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I met star trumpet player Alison Balsom after she had appeared at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall in July 2012. She played Haydn's famous trumpet concerto, and also Piazzolla's Libertango. Alison signed my poster, and my Dad took this photo of us together.
Alison Louise Balsom was born in 1978 in Royston, Hertfordshire. Her father, Bill, was a builder and her mother, Zena, placed children for adoption. She hasayo
Alison aged eight
In 1987, she moved to Greneway Middle School in Royston and had trumpet lessons there with Adrian Jacobs. When she was ten, Alison's parents took her to hear Swedish trumpet virtuoso Haken Hardenberger at the Barbican in London, and from that moment she was determined to become a solo trumpet player rather than an orchestral one. Hardenberger would later become one of her teachers. In 1991 Alison transferred to the Meridian School in Royston, and also enrolled at the Guildhall School
School of Music's Junior Department.
Alison Balsom as a member of
the Royston Town Band
Young Alison plays a solo with the
Royston Town Band
She joined the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain when she was 15 years old, and remained with them for three years.
Alison took her A-levels at the Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge and wona
won a scholarship to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1997 to 2001. She then moved
moved to France for a year to study at the Paris Conservatoire, where her playing as a virtuoso improved dramatically. "The French trumpet-playing way is much more solo-oriented, much less orchestra-focused, than in Britain," she says.
Guildhall School of Music & Drama
In 1998 Alison entered the BBC Young Musician competition, and reached the concerto final of the event, which was won by percussionist
percussionist Adrian Spillett. From 2001 until 2004, she studied with two eminent trumpeters - John Wallace and Haken Hardenberger. In 2004, Alison became a BBC Radio 3 "New Generation Artist". This is a scheme to give young musicians opportunities to develop their talents and make
make them better known amongst the listening public. She had become a professional musician in 2001 and released her debut album Music for Trumpet and Organ with EMI Classics in 2002.
Classical BRIT award 2006
Since then, Alison has received a number of top awards. In 2006, she won the Classic
Alison Balsom performs at the 2009 Classical BRITs
Classical BRIT award 2009
Classic FM 'Listeners' Choice Award' and also took the 'Young British Classical Performer' award at the Classical BRITs, beating violinist Nicola Benedetti. Alison has twice won the 'Female Artist ofthe
of the Year' award at the Classical BRITs - in 2009, and again in 2011.
Classical Brits winner 2009
Alison arrives for the
Classical BRITs in 2009
Before the 2009 awards, she caused much excitement when she arrived at the ceremony
at the Royal Albert Hall in a figure-hugging sequinned minidress and wearing a diamond necklace worth £1 million, loaned to her from a celebrity jewellers. At the 2012 Classical BRITs, she presented the 'Composer Award' to John Williams, via a video link.
Classical BRIT award 2011
Alison Balsom has recorded a number of albums since her debut disc in 2001. Bach: Works for Trumpet was released in 2005 with Caprice, a collection
collection of specially arranged popular classics, following in 2006. Brass Band World magazine awarded this disc 'solo CD of the Year'.
In 2008, Alison recorded the two famous classical trumpet concertos by Haydn and Hummel, along with lesser-known concertos by Neruda and Torelli. On the disc she also directs the Bremen orchestra. On her album Italian
Italian Concertos (2010) with the Scottish Ensemble, Alison plays popular
popular concertos by Vivaldi, Tartini, Albinoni and Cimarosa. 2012 saw the release of two more albums. Seraph features music by contemporary composers including James MacMillan
MacMillan (who wrote his piece Seraph especially for Alison), Takemitsu
Takemitsu, Arutunian and Zimmermann. Sound the Trumpet with the English Consort directed by Trevor Pinnock, contains music by Handel and Purcell which they composed for various English royal occasions.
Alison Balsom in the recording studio
Alison Balsom relaxes at home
Alison Balsom, affectionately referred to by admirers as 'trumpet crumpet' (a name she coined for herselfw
herself when she was ten), is in great demand as a concert soloist, and this takes her to Europe and the USA on a regular basis to perform with top orchestras and conductors. She plays about 75 concerts each year, gives master classes from time to time, and also teaches at the Guildhall School of Music.
Alison Balsom in performance
She made her first appearance at a BBC Promenade Concert in 2002, performing a concerto by Shostakovich. She appeared at the Last Night of the Proms in 2009 performing Haydn's Trumpet Concerto and a jazzy arrangement of a George Gershwin song.
Alison performs at the Classical BRITs in 2006
Alison Balsom plays Libertango at the Last Night of the Proms in 2009
Alison was interviewed by Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams on BBC Breakfast in January 2012, to coincide with there
Alison Balsom interviewed on BBC Breakfast
the release of her album Seraph. She performed the spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I See from the Zimmermann concerto on that album.
Alison on BBC Breakfast
Alison playing live on BBC Breakfast
Alison stands next to her statue
In 2009, Alison was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from Anglia Ruskin University for her "devotion to music and for her incredible musical achievements". In 2011, she was immortalised in the form of a metal 'statue' (along with King James I and a Town Crier) in her home town of Royston.
Apart from music, her other great passion is sailing yachts, something
Alison Balsom D.A. (Hons)
something she has enjoyed doing since childhood. She is also a keen surfer.
Alison Balsom once had a relationship with the Russian violinist and conductor Maxim Vengarov, who remains a friend and an influence. Since 2009, Alison lived with her partner, the conductor Edward Gardner with whom she had a son, Charlie (b.2010). However, early in 2011, the couple broke up and went their separate ways.
Trumpets come in various designs, and in different keys. Some, like the Baroque (or natural) trumpet have finger holes whilst others have valves. Alison Balsom plays
plays several different instruments depending on the music she is playing. She mainly uses a Bach C trumpet and other instruments madebySchilke
like the S22C-HD made by the American manufacturer Schilke. This company only makes instruments for professional musicians. She has also appeared on posters endorsing the brand.
Alison playing a Baroque (or natural) trumpet
Poster for Schilke trumpets
Alison with her son Charlie
signed by Alison, Nicola Benedetti & Natalie Clein
My poster for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert,
Schilke S22C-HD trumpet
Be sure to visit Alison Balsom's official website (link below) for news & information about her schedule, recordings & awards.
has a younger, tuba playing brother, Richard, who is a fireman. Alison began playing the trumpet when she was seven, and attending the Tannery Drift First School in Royston. She was taken with the look and the sound of the instrument, and even borrowed recordings from the library, of the jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. She joined the Royston Town Band in 1986, playing both the flugel horn and cornet, and remained a member for seven years.