A Transgender Note
by Sara Davis Buechner
In my mid-thirties, coming to truthful terms with the gender dysphoria that had affected me adversely since earlier memory, I began my transition from male to female. It was a choice long deferred from fear of professional ramifications and discrimination. In September of 1998, with the help of trusted friend Jens Nygaard, conductor of New York’s Jupiter Symphony, I made a “second debut” as Sara Davis Buechner with three sold-out performances of the two Chopin Piano Concertos. A positive profile in the New York Times Magazine also seemed to assist with the necessity of a public transition. However, it soon became apparent that a new career would have to be built, largely without that support that I had built and enjoyed as David Buechner. Conductors who once routinely engaged me stopped returning calls, prestigious teaching offers were withdrawn, and concert opportunities vanished. Changing managers did not help. I recall one particularly low point as the time I received a check from a Florida recital presentor several weeks before my appearance — having booked David Buechner, they paid Sara not to come. Without the lifeline of a job teaching at a Westchester childrens’ music school, I might very well have become homeless.
But an offer to join the piano faculty of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver B.C. Canada in 2003 gave fresh impetus to my musical life and career. In the ensuing 13 years I became a fixture on the Canadian music scene, performing regularly with the major orchestras of Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton, Montréal, Toronto and others; on CBC broadcasts, and in recitals from coast to coast. In 2015 I became a Dual Citizen.
One year later I returned to the United States, joining the prestigious keyboard department of Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance in Philadelphia. My “return home” is accompanied by a keen awareness and appreciation that society has moved in remarkably positive ways toward understanding and the acceptance of transgender people — though we still have a long road ahead.
The classical music business likes to pretend that it is gender- and color- blind regarding the concert stage, and that the high-minded pursuit of Mozartian Truth is all that is professionally considered in the evaluation of performing musicians. My own experience tells me otherwise. To that end I am happy to speak from the stage, with or without music, to help inspire our younger generations aspire to a fairer and more sincere artistic reality.
As a proud representative of the T in LGBTQ, I have been graced to give the Eleanor Roosevelt Lecture at Brandeis University (2010); present a recital at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. (2011); give the Keynote Address at the Vancouver OutGames (2011); and appear on the Queens Citifield Jumbotron playing “Meet the Mets,” at the first LGBT Night presented by the New York Mets in August 2016. It is both my obligation and my privilege to be out and proud, to be a spokesperson for transgender rights, and hopefully to stand with my trans-brothers and sisters in unity, continuing the good and necessary fight for full civil rights for all.
… and a p.s. …
Work progresses on my autobiography, which should reach publication in 2023.
“More Than A Letter” (Chicago Sinfonietta Review)
by Lawrence Bommer / Stage and Cinema Review, 28 March 2017
“Temple Pianist of Many Lives”
by David Patrick Stearns / Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 November 2016
“Sara Davis Buechner Comes Home”
Interview with Sara Fishko / WNYC-FM radio and website, 29 September, 2016
“Trans Pianist to perform at Mets LGBT Pride Night”
LGBTQ Nation, 4 August 2016
“Pianist Sara Davis Buechner’s Remarkable Journey”
Interview with Stephanie Chase / Stay Thirsty, Spring 2016
CBC News - Canadian Press, 8 June 2014
“Does Classical Music Have a Transgender Problem?”
by Anastasia Tsioulcas / NPR, 4 February 2013
“An Evolving Country Begins to Accept”
by Sara Davis Buechner / New York Times, 3 February 2013
Statement to Canadian Parliament - Justice & Human Rights Committee
by Sara Davis Buechner / Testimony, 20 November 2012
“Transgender Pianist’s New Look"
by William Littler / Toronto Star, 14 June 2008
“Syncopated Rhythm: Pianist Sara Davis Buechner"
by Serafin Riviere / Xtra, 4 June 2008
“His Debut as a Woman"
by Andrew Jacobs / New York Times Magazine, 13 September 1998