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COMMENTARY: Does Classical Music Have A Transgender Problem?

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National Public Radio
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February 5, 2013
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Yesterday, pianist Sara Davis Buechner published on the New York Times website a brave and moving account of her experiences as a transgendered person. "As David Buechner, born in the northwest suburbs of Baltimore in 1959," she writes, "I became an internationally known concert pianist. But from the time I was a child, I understood that I was meant to be Sara." As David, she won gold at the 1984 Gina Bachauer competition and bronze at the Tchaikovsky competition in 1986, and performed as a soloist with top-ranked ensembles including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras. What she goes on to say, however, is that after her gender reassignment surgery, her once-flourishing career stalled out — at least in the United States. Buechner's story has much larger ramifications than its impact within the classical music community, but her assertion that she was rendered unemployable in her home country is troubling, to say the least. She writes: "In the United States, once I came out as Sara, I couldn't get bookings with the top orchestras anymore, nor would any university employ me."