Is it sexy or music? That is the question. I was sidetracked from working on taxes and ended up looking at some music related images. Some were quite humorous. Suddenly there was a beautiful blond woman in a black dress (I think) with a trumpet. “Oh common!” I thought to myself. Then I read the caption that said she is a superstar. OK, I had better have a listen. Wow! What a discovery! Close your eyes, listen and never mind the beautiful blond part, that is not what it is about. With a tone that matches her looks and a seemingly delightful British personality Alison Balsom is truly one great classical trumpet player.

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I watched several videos and she can certainly squeeze pure expression through the most technical and masterfully executed classical pieces. In a giant, lavish auditorium, possibly the Royal Albert Hall, she enters, not from the side of the stage as most soloists might, but joyfully jaunts down the centre isle of the audience with her trumpet in hand, smiling and greeting the audience in a friendly manner. She takes her place next to the conductor and in front of the massive symphony orchestra. She is wearing an expensive looking dress that one might see an opera singer wear. The orchestra begins, she empties her spit valve and begins to play. I could hardly believe my ears. After a particularly difficult passage, her hand leaps off the valves and into the air as if to indicate the masterfully executed passage as finished with verve.

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I was reminded of local girl jazz trumpeter Bria Skonberg who I first heard about from local bandleader—possibly the oldest living and working bandleader from the 1930s in the world—Dal Richards (97). Originally from Chilliwack, BC, she now lives in New York and travels the world as a trumpet superstar in the classic jazz genre. She began playing traditional jazz in high school and then sang and played trumpet in the Dal Richard orchestra. I know she is well trained, having studied at Capilano University. Initially, she was perhaps taken as a bit of a cute trumpet playing blond girl novelty. I’m not sure about that, but one could see it happening. Today she is accepted as a great player.

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I listened to some videos of her several years ago and found a developing talent that would certainly top the Vancouver scene very soon. Well, she has certainly passed that finish line and is soaring. Revisiting I found a seasoning jazz musician, with emerging soul and deep expression in both her trumpet playing and singing. While a serious musician, she seems to also be a lot of fun. Joy is at the heart of liberating jazz.

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I studied trumpet in my youth and have just returned to playing after decades of absence. I played in a youth band and then in a small group for a few years that played in retirement homes. I spent many years as a vintage jazz and swing record collector and listened purely to this music. Today I am happy squeaking out a few notes playing along with a choir and with a jazz band, once again for the retired folk, whom I shall someday be joining. I may do more one day, I don’t know.

I am having fun, yet have always known I lack what it takes to head to the top. Allison and Bria are the genuine articles; the full package of talent, skill, style and charisma that makes them top calibre musicians, superstars and a joy to listen to—never mind pleasant to look at too. Is it sexy? I say beautiful music.

Alison Balsom
Bria Skongerg

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