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Celebration of Scholarship and Creative Activity 2021

The Musical Rainbow: An Analysis on LGBTQ+ Professional Musicians and Their Works for Saxophone

Morgan DiPietro

Senior, Music

Abstract

This study was done to understand how being a member of the Queer community can influence musicianship, and how LGBTQ+ composers can be best supported. Through surveying and studying LGBTQ+ composers, I have studied and am performing saxophone works by three composers and have learned about their unique experiences and how the music community can best support them. These composers include Dr. Nathan Froebe, Dr. Alex Temple, and Yaz Lancaster. The results of interviewing these composers found that these LGBTQ+ composers often create unique music about their experiences that can be influenced by Queer culture. Additionally, it was concluded that representation of LGBTQ+ composers is important for diversifying the music field and making music more accessible. Featured in this presentation is a performance of among Verticals for solo alto saxophone by Yaz Lancaster. Inspired by “Mme Kupka’s among Verticals” by František Kupka, this piece is an important inclusion to the saxophone repertoire from a LGBTQ+ composer. This study serves as a beneficial resource for saxophonists and musicians at large that would like to learn about diversifying the classical music field.

Project Background 

This project was inspired by an experience that I had at the 2020 National North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, in which the demographics of the attendees was discussed. It was found that of the 1,772 conference attendees, only 6 identified as nonbinary, gender fluid, or trans. As someone that identifies as nonbinary, this was a shocking number for me. I was inspired by this event to create a project that showcases LGBTQ+ composers and discusses their identities and work. I found three composers that identify as LGBTQ+ from the Composer Diversity Database which is now inactive. I worked to find three composers that had varying identities and experiences. Dr. Nathan Froebe, Dr. Alex Temple, and Yaz Lancaster all hold varying identities and intersections in their identities that influence their work. After confirming that they would like to participate in my project, I sent each of them interview questions which included “Have you ever composed pieces that are inspired by queer themes?” and “How do you feel that the musical community can best support LGBTQ+ composers and musicians?”. Each composer offered different insight, but overarching themes included that some of their music is inspired by their varying identities, even outside of the LGBTQ+ community. For example, Yaz Lancaster created a piece about the injustices that People of Color face in our society. An additional conclusion that I found was that visibility and representation is often lacking for LGBTQ+ individuals. Solutions for this include moving away from tokenizing marginalized individuals and putting more LGBTQ+ individuals in positions of leadership. Included in this presentation is my performance of among Verticals by Yaz Lancaster. I have spent a large portion of the semester practicing and studying this piece, and had direct contact with the composer to offer interpretative suggestions for other performers looking to champion the piece. I hope this presentation and performance encourages more saxophonists to study among Verticals and other works by LGBTQ+ composers. Overall, I found this project to be inspiring and impowering for myself and I hope if brings visibility to identities that are often overlooked and underrepresented in our society.

What Do You Think? 

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20 Comments

  1. Margaret Grewal

    Morgan, thank you for doing this research. I am extremely intrigued, even though I am not part of the LQBTQ+ community. I continue to challenge myself to find ways I can be inclusive and aware of race, sexuality, gender, etc. Thank you for helping me, I am excited to see more work you do in the future!

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you so much!!

      Reply
  2. Abby Shreve

    So amazing Morgan! Your passion for music and being a voice for the LGBTQ+ community is so inspiring. I cannot wait to see where you progress in life, congratulations! 🙂

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you Abby!! I really appreciate it!

      Reply
  3. Noah Eckstein

    Awesome job, Morgan! I have always been inspired by your performances, insights, and passion for helping to diversify the music world. I am eager to see what you do next. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you, Noah!!

      Reply
  4. Alison Shaw

    Wonderful playing, as always, Morgan. Thank you for this important work and championing of these composers. All composers need highly accomplished performers to bring their work to light. In addition to the work you do for the LGBTQ+ community, remember that you can also make our music world more equitable as an artist. Please continue to play these amazing pieces.

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you so much Dr. Shaw!

      Reply
  5. Sam Looker-Koenigs

    Wow, Morgan! Phenomenal performance of a lovely piece that I might never otherwise have encountered. Thank you for introducing me to Yaz Lancaster; I will seek out the others you’ve mentioned here too. I hope we can all keep working to encourage visibility of artists whose identities are underrepresented. Congrats on this great work, and graduation, and your Chancellor’s Medallion, and grad school–I keep seeing news of your successes everywhere I turn! You’re amazing!

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you so much!! I really appreciate it :^)

      Reply
  6. Elizabeth Wade-Sirabian

    Thank you for sharing your musicianship! What it was about Krupka’s painting that inspired Yaz Lancaster to compose this piece?

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      That’s a great question! A while back I actually asked them why they were inspired by “Mme Kupka among Verticals” and they replied:

      “I first saw the painting when I was living and studying in Prague, Czechia for a few months. It was my first time visiting the Národní galerie Praha and I was really enamoured with Kupka’s work, which I was seeing for the first time. This piece was one of the first few complete works that I wrote, and I think a lot of those early works pull from my experience as a poet. Six years ago, I studied poetry in Florence, Italy one summer, and we spent a lot of time doing ekphrastic writing, where we’d visit different types of museums and have to write poems based on the art we saw there. With this piece, I wanted to transmute the visual experience I had with Kupka’s work into sound. I especially love this painting because I see something different in it every time I see it. The first time I saw it, I actually don’t even think I noticed the woman’s face popping out through the bands of colors. I even noticed new patterns the last time I saw the painting, which was in New York when the MoMA re-opened, I believe that was 2019. I was really inspired to write something that was colorful and allowed both the performer and audience to find something new each time. I think it brought out a lot of things in my writing that I wasn’t used to trying out at the time too.”

      Reply
  7. Burgundy

    Oh wow, I love saxophones! I don’t know much about classical music except that I think it’s pretty! But your performance and your project are both really cool!!!! I’d listen to more performances from you 🙂

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Aw! Thank you so much Burgundy! That’s really kind of you to say :^)

      Reply
  8. Danielle Gratz

    Fantastic performance!!! You are a phenomenal musician and voice for the LGBTQ+ community! I cant wait to see your future work!

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you!!! I really appreciate it! 🙂

      Reply
  9. Nathan Krueger

    Great work on this project and beautiful playing as always. I appreciate your work to showcase LGBTQ+ composers and performers!

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you so much Dr. Krueger!!

      Reply
  10. Molly Hennig

    Such a stellar performance, Morgan! Thank you truly for sharing your high quality work as a musician and advocate.

    Reply
    • Morgan DiPietro

      Thank you so much Molly!! I really appreciate it.

      Reply

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