Ole Edvard Antonsen might have ended up a pianist rather than the renowned trumpeter that he became had it not been for the presence of a common childhood fear. He took up the piano when he was three years old. Two years later his family, who lived outside Oslo in Norway, decided to remove the instrument from its location on the main floor of their house and set it up in their basement. Like many children his age, Antonsen was terrified of the dark and he refused to venture into the shadowy depths of the basement, not even for the opportunity to play the piano. Instead he rummaged through his father's things in search of another instrument and stumbled upon a trumpet. The boy picked up the new instrument then and there and within a week made decent progress. Before he turned seven, Antonsen played a solo for an audience that numbered 2,500. Unfortunately, he failed to wear a belt that evening. While he was on stage, the waistband of his too-large pants slid to his knees.
The trumpeter played that first memorable public solo with a dance band led by Odd Antonsen, his father, who had given him his first musical instruction. In addition to conducting a dance band, the elder Antonsen was a saxophonist and clarinetist who built a fine local reputation in the family's hometown of Hamar. With the strong musical influence in the family, Antonsen's father did not have to pressure him to spend endless hours in pursuit of perfection. If anything, the young musician found such pleasure in playing and practicing that, more often than not, his father had to shoo him outside to play with the neighborhood children.
Antonsen entered Oslo's Norwegian State Academy of Music when he was ten years old. In 1982 he graduated and became a member of the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, where he remained until going solo in 1989. He took top prizes at the CIEM and UNESCO competitions, the former in 1987 in Geneva and the latter two years later in Bratislava. His performances have included festivals and engagements with orchestras worldwide. Recitals have included partnerships with Wayne Marshall, Håvard Gimse, and Kåre Nordstoga. Composers have penned more than three dozen contemporary numbers for him.
Among the trumpeter's main influences are Harry Kvebaek, a trumpet instructor who taught Antonsen and his brother at Oslo's Musikhochschule. At the age of 13, three years after meeting Kvebaek, Antonsen soloed with the Odense Symphony Orchestra. A year later, however, the young musician had to give up his trumpet for 18 months to allow recovery from surgery on his lips. Other inspirations include jazz trumpeters Maynard Ferguson, Chet Baker, and Clark Terry, and classical trumpeter Maurice André.
Antonsen has put out a number of recordings through EMI Classics, including a 1998 collaboration with conductor and pianist Wolfgang Sawallisch titled Twentieth Century Trumpet. Also in 1998, the label released Read My Lips, a pop-oriented album. Two years later Antonsen put out New Sound of Baroque, which features the Trondheim Soloists.