Alison Balsom

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Alison Balsom
Alison Balsom.jpg
Alison Balsom at a recital in Hamburg in 2006
Background information
Birth name Alison Louise Balsom
Born (1978-10-07) 7 October 1978 (age 37)
Royston, Hertfordshire, UK
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Musician, educator
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 2001–present
Labels EMI Classics, Hyperion Records

Alison Louise Balsom (born 7 October 1978) is an English trumpet soloist. She has won three Classic BRIT Awards and was named Artist of the Year at the 2013 Gramaphone Awards. She was a soloist at the Last Night of the Proms in 2009.

Early life and education[edit]

Balsom was born in Hertfordshire. Her parents, Bill and Zena, were a builder and adoption worker respectively.[1] She attended Tannery Drift Primary School in Royston, Hertfordshire, where she started taking trumpet lessons from the age of seven. She later told The Daily Mail’s Louette Harding, "I think the reason I got so passionate about it was that I felt it was my choice. We would go to the library and I would get tapes out – I always felt classical music was something I was discovering myself. And I loved having special treatment at school: 'Excuse me Miss, I need to skip PE because I’ve got a trumpet lesson'".[1]

Balsom then attended Royston's Greneway Middle School and Meridian School, whilst also playing in the Royston Town Band. Subsequently, she took her A-levels at Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge. In The Daily Mail, Harding noted, "At Hills Road, she was so focused on her future and the post A-level scholarship she’d already won to Guildhall that she didn’t bother making friends. 'I was a bit of an outsider,' she admits".[1]

She later studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Conservatoire de Paris, and also with Håkan Hardenberger.

Talking about her musical education in a Question and Answer session with Houston Symphony Principal Trumpet Mark Hughes, Balsom told him, "My most influential teacher was definitely John Miller, who played in the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Wallace Collection. I had him teach me from ages 13- 20, and he taught me everything there is to know about sound production and the zen art of making this physically demanding instrument feel almost yogic".[2]


Balsom has been a professional classical trumpeter since 2001. She is a former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist,[3] and she released her debut album with EMI Classics in 2002. In 2005, she released her second disc, Bach Works for Trumpet as part of a contract with EMI Classics. In 2006, Balsom won 'Young British Classical Performer' at the 2006 Classical BRIT Awards and was awarded the 'Classic FM Listeners' Choice Award' at the Classic FM Gramophone Awards. She won 'Female Artist of the Year' at the 2009 and 2011 Classical BRIT Awards. Her third album (the second disc in the EMI contract), Caprice was released in September 2006 and was awarded 'Solo CD of the Year 2006' by Brass Band World magazine. Balsom was a soloist at the 2009 Last Night of the Proms, performing, among other pieces, Haydn's Trumpet Concerto with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a jazzy arrangement of George Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away from Me" with mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly.

Balsom in 2011

In collaboration with playwright Samuel Adamson Balsom devised Gabriel, a play using the music of The Fairy-Queen and other pieces by Henry Purcell, which she performed with actors and The English Concert as part of the 2013 summer season at Shakespeare's Globe.[4]

Balsom was the principal trumpet of the London Chamber Orchestra.[5] Her main trumpet is a Malone-converted Bach C Trumpet.[citation needed] Talking about her natural trumpet playing in 2014, Balsom told Mark Hughes, "I have been playing since I was in the 3rd year at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – so since I was 21. I just fell in love with this instrument as soon as I started learning it, as it makes total sense of the whole Baroque era in terms of phrasing, colour and the difference in keys and certain notes of the scale, which you lose on a modern instrument such as the piccolo. I play various different makes but my favourite is by Egger of Switzerland."[2]

She is a Visiting Professor of Trumpet at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.[6] In 2014, she returned to BBC Young Musician of the Year as a presenter of the category finals and semi-final of the competition alongside Miloš Karadaglić.[7]

She performed a new work for trumpet by Qigang Chen (Joie éternelle) at the 2014 BBC Proms.[8]

Balsom appeared on BBC Radio 4’s long-running Desert Island Discs programme on 4 October 2015.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Balsom has a keen interest in yachting.[10] Speaking of her hobbies in 2014, she said, "I’m obsessed with interior design and furniture restoration. If I’m not practising or doing a concert or recording, you’ll find me in the shed… not 'wood shedding' as the great Wynton Marsalis calls practicing, but literally 'wood shedding' – with a piece of sand paper!"[2] From 2009 to early 2011 she was the domestic partner of British conductor Edward Gardner; in early 2010 they had a baby boy named Charlie.[10][11][12][13][14][15]

She has a younger brother, Richard, who also trained as a musician but changed careers and subsequently became a firefighter in their home town of Royston.[1]


  • Alison Balsom: Music for Trumpet and Organ (EMI Classics Debut, 2002)
  • Alison Balsom & Crispian Steele-Perkins: The Fam'd Italian Masters (Hyperion, 2003)
  • Alison Balsom: Bach works for Trumpet (EMI Classics, 2005)
  • Alison Balsom: Caprice (EMI Classics, 2006)
  • Alison Balsom: Haydn and Hummel Trumpet Concertos (EMI Classics, 2008)
  • Alison Balsom: Italian Concertos (EMI Classics, 2010)
  • BBC Music Magazine, December 2010: Haydn & Hummel concertos (not the 2008 EMI recordings); Albinoni's Oboe Concerto Op. 9 No. 2, transcribed for trumpet; and Vivaldi's Violin Concerto Op. 3 No. 9, arranged for trumpet and instrumental trio.
  • Alison Balsom: Seraph: Trumpet Concertos by Arutiunian, MacMillan, and Zimmerman (EMI Classics, 2012)
  • Alison Balsom: Alison Balsom (EMI Classics, 2012)
  • Alison Balsom: Sound the Trumpet: Royal Music of Purcell and Handel, also marketed as; Kings & Queens (EMI Classics, 2012), and Sound the Trumpet-Gabriel Edition (Warner Classics, 2013)
  • Alison Balsom: Paris (Warner Classics, 2014)



  1. ^ a b c d Harding, Louette (11 December 2011). "Alison Balsom: The classical soloist who has a lot to blow her trumpet about". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Hughes, Mark (26 August 2014). "Q&A with Alison Balsom and Houston Symphony Principal Trumpet Mark Hughes". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "New Generation Artists – Former Artists". BBC Radio 3 website. 
  4. ^ Halliburton, Rachel (22 July 2013). "Gabriel". Time Out. Retrieved 17 August 2013. 
  5. ^ Jeal, Erica (7 October 2010). "Alison Balsom: The top brass". The Guardian (London). 
  6. ^ "Department of Wind, Brass and Percussion". Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  7. ^ "Alison Balsom and Miloš Karadaglić to present BBC Young Musician category finals and semi-final". BBC Media Centre. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  8. ^ "BBC – Proms – Prom 2 Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky & Liszt 2014". 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  9. ^ "Desert Island Discs: Alison Balsom". BBC Online. Retrieved 2 October 2015. 
  10. ^ a b Alison Hoyle (16 May 2009). "The triumph of the trumpet majorette who became a Classical Brit". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 17 July 2009. 
  11. ^ Whelan, Andy; Hall, Allan (17 April 2011). "The music dies for 'trumpet crumpet' Alison Balsom and her Proms conductor". Daily Mail (London). 
  12. ^ Alan Franks (11 September 2009). "Alison Balsom: 'don't compare me to Katherine Jenkins'—She’s blonde and in classical music, but that’s where the comparisons with Katherine Jenkins end". The Times (London). Retrieved 14 September 2009. 
  13. ^ Kay, Richard (19 October 2009). "Wills and Kate's incognito evening". Daily Mail (London). 
  14. ^ [1][dead link]
  15. ^ Custom byline text:  Michael Tumelty (28 April 2010). "Raising the bar". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  16. ^ Dex, Robert (18 September 2013). "Trumpeter Alison Balsom named first female artist of the year at Gramophone Classical Music Awards". The Independent (London). Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "Classical Brit for UK trumpeter". BBC News. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "Alison Balsom wins Female Artist". 11 September 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2011. 

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