Alison Balsom is on a mission to change the perspective of classical music. “So many people say to me, ‘Oh, I couldn’t possibly go to a concert. I don’t know anything about classical music.’ I want to shout, ‘You don’t have too! You just have to go with an open mind, heart and ears. Because there might be something there that will blow you away.’”
The 39-year-old trumpet soloist – 2013 Gramophone Artist of the Year, and three-time winner at both the Classic BRITs and the Echo Klassik Awards – is a passionate. “Classical music will touch you and nourish you in a way that another type of music perhaps never will – and you don’t need to know anything about what’s going on.” Her reference to seeing and hearing the music from a child’s perspective is telling, for it was at the age of 10, at a concert at the Barbican (to hear Hakan Hardenberger play the Hummel trumpet concerto) that Balsom fell in love with classical music.
As a result, she started lessons at primary school, attended Saturday classes at Junior Guildhall and joined her local brass band. She is furious that instrumental lessons have since become less accessible in schools but is determined to try and change that. “Classical music has benefited every part of my life. It helps you concentrate, it encourages you to get on with your peers and to have discipline and self-confidence. All these things are key to development and apply to every subject in life. Why shouldn’t everyone in the next generation have it too?”
At the age of 18, Balsom won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After graduating with first-class honours and gaining the Principle Prize for the highest mark in her year, she went on to study at the Conservatoire de Paris. Her training complete, Balsom’s career moved rapidly with quite a few pinch-me moments en route - studying with Hardenberger, performed at the Last Night of the Proms and was awarded an OBE in 2016.
Music is never far from her thoughts. Nor is her fervour for making others as passionate about classical music as she is. She is excited about curating seasons of music with her friends and colleagues and believes that if it was presented in a way that wasn’t intimidated, many more people would love the genre.