15 Of The Most Famous Female Trumpet Players You Should Know

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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 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.

1. Alison Balsom

Alison Balsom is an English trumpet player 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 also 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

Tine Thing Helseth is a trumpet soloist hailing from Oslo, Norway, and 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.

She 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

Andrea Motis is a Spanish trumpeter 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, she began singing after being a part of the Sant Andreu Jazz Band.

4. Cynthia Robinson

Cynthia Robinson was an American trumpeter, vocalist, and one of the co-founders of Sly and the Family Stone, founded in 1966.

Born and raised in Sacramento, she grew up playing the flute.

However, she started playing trumpet in high school, despite the judgment of several of her peers at the time.

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and continued playing with Sly Stone after other members disbanded.

She also played with her cousin’s funk band Graham Central Station and worked with other artists, including George Clinton and Prince.

5. Cindy Bradley

Cindy Bradley’s trumpeting career 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 also 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

Bria Skonberg is another modern-day trumpet player, 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.

She also won the Juno Award for “Vocal Jazz Album of the Year” in 2017.

7. Clora Bryant

Clora Bryant was an American jazz trumpet player and singer whose career began 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 and learned to play several instruments over time.

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 also 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 ten, 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

Barbara Butler is 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.

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 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 also performs with Warren Byrd.

13. Dolly Jones

Dolly Jones 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

Edna White

Edna White 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. 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 15 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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Written by Peter Yarde Martin
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.