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Catherine Wiggins

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

We met trumpet and cornet-player Catherine Wiggins when she joined us on our GALSI 2-day course last autumn and knew immediately we wanted to know more about her life and journey. Letty chatted to Catherine about what made her want to become a musician in the first place, how a music industry of the future might look, and her top three Desert Island Discs!

Letty: Thanks for taking the time to chat to us for our Large and Shiny blog! Could you tell us how you came to play cornet and what attracted you to choose it in the first place?

Catherine: I am one of four children in a very musical household and have always been super interested in music. My two older brothers play tuba and trombone and I remember going to their youth brass band concerts and being completely in awe. At that time the band had a female principal cornet, who I looked up to so much and she was so kind and encouraging. I became really impatient because I wanted to play brass too but I hadn’t got my two front adult teeth in yet. My front teeth came in when I was 7 and the trumpet was the first instrument I picked up in my very first lesson. I then joined Tewit Youth Band and I’ve been playing cornet ever since! As I got further into the brass banding tradition, I picked up the flugelhorn too. I now play all 3 instruments as and when each one is needed.

L: Tell us a bit about where you are in your career at present.

C: I am currently doing my music studies alongside my job as an apprentice early years practitioner. I am lucky enough to be able to perform very regularly in various ensembles ranging from chamber music to full size brass bands and orchestras.

L: What’s next for you?

C: The next big thing I have coming up is the National Brass Band Finals in Cheltenham, which my band Horbury Victoria qualified for at the Yorkshire Area contest in March. I am also doing lots of gigs with both large and small ensembles. In the autumn I’m also organising a residential music course.

L: Do you have any thoughts about how you would like the music industry to look within the next 5yrs?

C: I would love the music industry to become a place where everyone has an opportunity to succeed. It can often feel like there is so much unfairness or bias towards certain groups and I think that sometimes puts musicians off of going into the industry in the first place, for fear of discrimination.

I would also love if diversity and inclusion could stop being a box ticking exercise. It would be so incredible to go to a concert and see a diverse brass and percussion section and for people to not feel the need to comment on how special it is. The norm should be equal opportunity for everyone in training and entry level professional work, so that more diverse sections can happen naturally.

L: Have you ever faced any discrimination or felt like and outsider due to your gender?

C: Absolutely! I think a lot of the gender discrimination I have faced in music hasn’t necessarily been intentional. A lot of it has been built into the systems and traditions of the music culture. I’ve grown up in the brass banding community and have witnessed and been at the receiving end of all sorts of sexist behaviour and commentary. But thankfully in recent years I definitely think there has been a positive shift in opinion and environment, making for a fairer playing field within banding. I’ve also had teachers who would favour my male counterparts as soloists or section leaders simply because if a female was in that role they would be too “bossy” or “sensitive”. But I have been lucky enough to have had some brilliant, supportive, motivating female music teachers who have kept me playing and rebuilt my confidence, however without them I probably wouldn’t still be playing due to certain discriminatory situations I’ve faced.

L: What advice would you give to young female and non-binary brass or percussion players?

C: The biggest thing I would say is find your people - the ones who inspire you, support you and motivate you to do better in your playing. I would also say to trust yourself and believe in your own ability and the work that you have put in. It’s so hard sometimes when you have been put down or rejected to actually remember that you are a good musician and that all the hard work you have put into this craft really is worth it.

L: Give us your top three Desert Island Discs!


  1. Shostakovich 5 is incredible and one of the first symphonies I fell in love with.

  2. Brahms: A German Requiem. It’s just stunning and I seem to find myself coming back to listen to it or perform it over and over.

  3. Of Distant Memories (Edward Gregson) is one of my favourite brass band test pieces!

L: What attracted you to our GALSI autumn 2022 course, and what were you hoping to gain from it?

C: I was drawn to the GALSI autumn course because I had never seen or heard about any organisations that dealt with this issue, which is something that has effected me already and will effect me as I progress with my career. Being both female and disabled (I am visually impaired) I have always been passionate about making music more inclusive and this course seemed the perfect opportunity to learn, discuss and gain support around the issue of gender within brass and percussion sections.

L: What did you most enjoy about the course?

C: I most enjoyed the opportunity to have really important conversations with others in the same boat regarding gender, the music industry and what challenges we each had faced already. There really aren’t that many opportunities where those discussions are held so openly and where everyone comes away feeling like there is a support system in place for them.

The masterclass with Imogen was also a huge highlight - she gave such good advice on my rep and the smallest changes from her made such a big difference! It was also super inspiring to have Imogen and Jane as the brass tutors, they were happy to talk to us in the breaks and gave such genuine advice and support.

I also loved just how welcoming and accommodating the GALSI team are. Being visually impaired was not a problem at all and they listened and did more than asked to make sure I could access the course.

L: How can we help and support you further?

C: Keep the support system going and build on it. I have already made such valuable connections through GALSI and it would be amazing if I could make even more!

Thank you Catherine!

Keep your eyes peeled for more blog posts coming up from our fantastic participants!

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