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Celebrating Pride Through Classical Music: A Special Program ‘Proud to Be’

Pride Month has come, and with it, the celebration of diversity, resilience, and authenticity. It is a time to reflect on what Pride truly means to each of us individually. With this idea in mind, American Public Media asked classical musicians in the LGBTQIA+ community about their thoughts on Pride. The answers are incredibly diverse and thought-provoking. For some, Pride means dignity, the opposite of shame; for others, it means surviving despite the odds. All the artists said that authenticity and identity are directly connected to their music-making.

This one-hour special, Proud to Be, brings you these conversations punctuated with music performed, conducted, or composed by these featured artists.

Guitarist Sharon Isbin performs music of Cuban composer Leo Brouwer, and says that “pride to me means celebrating the freedom to live and love in an open and nurturing environment. It means encouraging diversity, individuality, and creativity.”

Composer Jennifer Higdon describes her relationship with Cheryl Lawson, her spouse of 41 years, as “absolutely everything.” She also stresses how valuable it is to live as an out lesbian: “For people who are younger who are not so sure about how visible they can be, I think it’s important for all of us who are out … to show that, yes, it can be a safe way to live, but also it’s important to be able to be yourself.” We’ll sample a movement from Higdon’s Viola Concerto, with soloist Roberto Díaz and the Nashville Symphony.

Then we’ll get inspired by Michael Abels’ “Delights and Dances”, celebrating joy, resilience, and the power of being true to oneself. Abels is well known for his film scores, and is a co-founder of the Composers Diversity Collective, an advocacy group whose goal is to increase the visibility of composers of color in film, gaming, and streaming media. “Pride means courage,” he says. “To risk that judgment and live powerfully in that freedom takes courage.”
Pianist Sara Davis Buechner, who made a “second debut” when she came out as transgender in the late 1990s, says that “pride is authenticity, and when you are authentic, you can communicate with people on the highest plane.”

We’ll also hear from conductor Thomas Søndergård, pianist Stephen Hough, and composer Mari Esabel Valverde.

Join us on Saturday, June 22, at 5 pm, and discover the profound connection between music, identity, and the human experience.