Ipswich/Cambridge: Trumpeter Alison Balsom talks about her first solo tour and the importance of music in schools.
- Credit: Archant
Multi-Classical award winning trumpeter Alison Balsom is ready to blow audiences away with her first ever headline UK tour.
At the Ipswich Regent and Cambridge Corn Exchange next week, she’ll be joined by a handpicked band of musicians performing everything from Bach and Gershwin to Satie and Legrand.
It’s the first time the star, whose new album Paris, co-produced with jazz trumpeter and composer Guy Barker, was released last month, has tried anything like this.
“I wanted to develop a 90-minute concert that really shows what the trumpet can do – partly by playing pure classical music without a microphone, but partly by using enhanced lighting and sound to present more contemporary music,” adds Balsom, the first British woman to win Gramophone Magazine’s artist of the year award and the first classical female artist to headline Latitude Festival.
“There’ll be some pieces that are much more jazzy in the tour, it’ll be a concert that hopefully appeals to lots of people not just a normal classical audience that I play to.
“I’m so excited about my first solo tour. I have to admit I’ve struggled to choose repertoire. There are so many incredible works I love and know my audience will love including pieces and songs by Handel, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Piazzolla, Purcell, Cole Porter, Debussy. If only it were possible to perform a different programme each night.”
She’s thrilled the demographic of her concerts seems younger than that of a usual classical concert.
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“I think it’s really important young people and children are moved by music. They don’t necessarily have to play, they just have to realise it can be something so positive for them - if they do play it’s even better.”
A major advocate for music education and encouraging people of all ages to take up an instrument and attend more concerts, she believes music education is about more than turning out professional musicians. Music helps you learn to listen, to take in information and to work with other people.
Balsom’s an official ambassador for BBC Music’s Ten Pieces initiative for primary schools, led by BBC Learning and the BBC Performing Groups, which focuses on classical music and creativity.
“It’s so good for discipline, (learning to) work with other people, for concentration, self-expression and self- esteem. I found that myself when I started. That’s something I want to impart,” says the Nordoff Robbins PPL Classical Award winner.
“Finding the joy in music, wanting to play... Practising isn’t always the easiest thing but playing with your peers, your colleagues, your friends can be really rewarding in so many ways. There’s so much evidence that anyone who’s learning a musical instrument is going to do really well at all their other subjects as well.”
A soloist for more than a decade who’s used to being judged the moment she steps on stage for how she’s playing rather than her gender, she does think it’s good for young girls to see women doing things in the public eye that are skilful and about achieving something.
“I think that’s really incredibly important for young girls in this age of celebrity culture, if I can help in that way then absolutely I must,” says Balsom, who co-hosted the 2014 BBC Young Musician of the Year competition.
She’s not fan of shows where people are famous for nothing.
“Ultimately that gives nobody any satisfaction. People, even young children, realise the satisfaction that comes from working hard and achieving something. Music can give you that in the most wonderful way... You can take it as far as you want, you can write your own or perfect someone else’s, you’ll never get bored.”
Musical education, she says, deserves far more focus than it currently gets.
“I think it (arts cut-backs in schools) is very short-sighted. It’s very dangerous because education is not about getting a job, it’s about becoming a rounded human being,” says Balsom, who fell in love with the trumpet after hearing a Dizzy Gillespie recording when she was about seven and started playing the instrument while at primary school.
“We’ve had something to be so proud of for so long with our musical heritage, this is something that as a musician I have an absolute duty to fight for. I didn’t realise I would have to fight for it as much. I thought this was something that was common knowledge but clearly not at government level.”
Alison Balsom is at the Ipswich Regent October 8 and Cambridge Corn Exchange October 9.