Australia’s first female trumpet principle to play with Neil Finn at HOTA

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Sarah Butler is Australasia’s first and only female principle trumpet player. She’ll be part of QSO’s concert with Neil Finn at HOTA as he performs his album ‘Out of Silence’, so we shot her a few questions before the event.

In school you started out playing flute then piano neither of which worked out for you. What attracted you to playing trumpet?

It was a simple case of recruitment, the trumpet teacher Mr Basset came to the group music class and I excitedly volunteered to try produce a note there and then. I made a note at the first attempt, looking back on my experience as a teacher starting young players off it’s not always the case that you can play a note so easily. I loved the sound of the trumpet and was hooked right from that moment and I remember being at school whilst waiting for the bus playing tunes that had been written out by the teacher, although I had lessons my most vivid memories are largely of working things out myself and going as far into the tutor books as I could , I think that’s an essential element of any skill.

Royal Albert Hall’s Lucy Noble has said that brass sections in orchestras are heavily male and suggested that gender stereotyping may be steering young girls towards learning more ‘female’ instruments such as violin, flute and harp. Do you agree with that?

I think that traditionally brass instruments have attracted more young males and in the past there has been a view that females are not as physically strong and therefore not as able but more recently we know this is not the case and that females are increasingly in high profile positions/careers in the brass world. Having role models help change the statistics, and I believe that it’s simply a numbers game now that is slowly changing.

You teach at the Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University. Do you see more young women taking up brass instruments?

I have seen an increase in the numbers of female brass players coming through, it’s great to see, I personally have talented students both male and female, interestingly its the ones that work the hardest that are the most successful!

Given that QSO appointed the first ever female music director and conductor in Alondra de la Parra, and yourself as the first female Principle Trumpet player, do you feel the QSO is the most female-friendly orchestra in Australia?

I feel lucky to work with the QSO, yes of course it’s female friendly  and a very supportive work environment. It’s a hard working organisation that recognises artistic endeavour regardless of gender, we are all so lucky to have a state symphony orchestra to call our own.

Having watched a lot of the recording of Neil Finn’s album ‘Out of Silence’ on Facebook, the orchestra seems heavy on the strings section. Would you let us know what the brass section will bring to Neil Finn’s concert at HOTA?

The Brass are there it’s more of an adding of intensity to the sound at climactic points and what a thrill for an orchestra to work with such an icon as Neil Finn, it’s going to be an amazing experience.

Neil Finn will be playing with QSO at HOTA Sat 30 June. To book tickets, go to 

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