Alison Balsom

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Alison Balsom
Balsom recording at Abbey Road, London 2013.jpg
Alison Balsom recording at Abbey Road in 2013
Background information
Birth name Alison Louise Balsom
Born (1978-10-07) 7 October 1978 (age 40)
Hitchin, Hertfordshire, England
Genres Classical
Occupation(s) Musician, educator
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 2001–present

Alison Louise Balsom OBE, born in Hertfordshire, England[1] on 7 October 1978, is an English trumpet soloist, arranger, producer, music educator, curator and spokesperson for the importance of music education. Balsom was awarded Artist of the Year at the 2013 Gramophone Awards and has won three Classic BRIT Awards and three German Echo Awards, and was soloist at the BBC Last Night of the Proms in 2009.

She has been awarded Honorary Doctorates from the University of Leicester and Anglia Ruskin University, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Early life and education[edit]

Balsom attended Tannery Drift Primary School in Royston, Hertfordshire, where she started taking trumpet lessons from the age of seven, followed by 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.

Balsom studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where she graduated with first class honours and the Principal's Prize for the highest mark in her year; at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; the Conservatoire de Paris; and with Håkan Hardenberger.


Balsom has been a professional solo classical trumpeter since 2001. She is a former BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist, during which time she performed much of the major concerto repertoire for solo trumpet and orchestra with all of the BBC Orchestras,[2] 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 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 her Italian Concertos disc was on the list of New York Times albums of the year. 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 jazz 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 and George-Frideric Handel, which she performed with actors and The English Concert as part of the 2013 summer season at Shakespeare's Globe.[3]

Balsom was the principal trumpet of the London Chamber Orchestra.[4] Her main trumpet is a Bob Malone-converted Bach C trumpet.[citation needed] About her natural trumpet playing, Balsom said in 2014, "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 trumpet. I play various different makes but my favourite is by Egger of Switzerland."[5]

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] In 2016 she co-presented BBC Young Musician with Clemency Burton-Hill.[8]

She gave the world premiere of Qigang Chen's Joie éternelle for solo trumpet and orchestra at the 2014 BBC Proms,[9] and Guy Barker's Lanterne of Light trumpet concerto at the 2015 BBC Proms. In addition to 14 years of solo appearances at the Proms, Balsom has also appeared at the iTunes Festival, Latitude Festival, Henley Festival, Un Violon Sur le Sable, France and Wege Durch Das Land, Germany.

In 2014 Balsom was chosen as one of 27 artists, including Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Florence Welch, and Sam Smith to feature in one of BBC Music's first broadcasts, an extravagant cover of the 1966 Beach Boys classic, God Only Knows. This track marked a first-time collaboration between the Warner, Sony and Universal Music labels.[10]

Balsom succeeded Richard Rodney Bennett as President of Deal, Kent Festival in 2015. She appeared on BBC Radio 4’s long-running Desert Island Discs program on 4 October 2015.[11]

She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to music.[12]

Personal life[edit]

Balsom has a keen interest in sailing.[13] She has a son with the English conductor Edward Gardner.[13][14][15] In 2017, she married film director Sam Mendes.[16]


  • 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)
  • Alison Balsom: Légende (Warner Classics, 2016)
  • Alison Balsom: Jubilo (Warner Classics, 2016) Christmas Album including Fasch, Bach, Torelli and Corelli concerti. Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben featuring the Choir of King's College, Cambridge



Trumpet: Schilke models E3L, E3L-4, G1L, P7-4, S22CHD; mouthpiece: Schilke 6A4a.[20]


  1. ^ 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. ^ "New Generation Artists – Former Artists". BBC Radio 3 website.
  3. ^ Halliburton, Rachel (22 July 2013). "Gabriel". Time Out. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  4. ^ Jeal, Erica (7 October 2010). "Alison Balsom: The top brass". The Guardian. London.
  5. ^ Hughes, Mark (26 August 2014). "Q&A with Alison Balsom and Houston Symphony Principal Trumpet Mark Hughes". Retrieved 28 September 2015.
  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 Four - Presenters Clemency Burton-Hill & Alison Balsom discussing the talented 2016 musicians. - BBC Young Musician, 2016 - Behind the scenes of BBC Young Musician 2016". 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  9. ^ "BBC – Proms – Prom 2 Elgar, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky & Liszt 2014". 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  10. ^ "BBC Music launches with special reworking of God Only Knows". BBC Media Centre. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Desert Island Discs: Alison Balsom". BBC Online. Retrieved 2 October 2015.
  12. ^ "No. 61608". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2016. p. B10.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Kay, Richard (19 October 2009). "Wills and Kate's incognito evening". Daily Mail. London.
  16. ^ "Bond director weds classical musician with a hush-hush blessing". Retrieved 23 July 2017.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Classical Brit for UK trumpeter". BBC News. 15 May 2009. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
  19. ^ "Alison Balsom wins Female Artist". 11 September 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
  20. ^ "Featured Artists: Alison Balsom". Retrieved 19 December 2016.

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