Female Trumpet Players

Female trumpet players are uncommon but not rare. Most of my work is in small groups, and I rarely stand next another trumpet; yet the few I did see last year were women.

If I had to pick a “best trumpet player” out there, I’d go with Alison Balsom. She has a technical mastery of the instrument, and she manages to do plenty of brashness and flair without losing precision. The tone is pure, and—the real test—she just makes everything sound easy. Her version of Syrinx is positively ornithopteric.

I admit a personal dislike of style with Tine Thing Helseth—it’s in the way she attacks notes—but I love what she’s doing with TenThing. You can’t do that kind of work without a perfect internal clock. Check out the video of TenThing at Proms. Along those lines, also see the Seraph Brass, an all-female quintet with a rotating roster.

Gunhild Carling is in a class by herself. The proper word is “entertainer” rather than “musician”, but listen to her note-perfect renderings of Louis Armstrong—that is not trivial stuff. The average band player would be happy to have her skill on just one instrument. Cindy Bradley’s jazz work is modern and lush. Saskia Laroo has been doing interesting things with sequencers and EWIs—try her *TED talk.

We heard a lot about Cindy Robinson when she passed away last year, about her groundbreaking career as a session musician and a member of Sly and the Family Stone. She was hardly the first, of course—Clora Bryant and Valaida Snow, for two, played in jazz bands decades earlier.

But if you really want to go back, here’s an account of Olympics in ancient Greece:

“And there was a woman, too, who played on the trumpet, whose name was Aglais, the daughter of Megacles, who, in the first great procession which took place in Alexandria, played a processional piece of music; having a head-dress of false hair on, and a crest upon her head, as Posidippus proves by his epigrams on her. And she, too, could eat twelve litrae of meat and four choenixes of bread, and drink a choenix of wine, at one sitting.”

–Athenaeus of Naucratis, The Deipnosophistae

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