Four Minutes, Four Questions: Sara Davis Buechner

Four Minutes, Four Questions: Sara Davis Buechner

“The APO’s mission is to connect people with broader contemporary issues through music, making a difference in the community today that lasts for years,” says Jason Miller, executive director of the Bentonville-based Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra. “Sara Davis Buechner does that in spades.”

Buechner, whose resume includes top prizes in the world’s premiere international piano competitions, has performed in every state and province of North America, toured throughout Latin and South America and Europe; and, according to her website, enjoys a special following in Asia.

Buechner is also transgender, having studied at Juilliard and enjoyed her first career successes before her transition.

“Not only will she uplift people with her technical prowess and unparalleled artistry, but she will also inspire and empower the diverse LGBTQIA+ community she is part of,” Miller says of her residency in Northwest Arkansas. “We hope all attendees will benefit from her performances and learn from what she has to say.”

Buechner was asked four questions by What’s Up! For her first two answers, she referred us to a 2016 interview with violinist Stephanie Chase.

Q. Please tell me about your childhood?

A. “Mom … filled our house with good paperback books, the World Book Encyclopedia on subscription purchase, reproductions of masterpieces on the wall (some borrowed from the Pikesville Library), and classical music on the radio. And she bought a battered baby grand piano that sat in our living room. That piano and radio were my deepest loves, from the age of 3.”

Q. How did the progression of your career and the progression of your desire to be who you really were go hand in hand?

“In my mid-30s, I began to confront the puzzle of my own gender identity … One of the greatest barriers to making that necessary journey was my own musical career. … When I came out publicly in 1998 — by way of the New York Times Magazine story — it effectively ruined my active career.

“On many levels, it was the greatest gift of all. … To be outcast is to be given the special opportunity to redefine all that is important in one’s life.”

Q. Is there a cross-pollination of people who come to your music because you speak out on being transgender and people who actually listen to you about being transgender because they love your music?

A. Yes, there seem to be more and more people, particularly younger folks, who come to hear me play because they are aware of LGBTQ issues and may be LGBTQ themselves. I see that I am a role model for some, just being “out there” in the public eye and ear. And among those folks I certainly seem to have fans.

Q. When you do a residency like this, what do you hope will come out of it?

A. …We all hope the musical events provide a framework for a week of awareness and inclusion. That is to say, that people seeing a group of musicians which embraces all manner of diversity is a good analogy for our human race and American people. … That sounds plenty idealistic, but it certainly was the message I got from symphonic concerts as a kid … that classical music was not some elitist art form but truly a great thing of beauty that everyone could succeed at.

Sara Davis Buechner is in Northwest Arkansas for a residency with the Arkansas Philharmonic. (Courtesy Photo/Sara Davis Buechner)


Sara Davis Buechner


Be Who You Are: A Motivational Conversation and Concert — 7 p.m. July 16, Walton Arts Center. Free.

Let’s Get Real: A Timely Conversation and Performance — 2 p.m. July 18, The Momentary. Free.

An Evening of Mozart — 7 p.m. July 22, Crystal Bridges Museum. $40.

Reservations are required for all performances.


Categories: Music