So, You're A Trumpeter?

UNSW Orchestra, Image: Rachel Aquino

There are over 100 students, staff and community members in our Large Instrumental Music Ensembles at any given time. Each month we will be introducing a new section of our ensembles to you.

UNSW Orchestra and UNSW Wind Symphony have a dedicated team of talented trumpet players. There are more than 10 types of trumpets, from the most commonly played Bb trumpet; to the higher, brighter piccolo trumpet; the mellow, softer Flügelhorn; and the cornet, most often used in traditional British Brass Bands. 

Michael Ling is in the third year of his PhD in Mechanical Engineering. He has been playing with UNSW Wind Symphony since 2018 and UNSW Orchestra since 2019.

Natasha Benham is in her first year of a combined Bachelor of Music/Bachelor of Advanced Science (Honours), majoring in Vision Science. She joined UNSW Wind Symphony in 2021.

Why did you choose to play the trumpet?

Michael: I guess I didn’t really choose to get into the trumpet. In primary school we all got to try an instrument. I vaguely remember being able to make a sound on a flute headjoint, but not on a trumpet mouthpiece. Somehow, I ended up going home with a trumpet on loan. But I never played trumpet after that school term as I didn’t have a working trumpet (and I can’t say I was very interested). It wasn’t until the start of 2018, I had a bit of a break before starting my PhD, I got really bored and wanted to do something productive. So I decided to pick up the trumpet again and get to learning the instrument I played for a bit as a kid. Now, I’d have to say I am very interested in playing the trumpet!

Natasha: Initially, my 8-year-old self wanted to play a woodwind instrument, alongside many of my friends. However, after trialling each instrument, I was amazed at the beautiful tone of the trumpet and was drawn to the brassy timbre. Ever since, my love for the trumpet has grown and I continue to explore many different genres of music that the trumpet can achieve.

UNSW Wind Symphony Trumpet Section Image: Rachel Aquino


What is the role of the trumpet in your ensemble?

Michael: The trumpet in Orchestra has so many different roles, it works in rhythmic accompaniment sections, melodic sections and in little (or big!) solo sections. Now that I think about it, trumpet in orchestra is kind of like spicy food, it can be mild and bring warmth, or you can kick it up a few notches to bring the zing.

Natasha: The trumpet section covers a variety of roles in Wind Symphony as we fill the trumpet, cornet and flugelhorn parts collectively. Often, being a loud instrument, we have a fanfare-like melody that soars over the rest of the symphony. At other times, we provide the harmonic support for the higher woodwind section who carry the melody. The vast range of the trumpet means we can provide the deep, warm long notes as well as the bright, high melodies.



What kind of music do you like playing on the trumpet? Classical? Jazz? Brass? What is your favourite piece to play?

Michael: I really enjoy playing all music on the trumpet, but I really do like sitting in the orchestra to play Classical music. I guess I don’t mind sitting around for a while! As for my favourite piece to play on the trumpet, I’d say I have a whole set! I play in a community band called the Tian Guo Marching Band which has a bunch of original compositions we play. Those have always been my favourites!

Natasha: I enjoy all genres of music, but jazz pieces would have to be some of my favourites. I really enjoy the freedom that the player has, adding expressive techniques (for example, grace notes or slides) to decorate the jazzy melody.  My favourite piece to play would be Lee Morgan’s jazz rendition of ‘Yesterday’ by The Beatles, as it incorporates the well-known melody of the song with bluesy additions to it.


Michael, what’s it like playing in UNSW Wind Symphony and UNSW Orchestra as a PhD student at UNSW?

Michael: I’m really glad I found out about UNSW Wind Symphony in late 2018 and it has always been a bit in the busy week that I look forward to. After a week of studying, it is always nice to switch the brain into a different gear for a few hours and to focus on something completely different.

The ensembles have been a very welcoming place and has been pushing me to improve in playing the trumpet. It was wonderful to join UNSW Orchestra in late 2019 to get my first experience playing with an orchestra! Really thankful that there are such groups at UNSW that can cater for those that love music but are studying something completely different.

Natasha Benham


Natasha, what’s it like being a woman in the brass section? 

Natasha: It’s very rare that you see a female dominant brass section, as trumpets, trombones and French horns are often categorised as ‘masculine instruments’. However, coming from an all-girls high school, it was really empowering hearing the strong brass section consisting of all females.

It can be intimidating being one of the only girls in a majority-male group (I’m sure it would be very similar if the roles were reversed), but I encourage girls not to be afraid of this. Most musicians all motivate and uplift each other, especially in a musical group as it is important to have that cohesiveness within the symphony. The trumpet section in the UNSW Wind Symphony are all so encouraging of each other, no matter our gender.

Alison Balsom is one of my favourite musicians and is one of the most successful trumpeters in the world, performing many solos and winning multiple awards for her amazing ability. It is so important to recognise everyone’s musical achievements, disregarding any gender stereotypes.

Registrations to audition for UNSW Orchestra or to join UNSW Wind Symphony open in O Week of each term. Check out our UNSW Orchestra page to see which instruments we are currently accepting applications for. Anyone is welcome to join UNSW Wind Symphony.