16 Of The Greatest And Most Famous Female Trumpet Players

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Although the trumpet has traditionally been a male dominated instrument in the music world, this is certainly starting to change and there are a lot of amazing female trumpet players who’ve paved the way.

In this post, we’ve put together our list of 16 of the most famous female trumpeters to help you learn more about some of these women who are breaking barriers and having an impact on the future of the trumpet. Let’s get started.

1. Alison Balsom

First on our list is the English trumpet player Alison Balsom. Born in Hertfordshire, England, she began taking trumpet lessons at age seven and played with several groups in her youth, including the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.

After graduating from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2001, she performed alongside several notable orchestras and conductors, including l’Orchestre de Paris, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Sir Roger Norrington, and Lorin Maazel.

Balsom has received several awards, including Gramophone Artist of the Year in 2013 and three Classic BRIT Awards. As a passionate advocate for music education, she also acts as a Visiting Professor at Guildhall and teaches trumpet masterclasses worldwide.

2. Tine Thing Helseth

Next is the trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth, from Oslo, Norway. She is the leader of the all-female brass ensemble, tenThing.

She started playing trumpet from an early age and continued studying at several music institutes. Although she specializes in classical music, she enjoys putting a twist on many music genres.

Her music group performed for several audiences across Europe, the United States, and China. Helseth herself also performed in several orchestras, including the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra, and the BBC Scottish Orchestra at the BBC Proms.

Helseth currently lives in Oslo, performs in several Norwegian jazz bars, and teaches trumpet at the Norwegian Academy of Music.

3. Andrea Motis

Spanish trumpeter Andrea Motis was born in Barcelona, Spain. She also plays the saxophone and sings in Catalan, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Like the other entries on our list, she started playing trumpet at a young age and studied at the Municipal School of Music of Sant Andreu under Joan Chamorro, who also recruited her for his band.

Motis recorded her first jazz-inspired album under Chamorro in 2010 and released several others, including Emotional Dance (2017) and Do Outro Lado Do Azul (2019).

Although she excelled in playing the trumpet, Motis began singing after being a part of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band.

4. Cynthia Robinson

Born and raised in Sacramento, Cynthia Robinson grew up playing the flute, but she was also a trumpeter and vocalist.

Despite facing criticism from her peers, Robinson pursued her passion for trumpet playing during high school. Her talent and determination led her to co-found Sly and the Family Stone in 1966. As a trumpeter and vocalist for the band, she played a pivotal role in defining its distinctive sound.

Robinson’s contributions to the music industry were recognized when she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Even after the disbandment of Sly and the Family Stone, she continued to collaborate with Sly Stone, showcasing her unwavering dedication to her craft.

5. Cindy Bradley

The trumpeting career of Cindy Bradley’s began with a twist of fate after selecting the instrument in band class at age nine. Despite her background in piano, she eventually earned her degrees in jazz studies and jazz trumpet performance. 

Bradley released her first album, Just a Little Bit, in 2007 but made significant acclaim for her second album, Bloom, two years later.

She won several awards, including Debut Artist of the Year by Catalina Island JazzTrax Festival in 2009 and Smooth Jazz News in 2010. Bradley also held several jazz workshops for several high schools and community colleges and performed at several jazz festivals.

6. Bria Skonberg

Up next is Bria Skonberg, another modern-day trumpet player. She is recognized by the Wall Street Journal as “one of the most versatile and imposing musicians of her generation.”

Although she played piano during her childhood in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Skonberg began playing the trumpet during high school and earned a jazz trumpet degree at Capilano University in 2006. 

Skonberg led several bands, including Bria’s Hot Five and The Big Bang Jazz Band. This Canadian performer eventually moved to New York, where she co-founded the New York Hot Jazz Festival. In 2017, she won the Juno Award for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year.

7. Clora Bryant

American jazz trumpet player and singer Clora Bryant began her musical career during the 1940s. After joining the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in 1946, Bryant performed with Dizzy Gillespie.

Other notable talents she performed with included Charlie Parker, Harry James, and Louis Armstrong. Although she initially dropped out of UCLA when she began her music career, she completed her degree several decades later.

In 1996, she retired from trumpet playing after heart surgery but continued singing and teaching music history. Six years later, she received the Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award from the Kennedy Center.

8. Valaida Snow

Valaida Snow

Known for her stage charisma, Valaida Snow was one of the most prominent figures of American jazz. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, she came from a family of music enthusiasts and began performing with her father’s performance group at age five.

Over time, she learned to play several instruments. Eventually, she became accustomed to playing the trumpet and toured Europe during the 1930s, helping spread the genre to an international audience.

Many called her Little Louis after her similar performance style to Louis Armstrong, and W. C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, called her Queen of the Trumpet.

9. Ingrid Jensen

The next Canadian jazz trumpet player on our list is Ingrid Jensen. After graduating from Berklee College of Music in 1989, she toured with the Vienna Art Orchestra until 1994. After that, she became a member of DIVA.

Jensen has worked with several jazz musicians throughout her career, including her sister Christine, a saxophonist. She’s won several awards, including Jazz Journalists‘ Trumpeter of the Year.

She’s also a skilled jazz educator, having taught at the University of Michigan, Peabody Conservatory, and the Stanford Jazz Camp. In addition, she acts as the Interim Associate Dean and Director of Jazz Arts at Manhattan School of Music.

10. Melissa Venema

Another accomplished addition to our list of famous female trumpet players includes Melissa Venema, a Dutch trumpeter. At age 10, she passed the entrance exam for the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, her primary source for music studies.

Throughout her career, Venema performed at several international venues. However, one of her most notable performances was as a six-time soloist for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at Royal Albert Hall in 2012.

Venema also performed alongside several notable music figures, including the renowned violinist André Rieu, pianist Wibi Soerjadi, and Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts.

11. Barbara Butler

Another notable American female trumpet player who played with several professional orchestras — including Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, Chicago Chamber Musicians, and Eastman Brass — is Barbara Butler.

She’s currently the Director of the Artist Diploma Program and Professor of Trumpet at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, Texas. She’s married to esteemed trumpet player Charles Geyer and has performed with him as co-principal trumpets.

Butler has also been a teacher since 1980 and takes pride in helping her students become prominent performers in orchestras and other venues. Some of her notable recordings include With Clarion Voice and Carmen Fantasia.

12. Saskia Laroo

Although other famous female trumpet players on our list specialize in classical or jazz, Dutch trumpeter Saskia Laroo’s style comes from a combination of several genres, including jazz, pop, and electric dance. As a result, her bold style has led many people to call her the Lady Miles Davis of Europe.

Laroo has experience playing other instruments, including the saxophone, cornet, bass guitar, and piano. Additionally, before showing interest in the trumpet, she went to the University of Amsterdam to study math.

In 1994, she founded her own record label, Laroo Records, and toured across the world with several of her bands, including The Saskia Laroo Band and Jazzkia. She has also performed with jazz pianist Warren Byrd.

13. Dolly Jones

Our next trumpeter is Dolly Jones. This talented musician came from a family with a musical background and was a part of their family band. Her father was a saxophonist, and her mother taught trumpet.

Although many people know Jones for her trumpet-playing career, she also played trombone and cornet in her early years.

In 1926, she became the first female jazz trumpeter to be recorded while playing with Albert Wynn’s Gut Bucket Five. She recorded another record over a decade later with the Stuff Smith Sextet.

During her career, Jones also toured with several groups across the United States and played a non-speaking musician role in the 1936 film Swing!

14. Edna White

Our penultimate female trumpeter is Edna White, who was born in 1892 in Stamford, Connecticut. One of her earliest accomplishments was performing with her father’s ensemble at Carnegie Hall in 1901.

She graduated from New York City’s Institute of Musical Art (later known as Julliard) and formed and led several all-female bands, including the Aida Quartet and Edna White Trumpeters. Her 1949 Carnegie Hall recital was the first one the venue had performed by a trumpeter.

Although she retired from playing in the late 1950s, she continued composing several trumpet orchestra pieces and wrote a memoir and several poetry pieces until her passing in 1992, a few months before her 100th birthday.

15. Billie Rogers

The world of early jazz had many male trumpeters, but there were a couple of notable female trumpeters as well. Billie Rogers, born Zelda Louise Smith, was one of them.

Rogers was a pioneering figure in an industry predominantly dominated by men. Her journey began with Woody Herman’s band, where she played from 1941 to 1943. Not only was she an exceptional trumpet player, but her vocal talents also added a unique dimension to the band’s performances.

In 1943, Rogers took a bold step and led her own band, further securing her position as a trailblazer in the jazz world. She shared the distinction as a pioneering female jazz trumpeter with Valaida Snow, whom we have mentioned earlier.

16. Marie Speziale

Last on our list is the first female trumpet player to play alongside a significant symphonic orchestra, Marie Speziale.

While studying at the College-Conservatory of Music and graduating in 1964, she joined the Cincinnati Orchestra at age 19, serving as the orchestra’s Associate Principal Trumpet for 32 years.

After retiring from the Cincinnati Orchestra, Speziale performed with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, toured with DIVA, and played with other prominent orchestras.

She also taught at several universities and recorded scores for television programs, such as Star Trek: Voyager and Deep Space Nine.

Summing up our List of the Greatest Female Trumpet Players

We hope you’ve been inspired by the women who have paved their own paths in a male-dominated industry.

These 16 female trumpet players are changing the face of music and paving new roads for other aspiring women trumpeters.

We’ll be adding to this list so if you think we’ve missed any of your favorites, please let us know and we’ll add them in.

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Peter Yarde Martin is a freelance composer, musician and educator based in London. He studied music at Cambridge University and now works with many top professional ensembles and soloists in the UK and abroad.