking helicopter-flying lessons.