Brass Pathways Q&A: Zoë Perkins, Trumpet

Zoë Perkins is a classical trumpeter, and has played at leading venues in the UK including the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall. Having been a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016, she is currently studying at the Royal Academy of Music.

To find out more about the life of a brass musician, we caught up with Zoë to ask her about what made her want to pick up the trumpet, and why she loves what she does.

Can you tell us a bit about your career to date?

At the moment I am studying at the Royal Academy of Music where there is a chance to play in a variety of ensembles. During my time at the Academy I have played in the symphony orchestra with conductors like Semyon Bichcov and Manuel Lopez-Gomez. In 2016 I was a finalist in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, and I was also in the National Youth Orchestra for two years and played all over the country in venues like the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Barbican and the Sage Gateshead. I’ve also worked with conductors like John Wilson, Edward Gardener, Sir Mark Elder and Ilan Volkov. So far throughout 2018 I have done a series of recitals in Cambridge, London and Paris.

What first inspired you to learn the trumpet?

One of my main inspirations when starting the trumpet was Alison Balsom. I had just discovered her playing and looked up to her greatly as an artist. Another inspiration was my dad as he is a trombonist and helped me through my trumpet grade exams!

What sort of education on the trumpet did you have?

I had a private Cambridge-based teacher who took me from Grades 2 to 7 called Michel Sedgwick. I then went to study with David Price at the Junior Royal Academy of Music for four years, completing my Grade 8 on arrival. I now study full time at the Royal Academy of Music with Mark David and John Hutchins.

How did you first get into the industry as a professional, and what inspired you to turn learning into a career?

I first decided I wanted to make trumpet playing a career in 2012 after watching a Britten Sinfonia Concert at the Barbican. I was very inspired by the playing of Paul Archibald and remember thinking how amazing it would be to have a career like his.

I was catapulted into the industry by auditioning for the National Youth Orchestra and BBC Young Musician 2016. These experiences gave me an idea of what the industry would be like and gave me valuable experience. I also dep in various concerts around London.

What have been your career highlights so far?

One of my career highlights was performing in Cardiff in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2016. It was a very exciting few days and was so great to get feedback from the judges who are some of the top brass players in the world.

What do you love most about what you do?

The thing I love most about playing the trumpet is the feeling of excitement during and after a performance, and the freedom to interpret pieces when playing solo music.

What do you think are the most important skills needed by a trumpet player?

I think the most important skill required to be a trumpet player is confidence. This can be applied to a solo setting where you need to have the confidence to make your own artistic decisions, or an orchestra where the principal trumpet often has the leading part or melody.

What advice would you give someone learning the trumpet?

The advice I would give to someone learning the trumpet is to have patience. It takes time to build up sound and stamina and can often be frustrating when things don’t go to plan or sound as good as you want them to. Persistence is key when learning such a psychically demanding instrument! With this in mind it is also crucial that you listen to your muscles as there is only so much you can play in a day!

What advice would you give someone looking to get into the industry as a professional?

Advice I would give for entering the industry is to be yourself and be very open minded when accepting work, you never know what you might discover or who you might meet.

What are you currently working on?

I have just finished performing the operas ‘Doctor Miracle’ and ‘Carmen’ at the Royal Academy of Music and have also just finished a series of recitals in Cambridge, Paris and London.

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