Alison Balsom

Alison Balsom


• Born 1978

Editor's Choice

Superstar trumpeter Alison Balsom has found a loyal and diverse audience through her commitment to early music, her BBC Proms and Classic BRIT appearances and her outspoken views on the need for quality music education in the U.K. This 2012 collaboration with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Scottish Ensemble sees her turning her talents to new music. Taking its name from the concertino for trumpet and strings James MacMillan composed for her, Seraph also features the trumpet concertos of Armenian composer Alexander Arutiunian (1950) and German Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1954). Zimmerman used the spiritual 'Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen' as a cantus firmus in his concerto, and Balsom has included as a bonus an affecting rendition of the spiritual, accompanied by Tom Poster with whom she co-arranged it.


Alison Balsom must be counted among the most popular classical trumpeters in the 2000s, as she's gained wide international recognition only since the turn of the century. Her first recording, Music for Trumpet and Organ, was issued in 2002, and her first major award came in 2006, when the jurors of the Classical BRIT Awards named her Young British Classical Performer. Balsom's repertory is broad, taking in a mixture of the standard repertory, original works, and arrangements. In 2020, she released the album Magic Trumpet on Warner Classics.

Balsom was born in the English county of Hertfordshire in 1978. She grew up in Royston, where she began trumpet studies in her early childhood. At nine, she began lessons with Adrian Jacobs at Greneway School in Royston and four years later enrolled in the Junior Department at the Guildhall School of Music, where her most important teacher was John Miller. From ages 15 to 18, she played in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and from 1997 to 2001, she studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where her teachers included Stephen Keavy and Paul Beniston. Later studies were at the Paris Conservatory of Music and Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Balsom also studied privately with Håkan Hardenberger from 2001 to 2004. During her student years, Balsom played in several orchestral ensembles and became a concerto finalist in the 1998 BBC Young Musicians Competition.

Following the release of her first album on EMI, Balsom began drawing attention not only across England but internationally, as well. She next signed an exclusive contract with EMI, and her second recording, Bach: Works for Trumpet, was issued in 2005 to rave reviews. In 2006, she was awarded Solo CD of the Year by Brass Band World Magazine for her album Caprice. In 2011, she commissioned and recorded Seraph by James MacMillan, and has made her own arrangements by the likes of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and many others, and secured other commissions to expand the repertoire for trumpet.

Balsom's concert schedule reflects her in-demand status with tours at major venues in Europe, the U.S., and elsewhere around the world. Yet, she also is open to new creative endeavors. Balsom assumed the lead role in the play Gabriel, produced at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in the summer of 2013. Her recordings in the 2010s have branched out from standard repertory into thematic collections that called on the talents of a variety of arrangers. These included Paris (2014), Légende (a 2016 collection of neoclassic trumpet-and-piano sonatas that included pop elements), and Jubilo (also 2016). A favorite performer at the British Broadcasting Corporation's Proms concerts, she premiered the trumpet-and-orchestra work Joie éternelle by composer Qigang Chen there in 2014. The 2020 album Magic Trumpet offers a glimpse into Balsom's encompassing repertory, spanning from Baroque to 20th century works.

Balsom's long list of awards includes being named the 2013 Artist of the Year by the Gramophone Awards and her designation as Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 2016.