Sally Beamish was born in London. A composer from an early age, she began her career as a viola player with the Raphael Ensemble, Academy of St Martin in the Fields and London Sinfonietta, before moving to Scotland in 1990 to focus on composition. In 2018 she won the Award for Inspiration at the British Composer Awards, and in 2020 was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.

She is perhaps best known for her many concertos for diverse instruments, including saxophone, percussion, accordion, trumpet, and three each for piano and viola. Her double concerto, Distans, for Janine Jansen and Martin Fröst, was co-commissioned by the Concertgebouw, LSO, Oslo Philharmonic and the Swedish Radio Orchestra. It was premiered in Stockholm in 2021.

Her harp concerto Hive was premiered by Catrin Finch and BBCNOW at the BBC Proms in 2022 and was conducted by Ariane Matiakh. Her third full-length ballet, A Christmas Carol, (her second with choreographer David Bintley), was commissioned by Finnish National Ballet.

She returned to performing in 2015, when her daughter, luthier Stephanie Irvine, made her a viola. Since then she has performed regularly with chamber ensembles, including concerts with Divertimenti, and the Elias and Chilingirian quartets. She also plays with the York Road Band, who specialise in popular songs, and with pianist Nancy Cooley.